Bird Droppings November 21, 2021
So many thoughts for one day, including CRT
Far too many folks do not have a clue about CRT. In most cases, it is a discussion in graduate school. Some would say teaching the battle of Wounded Knee as a massacre instead of the last great battle with the plains Indians is CRT. History has a way of shifting from nonfiction to fiction as soon as it happens. On December 29, 1890, it occurred near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The battle at Wounded Knee was a massacre of nearly three hundred Lakota people by soldiers of the United States Army. Twenty-five soldiers died, and thirty-one were wounded. Twenty soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. In 1990, both houses of the U.S. Congress passed a resolution on the historical centennial formally expressing “deep regret” for the massacre. In 2001, the National Congress of American Indians passed two resolutions condemning the military awards and called on the federal government to rescind them. Another piece was that the army had surrounded the encampment of starving Indians with six rapid-firing Hodgiss guns. Initially, a great army battle is now considered a significant misstep in dealing with the Indians. Interesting as we look at facts and not opinions.
I believe I was prepared from childhood to discuss this topic. It has been many years since my first introduction to American Indians. I was three or four years old when I first remembered my father’s Little Strong Arm and Black Eagle stories. Native American had not officially become politically correct, and we were raised with American Indian stories. My father’s stories came from his background in the Boy Scouts of America; he had been an Eagle Scout, a scout leader, and a summer camp program director. Indian Lore was a significant portion of Boy Scouting in those days. From a favorite book on Indian Crafts, my father told us of counting coup. W. Ben Hunt explained the word and its meaning.
“It was considered a great honor to count coup” W. Ben Hunt
My father worked his summers during college in New Hampshire at Camp Waunakee, using Indian Lore as a base for camp activities, and he was chief of the campfire. During his military service as a medic on a navy LSM in World War II, I learned he had spent many hours talking with Navaho code talkers as his Navy ship delivered them to islands in the South Pacific. He would say he was part Indian through all of those years, but it was not until he was in his seventies that his sister uncovered my great grandmother’s lineage, Leni Lenape, a clan of the Delaware tribes, and confirmed it. As a child, Indians were unique, my father instilled this in us, but there was always a spiritual aspect I could not explain. As I was reading for this morning, I pulled out another old book from my childhood days by William Tompkins. My father would use this book to teach us rudimentary sign language if we ever needed to converse with Indians.
“The originators of the Indian signs thought that thinking or understanding was done with the heart, and made the sign “drawn from the heart” Deaf mutes place extended fingers of the right hand against the forehead to give the same meaning” William Tompkins
As I read this line that thinking and understanding comes from the heart in so much Indian philosophy, perhaps this drew me to this group of people. I grew up with feathers, drums, rattles, and other Indian paraphernalia always around the house. In my own experiences, the spirituality and acceptance of all things as sacred in the American Indian culture intrigued me. As I started a graduate school program on curriculum theory, I never realized how education had been so misused and often deliberately so in history. Those in power avoided teaching some things; I use the fine print concerning American Indians.
The trust inherent in their culture and understanding of life and nature was turned against them for profit and greed. Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a member of the Dakota tribe, a medical doctor known in his tribe as Ohiyesa is quoted in Kent Nerburn’s, The Soul of an Indian, as he addresses a significant difference between white and Indian thought.
“Many of the white man ways are past our understanding …. They put a great store upon writing; there is always paper. The white people must think that paper has some mysterious power to help them in the world. The Indian needs no writings; words that are true sink deep into his heart, where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand if a white man loses his papers, he is helpless” Dr. Charles Eastman, Ohiyesa
In reading and discussing grad school, not much is different from the many innuendos in today’s education and hidden agendas and political maneuvering curriculums. As I progressed in my schooling, I learned Columbus mistakenly called the indigenous people he encountered Indians thinking he had found a way to the Spice Islands of the West Indies. The name would stick until more recently as we became politically correct and used the term Native Americans. According to noted historian Ronald Takaki, Columbus even wrote letters from the King and Queen to the Great Khan in his journal, thinking he was in China or near.
As I became older and sought out my understanding of American Indians, my readings went deeper. I spent a semester in Texas during my undergraduate years and experienced firsthand a powerful hatred even then in 1968 for American Indians. My journeys paralleled my spiritual and educational pathways as my ties and understanding grew with each step. I was looking for answers even back then.
“When you see a new trail or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing (introduction).” Uncheedah, grandmother of Ohiyesa
My roommate at Mercer was Creek, and he and his brother and I became good friends. After I graduated, I spent many nights at their apartment and was allowed to take medicine at the Green Corn dance. I continued my searching for answers even in those days. As I finished my undergraduate program at Mercer University, I realized why American Indians were never taught to read the fine print. In classes and from friends, I received books and articles to read, adding to my understanding. From one of our course texts, Author Joel Spring points out the concept of deculturalization.
“Deculturalization is one aspect of the strange mixture of democratic thought and intolerance that exists in some minds. The concept of deculturalization demonstrates how cultural prejudices and religious bigotry can be intertwined with democratic beliefs. It combines education for democracy and political equality with cultural genocide – the attempt to destroy cultures. Deculturalization is an educational process that aims to destroy a people’s culture and replace it with a new culture.” Joel Spring
From earlier on, there was an effort to assimilate and dismantle the cultures of the Native peoples in America. In the early 1500s, Spanish colonists were the first to deceive and destroy the native people? Several nights ago, a recent History channel episode was based on Cortez and the conquering of the Aztecs. A statement was made by one of the historians on the show that in the course of fewer than two hundred years from that first encounter with Cortez, ninety percent of the indigenous people of America’s were either killed or died from European based disease, and the Europeans enslaved a new world.
So many times, it was through deception. As the white man pushed into the new world, treaties and agreements were often signed with little understanding of the Native peoples. The land was not for sale, yet the white man was offering us trinkets. How foolish is the white man? Vine Deloria Jr. states very clearly in his book Custer died for your sins:
“In the treaty of August 5, 1826, almost as if it were an afterthought, an article (III) stated: The Chippewa tribe grant to the government of the United States the right to search for, and carry away, any metals or minerals from any part of their country. But this grant is not to effect title of the land or existing jurisdiction over it. The Chippewa’s, in the dark as to the importance of their mineral wealth, signed the treaty. This was the first clear-cut case of fraudulent dealings on the part of Congress. Close examination of subsequent Congressional dealings shows a record of continued fraud covered over by pious statements of concern for their words.” Vine Deloria Jr
I wonder if the Indian agents held their hand over portions of the treaty or wrote small letters that most people could not read. It may have been perhaps using Old English lettering and only having taught in Times Roman fonts, which would bewilder most educated people even today. This concerted effort by those in control throughout American History was even condemned by the U.S. government, who were themselves orchestrating much of it, as shown by Joel Spring in his book.
“The U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare issued in 1969 the report Indian Education: A National Tragedy-A national Challenge. The report opened with a statement condemning previous educational policies of the federal government: “A careful review of the historical literature reveals that the dominant policy of the Federal Government toward the American Indian has been one of forced assimilation…. Because of a desire to divest the Indian of his land,” Joel Spring
In many ways, it was a naivety that undermined the American Indian in their dealings with the Europeans and eventually U.S. Government. But it was also an inherent trust that bound the various tribes and peoples together. There was no fine print to a Native American; his word was bond. It would be many years and near extinction till Native Americans realized the treachery. Kent Nerburn writes extensively about American Indian Spirituality and offers;
“The rule of mutual legal compact, with its European roots, had no precedent among the individualistic native peoples of the continent. In addition, the idea of land as personnel property, a key principle on which the United States was basing its treaties, was alien to the native people. How could one own the land?” Kent Nerburn
Our current curriculum study shows many overlapping and residual effects and goes far beyond just Native Americans. Those in power write fine print for one reason so that it is not read and, in doing so, essentially control the overall outcome and direction of whatever is in question. My position is that we have continually dealt with agreements and contracts riffed with fine print regarding education and curriculum to the point that it has become what we expect.
Even as a teacher, our contracts contain numerous areas of extremely fine print. Daily we are being handed fine print in the news and through the media about Iran, the economy, politics, religion, and many too numerous to mention, including our former president’s continued election efforts. Maybe one day we can indeed have a democracy in our democratic nation funny thing is educator John Dewey said and felt the best way to assure a democracy was through a democratic classroom. So as I set my thoughts to paper and close for this morning, please help others read the fine print, and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart’s namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)