“If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it.”
Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt ( Chief Joseph)
In today’s world few issues exist that are in the main a local issue – pollution, crime, malfeasance in office, war, and human rights abuses share a global commonality that seems to increase at an almost daily geometric rate.
The undercurrent to this is that the world a person is born into takes on the appearance of normality as they have no other reference point or personal experience, and too often an erosion of indignation by those having already seen the changes and experienced them.
Elders of any ethnicity have seen the change, lived through it, and in a manner of speaking offer an historical window into the past all should avail themselves of.
As a people our history has been a oral one for the most part passed down verbally through generations, there are exceptions to that in winter counts and perhaps even petroglyphs.
But a history also exists in the hundreds of treaties we have been coerced to enter into – and no better word exists for our entering into them than coercion.
In the reading a clear picture emerges of the times, the struggles, and the impetus for doing so as defined by what freedoms were surrendered and what land and resources were ceded.
Finding equity in a single one is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack – forfeiting the right to practice ceremonies, to speak the language, or the ability to retain and educate our own children, and ultimately to become dependent “wards” of the government speaks to a singular policy – that of conquest and assimilation.
A genocide of cultural attrition until “let all that is Indian within you die”.
The good news is we’re still here attempting a revival, the bad news is the assimilation process is alive and well.
If the government when referencing the nations would speak in terms of sovereignty and nation to nation negotiations as something other than a rhetorical device we would have the ability to issue passports, driver licenses, adjudicate all crimes, and enter into trade agreements with anyone we wished – all of which would be recognized by other countries.
Trade agreements alone would lead to the development of infrastructure and employment opportunities while elevating the standard of living.
The current feel good for public consumption approach is to throw some money our way while maintaining a hand on the purse strings and subject to the whims of an entirely dysfunctional Congress to fund, cut, or withhold , thereby once again perpetuating dependency and basically maintaining the status quo.
The truth of the matter is as nations we have become so impoverished, so dependent, that were it not for grants, appropriations, commodities, and “public assistance” we would be in a worse situation that we are.
That reality alone is a travesty of epic proportions, and one that demands redress.
“let my people go”, a cry for justice and freedom that has at one time or another resounded in every country, every continent, wherever a people have been enslaved, brutalized, or oppressed.
One would think in a “civilized” world such a cry would not be necessary, that the inherent right to be free and self governing would be universally recognized and respected as all people not only should, but would have equal rights.