Trail of Tears: Standing Up Against Standing Rock

Lost amid the celebrations of Thanksgiving and the gluttony of Black Friday, most Americans continue another long tradition, ignoring the plight of Native Americans at the hands of business-driven government power.

Government agents using force against a people in much the same manner as happened when European settlers first came here. Treaties are signed and ignored. Whole tribes are destroyed in the pursuit of profit and prosperity.

A profit that comes at the cost of our humanity.

This is 2016 and the headlines could read like it was 1816. Yet, if the NFL plays today and our credit cards work tomorrow for Cyber-Monday, all is right in the world.

This is one of the last, and best, moments for President Barrack Obama to add to his legacy. If not because it is the right thing to do, then because it will be a finger in the eye to those who condone such actions.

Issue an executive order freezing all federal funds for any state or government entity which has personnel at Standing Rock.

Order the National Guard to Federal duty and have them do an about face. Put their force to the protection of these Native Americans and their land.

We tout our efforts to protect innocents abroad while ignoring those within our midst. A people standing up for themselves against the power of greed much as our founding fathers did against British tyranny.

This is their land. Their sacred grounds. Those words, their land, should mean something in a country that claims to stand for freedom. We gave our word and agreed to this. Does our word mean nothing?

Standing Rock could be a cornerstone of the President’s last few months in office. An opportunity to demonstrate the content of his character. Or, it could go down as another terrible, yet forgotten, denial of basic human rights to the first Americans for the profit of a few, more recent, Americans.

It’s hard to be too critical of such actions by others when we engage in it ourselves.

I am reminded of a quote by Chief Seattle, Duwamish (the tribal area of Seattle and Washington State)

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

Until we realize that by attacking those at Standing Rock we are attacking ourselves, the promise of America will remain unfulfilled. Until all enjoy equal freedom, the greatness we seek will elude us.

#IStandWithStandingRock

 

Southwestern Thoughts: Pueblos and Rock Music

Traveling through the Southwest, I was intrigued by the changing landscapes. From the flat desert of Phoenix we climbed into the mountains as we drove to Albuquerque.1668896_orig The mountains, steep and rocky, soon gave way to more gently rolling hills now covered with pine trees instead of cactus.

We were at elevations of six to eight thousand feet and the contrasts to the desert couldn’t be starker.

The beauty of this part of the country is breathtaking. The other obvious element of this area is the influence of Mexico. This is a land where the Spanish influenced language, mixed with the cultural heritage of the Mexican people, blended with the Native culture of the Pueblo people exemplifies the best of the multi-cultural melting part that is America.

It occurred to me that calling for a wall between the United States and Mexico would be an insult to the people of this area. These are people who take pride in their culture yet are more American in their attitude than some would admit.

These are a people who accept their differences as a benefit to the country, not something to be lost or blocked off.

There was a time not long ago when the policy of the government, following on the heels of the Spanish efforts, tried to wipe the native culture of the Pueblos from the face of the earth. They forced the children into Indian Schools where they were force-fed Christianity, English, and European history.

They were forbidden to practice their own religion and cultural traditions.

They were forbidden to speak their own language.

They were forced to abandon their history.

This is the land that gave us the “Wind Talkers” of Navajo fame. Whose exploits in the South Pacific against the Japanese are now legendary. Yet, for years it was concealed because to acknowledge it was to give credence to a culture we did not embrace.

The reason for our trip out here was to attend a Mumford and Sons concert. The music was great if a bit loud (I know, my age is showing.) I was struck by the power of the music to inspire the crowd to dance and sing along.

I have never been one for dancing, yet I was a bit envious of those who let themselves be carried away by the songs. Many let themselves just dance away. Many looked quite natural at it. Some, those who haven’t visited a gym or a salad bar in years, looked almost dangerous but hey, they were dancing.

After the concert, we journeyed to Albuquerque and will continue on to Taos and Santa Fe. Here in Albuquerque, we visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. We watched a demonstration of several Native American dances performed by a new generation of Pueblos trying to maintain their cultural heritage.

Many of these dances are performed as part of the Pueblo peoples’ appreciation for the interrelationship of all to the Earth. The animals they hunt, crops they grow, the water they receive as rain are all given due thanks and gratitude.

To the Pueblo, this is their form of devotion to their concept of the creator. Their creation story is no more or less valid than any other. Yet, under the guise of the Christian tradition, we tried to destroy it as a false legend.

It struck me as I watched these young men and women dance, that if people spent less time praying and trying to convince others their beliefs are wrong and more time dancing, be it to a rhythmic chant of an ancient Puebloan rite of harvest or a Mumford and Sons ballad, we’d all be better off.

Celebrating a Lie

To borrow a line from Paul Simon’s song, Kodachrome;

When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school

It’s a wonder I can think at all…

Although much of the “Lie” I write about began in the first years of my education. Having taken the time to undo and uncover many of these ingrained falsehoods, it is indeed a wonder I can think at all.

In this particular instance, I am talking about Columbus Day and celebrating those things (all false) we were taught about this man and that period of history. To summarize;

  1. Columbus proved the world to be round (False, the fact of the world being round was well established)
  2. Columbus discovered America (False. Not only did he not discover it, he didn’t even know where he was)
  3. Columbus had a fine relationship with the “Indians” (False, he captured many, compelled them through brutal measures to reveal treasures and infected them with European strains of viruses and bacteria that killed them (this last part might be a stretch since they didn’t understand the science of infection but nevertheless this was left out of the “history” books I was compelled to read))

My point here is why do we continue to “celebrate” a man responsible for the devastation and enslavement of many Native Americans (they did not even know they needed to be discovered) and attribute false claims of discovery to his journeys at the expense of the truth.

I think it might be time for this country to start celebrating truth, not patently false fairytales intended to obscure the realities of the atrocities visited upon the true Native Americans.

We need to describe Columbus as he truly was, one of the first in a series of Illegal Aliens invading this land.

Maybe there is something to preventing illegal immigration, albeit some Five Hundred Years too late.