Bird Droppings March 10, 2020
In light of watching current news and political turmoil I recalled a trip to the Atlanta Zoo. I was approached as I walked up the hill at the Zoo by an elderly man. I had never met this man previously and hope to never meet again. He saw my camera around my neck and asked if I saw the rare creature ahead. I asked him which one as several endangered animals are housed at the Atlanta Zoo directly down the hill. His next comment took me by surprise. It was a derogatory racially motivated jab at nonwhites. My first reaction was numbness. Why did this racist man out of all the random people pick me to talk too?
Synchronicity as I say. I watched him walk away down the hill thinking how in this modern world does a man like that even live? How can someone be so jaded and hate so much? Yet every time I sit down to my computer and read even a few social media posts there is a more virulent infectious racism countered with, “but I am not racist.” Over the years I have mentioned world peace and even offered up the passage of peace be with you, borrowing from the Eucharist. Wayne William Snellgrove, an artist from South Florida and medicine man, started my morning right today with a line or two from Black Elk.
“Peace… comes within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells Wakan-Tanka and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa) OGLALA SIOUX
It has been some time since I first read the book, Neither Wolf nor Dog, which happens to have been written by one of my favorite authors Kent Nerburn. Listening to political gibberish and sitting watching twitter comments through indigenous newscasts the issue of the Native Peoples has never gone away and is perhaps equally as appropriate as we are in a situation as a nation that went from a nontraditional president who happens to be of a different life view than what many Americans would prefer, to a boisterous man who fans the flames of racism and many are afraid to say this is going on. So easy to say “I am not racist, and his church affiliation is for show.” I recall reading a few posts and seeing images of people professing to be not racist yet through their images on social media are confederate flags and pictures of them in t-shorts stating blatantly, “Make America White again”.
I was reading some of several of my former student’s posts discussing politics and always a little other reason somehow gets mentioned. Listening to polls and news similar rationales seem to prevail although cloaked in Republican or Democratic jargon. I saw a poster recently of an Indian woman stating something to the effect anyone not speaking Lakota, and listed numerous more dialects and languages need to leave as you are trespassing illegally on Indian land. We Europeans quickly disseminated across the country through the philosophy of manifest destiny and such jargon.
“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am a 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 a holy man died in 1890 shot by his own people as foretold 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 the 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. 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 all patriots down through history.
Today around the world we are witnessing similar events in many countries and we are the invaders again. It just depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on as to who is patriotic and who is the enemy. I recall on a public broadcast a “former” rock star that is also an alleged draft dodger from the Viet Nam era and is very pro-guns was blasting our former president and came awful close to threatening him. Many considered that tirade as patriotic, at least the NRA convention crowd applauded. I actually went to one of his concerts for thirty seconds back in the 1970’s. It was so bad I left.
“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 an adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius
With each word spouted from some conservative’s lips about lowering gas prices and yet never do we ask oil companies to decrease their ever-increasing profits. I have not quite figured this out how we as citizens will save if oil companies increase profits. Perhaps it is looking for new lands to subdue which is the credo of so many conservatives and their religious affiliations. Taking away lands from wilderness to own and subdue and to plunder. Sometimes I wonder if we have run out of the wilderness to conquer as I watch world events. Even the rumor mill is involving Haiti now as 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 only were 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 Sioux and Cheyenne warriors 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 killing Indians.
“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 Indians 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 uprisings. Nearly seven years ago on a Monday a South Texas town abolished an anti-Hispanic segregation law more than seven decades after it was enacted in Edcouch Texas. More recently Arizona enacted even stricter laws that are currently in court and today before the US Supreme Court. Back in the day, we were the illegal immigrants and we stole land and destroyed culture after culture taking and subduing. In the Georgia government and in several other states today they want to forget that type of history in US History classes since it ruins our image (European white) as an elite people.
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; I do not think he would be in today’s politics.
“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 1880s 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 were the main issue, high tariffs were what Garfield backed and possibly that which he was assassinated for. The plight of the Native Peoples was a small issue during the years recovering from the governmental corruption of Grants time. The 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 entitled today’s wandering about, Neither Wolf nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn. It is an interesting book about an old man’s effort to explain who his people really are. Nerburn was asked to write the words of an elderly Indian, a member of the Sioux nation, 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. I am sitting with the lingering aroma of sage and haunting flute music of Carlos Nakai in the background please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please always remember to give thanks namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)