Bird Droppings January 23, 2013
We are neither wolf nor dog
It has been some time since I first read a book by this name written by one of my favorite authors Kent Nerburn. In much of his writing Kent Nerburn addresses the spiritual significance and depth of life of our Native Americans. While to some this is never an issue for others it is very much so and perhaps equally we as a nation have reelected a nontraditional president who happens to be of a different color than what many so called Americans would prefer and are afraid to say they are. So easy for some to say “I am not racist but his church affiliation cannot be over looked.” Many who put aside color will go for religion, or birthplace, and or who his friends are as reasons to dislike yet underlying the rhetoric is race. I was listening to several of my students discuss politics and always the other reason our president is not liked somehow gets mentioned. Listening to polls and news similar rationales seem to prevail although cloaked in political dribble be it Republican or Democrat. While shrouded in history and idealistic notions racism towards native and or nonwhites has been a large portion of our culture.
“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” Sitting Bull, (Tatanka Iyotake), Lakota Medicine man and chief
This great warrior and holy man died in 1890 shot by his own people as fore told in a vision he had many years before. At the time the federal government was concerned with his affiliation with the ghost dance cult, which was sweeping the reservations. Armed Sioux officers were sent to bring him in and as legend goes he was reaching for his grandson’s toy and the officers perceived a gun and shot him multiple times. Sadly most of the officers themselves were killed in mysterious ways the next year or so. Some will say karma but to the Sioux killing a holy man is a death sentence in and of itself. Perhaps the officer’s deaths were retaliation for the killing of a great leader from the Sioux nation. Perhaps it is the paradox of the Indian wars.
It always seems interesting to me how it was patriotic for soldiers to kill Indians and yet the statement “I would die for my people and country,” is a very patriotic statement we still hear from American patriots continually down through history. Today around the world we are witnessing similar events in many countries. It just depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on as to who is patriotic and who is the enemy.
“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius
“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius
Sometimes I wonder if we have run out of wilderness to conquer as I watch world events. Even the underlying rumor mill is word that Haiti now is a possible new territory for the US. Do we need another General Custer and another battle of the little Big Horn? I was thinking back in my own time and war, Viet Nam, and to the Malai massacre but those folks had no weapons and were only standing around not fighting back. I am always amazed that Custer was a hero and yet he disobeyed orders and egotistically rode into battle outnumbered and was slaughtered. Perhaps it was the fact the Native Americans had the newest weaponry, repeating rifles and Custer’s men still had breech loading single shot rifles. Interestingly enough word had it the unit was offered the new weapons but felt the old ones were good enough for what they were doing. There is a petition going around the internet to recall the twenty medals of honors awarded to some of Custer’s men. Wounded Knee was only a few months before, Custer’s men only days before killed women and children and by chance came into confrontation with the large army assembled under Crazy Horse and directed by Sitting Bull at Little Bighorn.
“What white man can say I never stole his land or a penny of his money? Yet they say that I am a thief. What white woman, however lonely, was ever captive or insulted by me? Yet they say I am a bad Indian.” Sitting Bull
I went to school for a semester in Texas in 1968 and experienced racism I had never seen before to that degree. Hatred for Native Americans nearly one hundred years after the wars were over. Geronimo and Chief Joseph were both refused on their death beds by sitting presidents to return to their sacred lands for fear of up risings. Nearly five years ago on Monday a South Texas town abolished an anti-Hispanic segregation law more than seven decades after it was enacted in Edcouch Texas.
In 1973 I met the contingency of Creeks who were working at the Okmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia, we became friends and I was honored to be invited to take medicine at the Green Corn dance. Nearly 150 years earlier under Andrew Jackson’s orders the Creeks were taken from Georgia to Oklahoma, the now infamous Trail of tears. With the Creeks gone all the land became available. I found searching for information on my Leni Lenape, great, great grandmother an article about my great great grandfather George Niper who lived to be one hundred and fourteen years old and was the last living person to have voted for Andrew Jackson. I found it interesting Jackson was a Democrat. The Trail of Tears was not a liberal act by any means.
“Now that we are poor, we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die, we die defending our rights.” Sitting Bull
I wonder what slogans were used in the 1880’s in presidential elections, Grant wanted a third term and Garfield supported Grant interesting how Garfield’s speech for Grant got him the nomination over Grant and elected. Tariffs was the main issue, high tariffs was what Garfield backed and possibly that which he was assassinated for. The plight of the Native American was a small issue during the years recovering from the governmental corruption of Grants time. Government seems to be by nature corrupt. We watch as senators and congressmen argue over health care and yet they have universal health care for life. Maybe if on equal footing legislation would be different and maybe if the threat of you could lose yours was on the table things would be different.
“A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. I was hostile to the white man…we preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers came and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came…They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape but we were so hemmed in we had to fight.” Crazy Horse, Tashunwitko
Interesting how an invaded people fought back yet we condemned them and how history changes the views. I have been reading a book that I titled today’s wandering about entitled, Neither Wolf nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn, an interesting book about an old man’s effort to explain who his people really are. Nerburn was invited to bring the words of an elderly Native American, a member of the Sioux nation, to the world and to explain why and how. One day maybe someone will offer explanations for the issues of today that go beyond the political views of warring parties and ideologies as we wander today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.
Wa De (Skee)