I kind of have a difficult time when a person not of the nations attempts to tell me about our traditions or interpret them for me.
Visiting a rez is a lot different that living on one-reading a book doesn’t make someone an expert, nor is it an immersive experience-never having lived in the language or hearing your mother sing to you the songs that belong to our generations is different than watching and listening to a youtube video.
Going to pow wow and watching dancers is a visual experience, and while I might encourage someone to read a book, watch a video, or attend pow wow, existing differences remain.
We as a living people are not a Smithsonian exhibit, nor a petting zoo, or an internet phenomena-we are neither quaint nor primitive anachronisms, we belong in this time and this land as much if not more than anyone.
We are not obligated to respond to “how do you say this” or pose for a photograph, though we may choose to do so.
We are not native Americans or Indians-we are indigenous to this land, the first people-we are Arapahoe, Apache, Dine, Hopi,Cheyenne, Crow,Cherokee, Mohawk,Ojibwe, Comanche, Zuni,Pima, Papago, and a multitude of other distinct tribes whose names for ourselves in our languages translates to “the people”.
Some things can and may be shared, others can’t and won’t.There is no debt-we owe no one nothing-not our language, our beliefs, or our ceremonies-and any claiming we do expose the same attitude that led to papal bulls and Manifest Destiny that they harbor within themselves.
It is a presumption born of arrogance and entitlement, a mindset that some of ours will cater to on a commercial level, and in doing so sell the songs our mothers sang to us.
I have a greater respect for my mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother than to engage in any of that. I have a greater respect for the nations,for true warriors that fought and died,for the responsibilities we as indigenous people have, for myself and those close to me-a respect that will endure and has no price tag.
I offer nothing for sale, will cede nothing.
There is a certain universality in belief systems across the world, a commonality that recognizes a Creator, an afterlife, and accountability for the things we do and the way we have lived.
But it is a mistake to think that one size fits all among the nations, that we all believe the same-our creation stories are the same, or that one nations beliefs and ceremonies takes precedence over others, is more representative, or has a greater value.
Creator gave us each to our their what would serve us best in geography, language, and understanding, and none can claim Creator favored them more.
In times past a part of our history has been to take what was given to others, and now we find what we have has been and is being taken from us.
And within our communities we take from each other and ourselves-the pride of manhood or womanhood is taken by alcohol,drugs,and poverty. The security and pride of communities by gangs, liars, and thieves. The respect and honor due a woman by rapists, lives by murderers.
The innocence of children by dysfunctional parenting, incest, pedophiles, and the stark reality of rez life.
Much of what was gifted us has been corrupted-the land, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and what we believe-some by our own hand and some by others.
We follow and honor the wrong people while those deserving are seldom spoken of, we pursue the wrong things, titles are not earned and bestowed, they are appropriated and becoming meaningless.
I believe every nation, every individual within our nations, has the seeds of greatness within them, our past speaks to that, but seeds, like all living things, like our children, must be nurtured, must be cultivated and tended or they will fall upon barren inhospitable ground.