Recently I was talking with someone and out of nowhere they asked me what was the problem with indigenous men. It was so off topic that I paused for a minute to reflect on what I had said thinking it must have led to the question.
I responded by asking if the question was what was wrong with me, or had I said something that hit a nerve? That started the conversation rolling in a new direction.
They said that all the stereotypes of drunken, shiftless, abusive indigenous men seemed to have a greater validity than merely some kind of racial profiling-that evidence could be seen everywhere.
He went on to say his wife had worked as a social worker for a number of years and had many a story to relate, and pointed to various statistics.
I know problems exists, but I also know there are as many good indigenous men and as there are bad. I also know that negative stories and behavior have a greater appeal for many than positive ones.
I don’t give myself a free pass, and not in the habit of doing so for others. I stumble, I fall at times-but I pick myself up hopefully having learned a lesson and move forward.
I’m no expert, but the issues that contribute to negative behavior seem obvious to me – I don’t consider them to be an excuse though- an excuse is just that, an excuse- not an explanation. Excuses are an undeniable form of perpetuation-a perpetuation that should not be tolerated.
Without really thinking about it I responded that what we see may be some form of a lack of self worth. Initially that was greeted with skepticism and a kind of is that all you got reaction?
But as we discussed it we found a common ground that perhaps there was a measure of truth in it.
Self worth-despite all the videos, talk of being warriors, and native pride there isn’t much for a man to be proud of when the dependency to support a family lays elsewhere than the aching muscles that come from his own effort.
Dependency is an insidious thing-especially if it is generational. A bond is formed, a reliance, an acceptance-a sleeping with the enemy, and the longer it goes on the more difficult it becomes to break the cycle.
It is an habituation whether willing or unwilling-as such it is a downward spiral that wrests control, ambition, values, and perhaps worst of all, that all important sense of self worth from people and makes them vulnerable.
Vulnerable to the loss of tradition and culture-vulnerable to increased dependency and assimilation-and vulnerable to all those things like the idiocy of gangs where no honor exists, drugs, alcohol, and abusive behavior directed at others-even to women,children, and elders. Vulnerable to hopelessness and the predictable monotony of poverty.
It is a vulnerability that has led many to adopt the very worst, the most degrading characteristics of the invaders.
And yes, they are characteristics-ones that have never previously been a part of indigenous culture, ones that are a learned behavior.
What is it now-a hundred and fifty odd years of the reservation system? A blink of the eye in the measure of our history, and yet it has become such a dominating influence as to rend the very fabric of our existence.
From the onset the premise of the rez was twofold-to control, and create a dependency. The thought being that in time either attrition or assimilation would be the end result.
We are better than this-stronger than this- I’ve seen flowers bloom in the midst of wastelands-life seeking a purpose, finding a way, a meaningful way to express that.
I say our lives have a purpose, have a meaning-and it’s time for all to begin living as though they do-for each to take control of their own life. We don’t need anyone to make a place for us-we need only make our own-we always did, that has been our history.
We have the resources and the man/womanpower to do so. Not just natural resources, but the resource of thought and creativity, tradition and culture.
Onondaga as part of the Six Nations Confederacy periodically has to contend with attempts by the State of New York to tax the sale of tobacco (cigarettes) on the rez-since part of the state highway system cuts through Onondaga land, the “creative” approach they have taken is to say well and good then-we will set up toll booths and collect a toll for every vehicle that passes through our land. So far it hasn’t come to that, but I present it as an example.
Further I would add that in my opinion the sex trade we fight against is much the same as the welfare trade- both ravage not only the body, but the spirit as well. Being a victim of one is no better than being the victim of the other.
Both should be labelled for what they are, and both resisted.