Memorial and Sorry Day

Spring-GreenToday is Memorial Day in North America. Like many governmental holidays this one is complex. My father was involved in three major wars, and proud to have served in the military for thirty years. He also felt that as an NCO he was a second class citizen. He told no one we are Native.  The fact is Native Americas have traditionally served in the military in disproportionately high numbers, even as their service has been ignored by the country at large.

Yesterday (today our time) was Sorry Day in Australia. That’s the day Australians remember those Aboriginal children taken from their families. Sad thing is that it appears more children are taken now than ever.

The idea behind residential schools and orphanages is to take the Indian out of the child so the person never goes home. Thomas King believes the dominant culture prefers dead Indians. He notes there are many ways to kill Indians. One can, for instance kill them directly, interrupt their subsistence patterns by destroying their food supply or taking away their lands, or by stealing their young. Natives can also be killed by legislatively redefining us; something like two-thirds of us Native Americans are not members of Federally recognized tribes and therefore do not exist.

Of course, the suffering is not limited to Native Americans. We now know that beginning with Vietnam, many vets have suffered upon returning home. The story is familiar. The government makes promises, the soldiers keep their end of the bargain, and the government conveniently can’t find the money to pay for promised services. Sounds to me a lot like the hundreds of treaties with Indigenous people the government made and ignored. Now folks with disabilities, the children, and elders are being disenfranchised, along with the ecosystem and the infrastructure that allows society to work in the 21st Century. Apparently keeping promises is just too inconvenient.

Speaking of broken promises, think for a moment about the fate of women, worldwide. Over the weekend women around the world spoke up about the violence they experience in their everyday lives via #YesAllWomen on Twitter. As a clinician and ceremonialist, I work with many women who have been victimized by violence, mostly perpetrated by males. Violence against women is rampant, even in the “civilized” world of the West. Not sure? Ask your women kin and friends; they might tell you what they face. It’s even worse for Indigenous women. We all benefit when women speak up.

One traditional way the shock of war, rape, and kidnap has been addressed in Indigenous cultures around the world is through ceremony. A community can make ceremony for folks when they have been harmed or  leave the community, for these left behind, and when folks return home. Ceremony acknowledges what cannot be said, offering healing for what cannot be integrated in other ways. It is good, strong medicine.

It being Memorial Day, we will do ceremony. We will remember: Indigenous people, Vets, women, all families touched by violence, and Mother Earth, Pachamama. Will you join us?

6 thoughts on “Memorial and Sorry Day

  1. “It being Memorial Day, we will do ceremony. We will remember: Indigenous people, Vets, women, all families touched by violence, and Mother Earth, Pachamama. Will you join us?”
    There is a West African story that reminds us, “We are not really dead, so long as we are not forgotten.” Yes, Michael. I am right there.

    1. Naomi, Perhaps, as we say, folks don’t die, they just pass into spirit. Maybe they wait there for the moments when we need them, whether they are remembered or not. Still, it is good to remember them, as this day suggests.

    1. Michael, I have found no way to wrap my thoughts around the events near your home. So many among us are crying for help and love; those cries so often met with greed and rejection. Surely ours is a difficult time. I wonder what might happen should settler societies around the world soften their hearts and atone. Perhaps there would be a miracle.

  2. Hi Michael

    Having worked in child protection, I understand why the children are removed these days. It started with the removal of fair-skinned children from Aboriginal families to aid assimilation, and these days it’s because the violence, abuse, and neglect is so entrenched that the authorities cannot leave the children with their families.

    Early intervention and case management have little effect. I can honestly say that the same standards are applied to Indigenous and non-Indigenous families. Actually I think that Indigenous families are given a few more chances and are given more resources to get things right, they are allocated Indigenous caseworkers, and the chances of restoration are better. Removal of the children is sometimes the only motivation for the parents to get help and sort things out.

    It’s sad but true. We know why Indigenous people have such problems but we can’t change the past, and we can’t leave the children to grow up in dangerous, abusive and neglectful environments. This dysfunctional culture has become synonymous with Indigenous people and it needs to be challenged and changed!

    On a lighter note, have a look at this lovely post

    1. Thanks for this very helpful comment. The issue of removals is very tender here in North America, so many past deed reverberate through each intervention. I am grateful to you for sharing your experience and perspective: I trust you to know of that you speak, and to inform us through an Indigenous frame. I will look at the site.

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