So I was hanging out with one of my friends a couple of months back and she watches a bunch of kids at her church on Saturday evenings while the other adults have their prayer meetings. I was drawing a picture of one of my characters "Ohanzee" which I designed and BG'd to be Hunkpapa Lakota. Very difficult to trace that back, but I did and it was fun learning about it.
This kid comes up to me and asks me some questions about it. I personally felt I was under qualified to answer but I did to the best of my abilities. I had suggested to them to go to a powwow if their parents would take them.
The kids usually watched cartoons but we ended up having a 2 hour conversation about Native Americans and their role in the building of this country and their rights now. (which are next to none by the way...we should really look into that...)
Without dropping a beat, one kid comes up to me and goes : (and I quote)
They still exist?!
Myself not skipping a beat I yelled:
Of course they still exist!!!
Here is my... "motivational" poster in regards to that.
Seriously, people should go out more!
Aloha my fellow people!
It's amazing to see how many people have viewed this picture I literally slapped together to make a point on a subject I find to be as worthy of making as even the dumbest of points. It's tragedy that the Native people across the whole of the western hemisphere have fallen on extremly hard times and hard in the sense that it literally makes me feel sick to my stomach.
Since this posting I have come to realize several points and one I must say outright: I am white. I have no idea, even though I have seen, what you go through on a daily basis and while I am not rushing to the nearest rez to become the Buddha of the century, the economic downturn has given me a new perspective on the lifestyle.
I have also found that I am very critical on some of the executions of daily actions on the reservations. I'm just wondering how long it's going to take before this...black hole of animosity swallows us up.
The responses to this little motivation poster (as it were) is astounding. A lot of proud people and that makes me happy so I would like to thank you all for staying strong despite your circumstances. You're a true inspiration to us all.
Now, a little note.
The man in this picture is Rudy Youngblood. I used this picture because the Grassdancers are probably the coolest people I've ever met. Now, while I'm not for hijacking people's cultures or experiences I do believe that a path to wisdom and understanding is through experience. What better way to learn about the culture that fascinates you than participation and, if invited to do so, I would probably also take part. However, there seems to have been a bit of an upheaval with this particular individual that rings true for many, MANY Native Americans when it comes to their culture and how people portray and use it.
It seems that our pal Rudy, here, has done just that but he's not the only one.
Since I'm white, not Native, I have to be careful but honest. I don't believe that any Native American, regardless of tribe or affiliation should or would do everything they can to hide their cultures from the populous who may be curious in order to make a social statement, especially when those cultures and languages are in danger of disintegrating. I just can't believe that. I do, however, think that way us non-native folk approach the any indigenous culture can seem very, VERY disingenuous and almost savior-like in our approach. our hearts says "we want to help, how can I?" but we come in with rose colored glasses, thinking that we'll be the ones who will come up with that perfect idea that will save the Indian.
"You are what you dream" I seem to remember this quote from somewhere.
One: They don't want to be saved. And if they did, it will be a salvation from within. It has to start at the very beginning of it all and not from the outside. Does that mean, we as outsiders, can't assist in that transformation? No. At least I hope not. And I hope that this transformation doesn't come from a position of hate. There's not much in the bible that I respect but "love thy enemy" can't be more profound and true in our interactions with each other.
Two: We are all one. This is a concept that is NOT unique to the Native Americans. The Celts and Teutons during peaceful times, tribal groups in and around Africa and Australia and even the very beginnings of Asia and now believe this. We are literally and figuratively connected to everyone and everything. We are bound to each other by the core of the earth and from that foundation, the strongest of all, can we begin to mend fences and rebuild bridges.
Three: And probably very important to anyone reading this: If you're not Native American or if that aspect of your blood is barely discernible, than just say it. Don't be ashamed of your people or where you come from. Everyone reading this needs to realize that white people, black people, yellow people; we all have indigenous roots. We all have tribal backgrounds. Mine are Teuton, Gothic and Celt. I have a strong Viking ancestry and this should be seen as a strength. A fresh and new perspective using the wisdom of my ancestors. God help you if you were an enemy to my ancestors but if you were called friend, you were kin and kin for life. Through those lines we bring much more experience and life to the discussion instead of approaching the Native lifestyle as a novelty.
But, understandably, the Native Americans are constantly bombarded by those who use their culture and rituals as something to be paraded around without regard or understanding as to why. Not to mention they are battling severe social issues that were thrust upon them by previous generations and, even now in 2012, nobody knows or nobody cares and that's a problem. We can't have that kind of wound festering on the body of this country and expect it to turn around. We, as a nation, have a serious debt over our head and it will only get worse.
Note to Natives:
Don't hide yourself from the world. Be proud and open about who you are and what your people have accomplished. You have so much wisdom and knowledge to offer and your perspective on the world is beautiful and worthy. Your people have inspired and all can turn to you for experiences that serve to teach us about humanity. And if someone wants to learn, embrace it as an opportunity to share your culture but explain to them the problems of misuse. Don't let what happened to the Celts and other Northern European tribes happen to you. Don't let your victors write your history for you.
Note to non-Natives:
Don't be ashamed of your bloodlines either. We all have beautiful backgrounds with beautiful things to celebrate. Try this: instead of going to Sun dance, why not look for information and try to recreate a real Celtic or Viking midsummer festival or moon dance and invite your local tribe to participate? Invite black and Asian people to share their cultural heritage and learn something about the people you share this land with. There's nothing wrong with being proud and strong in who you are and where you come from. Get your children involved and show them that there is still beauty and strength in this world worth fighting for.
Stay strong, dear friends and, As the Lakota would say:
"If we forget or destroy our roots we cannot grow in the future. "