Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Recently read: Eating Fire, Tasting Blood

This is subtitled "an anthology of the American Indian Holocaust." Many white Americans may believe this goes too far in describing our treatment of the natives here before us, but history makes a case for at least "cultural" genocide and the case is strong for more than this. "A good Indian is a dead Indian" was at times close to official government policy -- and perhaps was policy.

The contributors here are all Native Americans, and they respond to their history with anger, courage, poetry and resilience. They have survived, despite everything. They are not going away. They are proud, and they want their audience and their day in the court of history and justice. It's important that we listen to what they say. We need to face our true history squarely, especially at times like these when a large segment of our nation embraces a self-serving inaccurate myth about our past.


The  dictionary included examples of holocaust incidents among groups of  people. Beyond the formally named twentieth-century Holocaust of  European Jews, Cambodians, Africans, and AIDS victims were listed  with varying merits. American Indians were strangely absent from any  of these examples. This was, after all, the American Heritage Dictionary.  How could the editors have overlooked such a key example from  within America's own borders?
Imagine being a child again. Envision being eleven years old, thinking   of your friends and life with ease and being full of nonstop questions.   Imagine being a carefree spirit and still having innocence in your  life, still loving without reason, and having thoughts of the world as complete   in your own eyes. Then imagine that everything that makes you  who you are is being attacked. You are told that the way you dress, the  way you speak, and everything you were taught about your heritage is  evil and wrong.
The American Indian Holocaust did happen. Perhaps not in the same  way the holocaust happened for the Jews, nor for the people in Rwanda,  nor for the Puerto Ricans at Carlisle, nor for the Asians at Heart  Mountain, nor for all culturally oppressed, assimilated people everywhere  in the world. But it did happen and bits and pieces of this oppression  are evident in all Indian communities today. That these grave injustices  happened to many groups, not just one, and in various ways, should  finally be confronted.
We've never been apologized   to for the loss of our people during the gold rush, we've never  been apologized to for the theft of our land under the General Allotment   Act of 1887, we've never been apologized to for the loss of language   and the attempted extinction of our culture by the boarding  schools, and on and on and on. We cannot trust the federal or state governments   to help us protect what is ours, and that is precisely why we  are the agents or our survival.
Cultural genocide is the new genocide. It impacts us in ways we can't  often predict, which makes it more insidious. It we do not learn how  to talk the federal government's talk, so to speak, we will never have a  voice in decisions made about us. This creates a dilemma for some  because there is a fear that exists of becoming too much like white people.   This is the struggle: how do we understand their world and still exist  in ours', I think the answer is what it has always been-balance.

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