Today 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?