We are in the era of political correctness-an ethic that is alternately exaggerated and correct as the name would imply, and often enough based on ethnicity or corrupted for an agenda.
I doubt Christopher Columbus is actually held in high esteem by the majority of people now – few would deny the devastating impact on the inhabitants of this hemisphere by Columbus or those who followed in his footsteps and the ensuing colonization.
All world history is composed of wars, blood, and conquest-those who conquer take ascendency, a reality that has always been whether on a regional or global scale.
It isn’t my purpose to argue the right or wrong of that, as indigenous people we know the reality- a reality that cannot be dismissed or qualified with phrases like ” the age of discovery”, “to the victor goes the spoils”, or words like exploration and civilization, as we were never dealt with in a “civilized” manner.
I may be wrong but I don’t believe anyone giving thanks or observing Thanksgiving and offering the traditional grace includes a word of praise for the past-I imagine those who observe this day are thankful for what’s on the table, the ability to put it there, and for family and friends-if so I have no argument with that whether others deem that position politically correct or not- it is the backstory that is contentious and should rightfully remain so.
As a people the difficulty of walking the “red path” or in two worlds is often alluded to -sometimes in a meaningful way and other times more as a cliche, nonetheless it is the nations children this difficulty is the hardest on.
Children who see others their age hunting for Easter eggs, gathering with family at a well laid out table for Thanksgiving, or decorating trees and receiving presents left by a person who shimmied down a chimney to leave them and keeps a record of whose been naughty or nice.
That can’t be easy for them- children who even at a young age have some sense of disenfranchisement, know what poverty, need, and racism are and ill equipped to deal with it.
I’ve seen children of the nations with smiles on their faces expressing glee and awe at the sight of trees with lights and tinsel, or the decorated city homes and streets they pass-in their innocence they see only those things, and no one can blame them for that.
In large part this speaks to the essential need to maintain the integrity of our own traditions, many of which are about thanks giving and filled with reverence, rather than allowing them to be commercialized as our counterparts have done with theirs and some among us are doing with ours.
If we aren’t willing to do that for ourselves we sure as hell ought to be willing to do it for our children.
I first blogged the below on this day in 2010, have done so since then, and will continue to do so:
In the beginning we were made of the elements known to us- earth, wind, water, and fire, stone from the earth-we were a strong people, made tough and able to endure like stone. Our understanding grew and we fashioned stones into sharp edged instruments to employ in our daily lives, to defend and to hunt. We did this and found our place within the circle-we had no need of steel or the grief that always accompanies it. The age of steel had not yet come to us, and when it did we would be decimated.
In stone there is an affinity, an animism we recognized-in steel there is none-it is cold, impersonal, and above all indiscriminately deadly, belonging to a people completely unlike us, alien and different in ways we could not begin to understand. We are trapped in this age of steel now and we may never be the same again.
Our forward march was always in tune with the elements we were kindred to, a natural progression that went with the flow rather than against it, and so all things remained in the original balance Creator made.
The earth, the land, was the loving and beneficent mother whose breast we clung to and were nourished. We respected her, listened to, and understood the things she spoke to us. We neither pillaged or raped the land-we constructed no barriers, decimated the forests, befouled the air she exhaled for us to breathe, or ravaged her body for monetary gain. We were brother and sister to all who shared her bounty.
Now in our separation we do as others do, those places we live show the same blight as the inner cities-vacant abandoned buildings where the night crawlers gather, broken down rusting cars and trucks, refuse piled in proximity where we eat, sleep, and go about our lives with poorly clad children scrambling about the monuments of decline in play, and perhaps in search of some meaning.
It is not enough to accept and embrace the conditions the nations find themselves in, pride lost can be pride regained. Unwilling tribal councils should be circumvented and vacant decaying buildings razed- a tribal movement should begin to remove all this litter and the rusting monuments to the age of steel.
There is an undeniable responsibility that lays in accusation at the door of the oppressor, but likewise there is one that lies at the door of the nations-it is one thing to be beaten down and live in squalor without pride, it is another to be beaten down, live in squalor, and fight to retain some measure of pride.
It is fools errand to mark the days and wait for another to do something, it is a fools errand to mark the days and in an unwarranted act of reliance plead for the great black father to send a few blankets and trinkets to his distant children.
On this day while others gather at their tables to feast and give thanks for the destruction of the land, for a history fraught with betrayal, death, conquest, and greed, pause for a moment and remember who you are, where you came from, and more importantly where it is you would go-for now we have become like orphans, separated from the mother and not able to hear her voice as we once did-no longer nourished and suffering the loss for it. Casting about looking for direction, for the way home-failing to recognize that the mother dwells within us as is the way of all mothers, and in looking inward to find her we will find ourselves as well.