We are Still Here

Autumn_CreekThis morning dawned warm and bright, with autumn’s colors seemingly more prevalent across the landscape than they were last evening. While today is forecast to be in the mid-seventies, there is talk of snow in the mountains by the weekend.

Today is Columbus Day,  a good day to consider the history of European influence in the Americas. Like most things, this history is very complex. After all, I hold genes, ideas, and traditions from both Indigenous and European populations. That said, the larger context is one of ongoing genocide. It seems an everyday occurrence that some politician suggests we should be assimilated, steals more of our land, breaks a treaty out of greed and convenience, or ignores the rape or murder of thousands of Indigenous women. Too many of our people feel hopeless, resulting in unimaginably high suicide and substance abuse rates among our young people. Our young men are imprisoned at a rate far beyond our proportional share.

There is a strange dichotomy afoot: one hand the movement to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day is growing; on the other hand, the theft of Native lands and culture appears to be accelerating, as are calls for our assimilation. Noticeably absent is real movement towards honoring existing treaties and making reparation for centuries of broken promises and focused harm.

Rather than acknowledging the intergenerational effects of trauma, and of institutionalized racism and poverty, the dominant culture continues to place the blame for the suffering of Indigenous people on Indigenous people. Too many political leaders use the suffering of Native America as a rationale to do ever more harm. I find myself confused and dismayed that so few people challenge the politicians, like Donald Trump and countless others, who publicly espouse the destruction of Native people through assimilation and erasure. It is painful and frightening to listen to oneself, and one’s people, spoken of as worthy of extinction. I guess I am getting a hint of what my grandparents and still earlier generations faced.

While all of this is true, today we acknowledge something else. Today we proudly focus on our collective resilience and creativity, and the miracle of cultural continuity in the face of genocide.  We are STILL HERE.

10 thoughts on “We are Still Here

    1. Dear Victoria, The situation is both sad and remarkable, I like to remember that in spite of the many ways we, and so many other groups, are treated, we are still here. One hopes that resiliency wins out in the end.

  1. Very well written, Michael. It is so hard to understand how people can not be aware of the destruction to human lives caused by their greed and insensitivity. I do understand your pain caused by the strong message that your people just don’t matter. I love the idea of Indigenous People Day. Wouldn’t it be fun to read a textbook that was written without bias – telling the strengths and mistakes of both groups of people. Maybe in your retirement???

    1. Pat, I’ve been pondering this idea of a textbook. I’m not sure how one would write such a complex document, but what a grand project. Given how revisionist most textbooks have become, we sure could use some truthsaying.

      1. What I am thinking (for you to do) is something like how modern novels are being written – using the voices of different narrators. I think it would be engaging to have people tell their stories from their perspective – sharing their biases, values, needs, emotions. Could you write the facts without bias and then retell those facts through the minds of Europeans and Natives? How different would it be to add some fiction to a history book when the ethnocentric bias is so close to fiction anyway?

      2. I like the idea, and there are probably models out there. Certainly, there is a lot of fiction floating around other there. I’m not the one to write the book, though. I wonder who might take such a project on.

  2. Thank you, Michael, for your presence, awareness-raising, question-asking, holding space for a deeper and more diverse reality of co-existence, for your honoring of the Native heritage in you and your ancestors.

    1. Thank you for this lovely note, Annette. I often find myself torn between writing about things that need saying, and my desire to give myself, and others, a break from the challenges of our world. Hopefully, I manage to find some balance, but that always seems precarious at best. I also hope that we can build a world where diversity is seen as an asset and a responsibility.

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