Sunday, October 9, 2011

I was always an Indian

Photo from Canku Ota
I didn't actually write this for our blog but I decided to put it up here anyways.

There are many kinds of learning. Sometimes we struggle to learn. Other times it’s as if we learn by osmosis. Sometimes it’s as if a light goes on and you can finally really see. Those are the things that stick with you. The things that no matter how much you wish it never go away. The things that make you look at the whole world in a different light. For me one of those light bulbs went on in 1973 and it’s gotten brighter every day since.
I grew up in a white middle class neighborhood. Mom stayed home while dad worked. Mom was always talking about her Irish/English/Scot heritage. She was tolerant of our dads French/English/Norwegian heritage but the part we rarely heard about was our Native American heritage. Oh we always knew we had some Indian blood. I remember hearing my Grandmother call me a little Indian but not in a nice way. Or Aunt Clara saying I had the feet of an Indian tough as leather and better off unshod. That was a compliment at least I like to think so. And I was always an Indian when we played “cowboys & Indians”.
My dad had worked his way up to Town Superintendent but you were just as likely to see him roll his sleeves up and jump into the ditch and help out. He always got up an hour before anyone else in the house. He said he liked the quiet first thing in the morning. I came down early one morning to find my dad watching the news. He was quiet, just sitting there, his coffee getting cold. I sat down on the floor and leaned back on his knee the FBI, US Marshals and law enforcement had surrounded Wounded Knee in S. Dakota, forcing an armed standoff with AIM members. My dad didn’t say much at all that morning but what he did say has stayed with me for almost 40 years. What he said was “They have no right.” I didn’t have to ask “who?” I knew who. No one told me but somewhere inside the answer was there. My dad died 13 months later at 52 but dammed if that light bulb isn’t still burning.
These days I can’t watch a John Wayne western or a Mel Gibson movie. The phrase “going off the reservation” drives me crazy. Columbus discovered my behind. Mohawk Carpets aren’t made or owned by Mohawks. Thanksgiving is the celebration of the mass murder of 300 Native American men, women and children. And it doesn’t stop there…class wars, drug wars, the war on poverty, economic justice, environmental justice, social justice. Foreclosure protests, eviction blockades, peace marches and the poor marching on Washington D.C.
The battle rages on, it’s everywhere and if I listen closely I still can hear my father. “They have no right”
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