Our Struggle Today

“No matter how much you take from an Indian, they will still find a way to laugh at you” -1491’s

I do realize that most people and most of the world probably have only learned of the Indigenous people of America via history class in school, Hollywood, or Louis L’Amour style writing.  I can understand if you don’t really know who we are.   There are how many different nations of us, and
we all have our own beliefs as if we are all from different parts of the world, yet in a way we can all relate to each other because we know what it is like to be Native American.  I can respect the unknown because there are many things in the world, universe, that I do not know but I leave myself open to learn and try to understand.  It is okay for me to admit I do not know everything because that then gives me the freedom to learn about many wonderful histories, people, cultures, and beliefs I had not known before. I realize how hard that would be for some people to admit they don’t know everything. I feel bad, because you’re then stuck between a rock and a hard place.
At the same time, I am still always forever learning about my own people, my own beliefs, and my own opinions are forever evolving.  What a wonderful world and freedom it is to know that you can always learn something from somebody, somewhere, and somehow.

So with having this perspective on life and the ways of the world, it was at first a bit shocking to realize that many of my columns would get shot down with such ferocity, starting with the Thanksgiving story last year.  All you have to do is read something about Indians, that is not on an Indian website or Indian media, and look at the comments under it. People say such horrible things and we are not supposed to feel some kind of way about it? I talked to my mother in length about it, in fact it was the topic of our “football family supper” last year.  How did I piss so many people off by stating that I was thankful to be who I was and where I was from?  I was trying to feel let down at first,  I usually don’t write to make people angry, just to hope they understand me better.  Then my mom put it simply “You don’t owe anybody shit, you have no reason to respond or go back and read what they say.  Let it go.”

So I did.  And I kept writing.  Whether it was on this blog, for The Guardian, or at Last Real Indians. I learn as I go along, I am not here to tell people what is and what isn’t.    Maybe I am just here to give you a glimpse of what it is like to be a Lakota from a reservation and now living in a city.  Maybe I am here to tell you that we are human, that maybe our histories don’t match up with your textbooks from junior high and maybe we get offended by things you think are silly.  I don’t know why I’m here actually, I just know I am supposed to write. Maybe we are not the Indians you saw circling wagons on old Hollywood movies or not necessarily the romanticized version you saw on Dances with Wolves, but we are human beings.  We are doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, mothers, musicians, writers, activists, scientists, retail workers, etc.
 
Everything that everyone else is, also except we always have to step up, in a way some other people don’t.  When we know something is wrong and we want to make it right. We have to let people know what makes our clock tick, because otherwise nothing will ever change. Whether we do that with writing, humor like the 1491’s, or protests. We have to stand up and do the right thing. We did not grow up priveleged. And by privileged I don’t mean rich, I mean already accepted in a society that don’t see the color of your skin, or stereotyoe you. Or get angry and tell you that you have no right to be mad over something that offends you to the very core.

We have a history, that goes back further than Columbus.  We have, as a people survived through Manifest Destiny.  We fight all these different battles today that are looked upon with scorn and with the attitude that we are wrong to bring awareness to a situation.  Whether that be fighting for
our sacred lands
, or desecration of sacred lands, offensive mascots, fashion designers’ misappropriations and misunderstanding of our culture, defending our clean drinking water from pipelines full of dirty oil,
politicians mocking our culture, fighting for our children to stay with their families, fighting for more awareness for violence against our women, fighting against racism, the list is never ending. My mom said there are so many things we need to make others aware of her head is spinning. And when we want to talk about it or write about it, people are quick to tell us we have no right to be fired up, pissed off, or offended. As if they have one iota of experience of what we go through on a daily basis. As if they ever had to feel the rage of someone calling their child a racist name.

Even on October 18, 2012, Dr, Phil of the the talk show had a topic concerning the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)and instead of learning about it, or why it exists or why it was put in place, or trying to understand it, he went on the defense in a totally biased and one sided show.  Instead of bringing understanding to his viewers, for the most part he brought out scorn and yes, I will say it, racism.  Setting society back even further to misunderstanding what ICWA is and how it was set in place to stop the removal of children from their Native homes and placed in non Native homes, a practice that had been happening for generations when this country first set out to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” by removing children from their homes as young as five to put in residential schools to learn how to be white.  Imagine someone taking your five year old away and having no communication until the end of the school year. Taking them from your home and putting them in a home where they had to learn to be different and act different and not be who they are. Generations were abused physically, emotionally, and sexually in order to assimilate. Up until the day my great grandma passed away, she was ashamed of speaking Lakota because of the abuse she suffered as a child.

So I write this in hope that someone out there will have the heart to understand.  We are not you, we didn’t grow up not having to prove anything about who we are, but we are here.  We don’t do all this to make people feel bad or to make them ashamed of who they are, just because that was done to our people. We do this to make things right and put motions and actions and laws into place, so it will never happen again. And even if you don’t have the understanding to try and listen and see who we are and where we come from, that won’t stop us.  We are warriors, fighting the good fight of keeping our ways going and trying to make the world understand us.  Like our ancestors did.

Here is a poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

Our Struggle Today
We won’t pretend
to comprehend
the tears you shed
For the red nations
And the attempted devastation
Of our way of life
Our glory and strife
Cry no more, shed no tears
We been hard core
For thousands of years
Pause the flute music
Our drums beat on
Strong as our hearts
We sing our honor songs
Every day has a dawn
Every race has a start
We carry on
A nation of relations
Birthed by our women
The hearts of our nations
To whom we owe our living
We honor the ancestors
Who survived
Every hardship the government
Made them strive
Over five hundred years
They kept us alive
You see our struggle today
Is to make you understand
That though the government
tried to take our ways
Destroyed and ravaged our land
And put us on a prison camp
Called a reservation
We survived the invasion
We’re still here
We’re still a badass nation.

 

-dlh
2012

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry. Ain’t gotta lie to kick it

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5 thoughts on “Our Struggle Today

  1. I’ve been in DC and NYC so far this month. When I take public transit or visit the National Museum of the American Indian I see, and sometimes meet, Indians.I know there are many, many folks who are there but not identifiable. When I am at NMAI a guard might ask me whether I am Native. In NYC there is a marvelous exhibition about Native musicians, and another on diverse tribal traditions of dance. In DC there is a great show of carved sculpture. There are also many galleries speaking to the immense diversity we represent.

    Not only are our cultures diverse, but we are diverse in shape, size, hair, eyes, skin, occupation, and political and spiritual outlook. In spite of this, there are those among us who seem to imagine there is one way to look and be Indian. I guess this is really internalized racism, another aspect of our colonial inheritance. This becomes painfully clear when non-Indians say something along the lines of, “You can’t be Indian: you don’t look it.” Sometimes I think everyone is just watching too many old Westerns.

    We have a long way to go just to embrace the complexity of who we are as Indians. I’d like to believe that in spite of the enormous pressures on us to disappear, we can begin to decline the many invitations we receive to discount and invaldate one another.

    Thanks for another courageous, pointed post.

  2. Your mom is wise. I piss people off too. I talk when I should think! I talk to myself to walk myself through a situation. Writing is good for me. Not everything makes sense.
    I love learning about other people,I feel their happiness,or their pain,it helps me feel connected to the human race. I relate more to animals~horses especially. I have since i was a small child. Not a whisperer though,just have this connection.
    I don’t understand exactly how to comment to your blog. Never sure if it makes it out to where it is supposed to go.Keep writing~~~~~~expressing.

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