We are neither wolf nor dog

Bird Droppings January 13, 2022
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 Peoples. While this is never an issue for some, 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 overlooked.” Many who put aside color will go for religion, birthplace, and his friends are reasons to dislike, yet race is underlying the rhetoric. I was listening to several of my students discuss politics, and always the other reason our president is not liked somehow gets mentioned. Although cloaked in political dribble, similar rationales seem to prevail in polls and news, whether 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 a holy man died in 1890, shot by his people as foretold in a vision he had many years before. 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 were killed in mysterious ways the following year. Some will say karma but to the Sioux, killing a holy man is a death sentence in and of itself. Perhaps the officers’ deaths were retaliation for killing a great leader from the Sioux nation. Maybe it is a paradox of the Indian wars.

It always seems interesting how it was patriotic for soldiers to kill Indians. 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 depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on as to who is patriotic and the enemy.

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or, of principle.” Confucius

“Only in quiet waters do 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 says 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, yet he disobeyed orders and egotistically rode into battle outnumbered and 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 uprisings. On a Monday, nearly ten years ago, 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 working at the Okmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia, we became friends, and I was honored to be invited to partake of 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 searched for information on my Leni Lenape, great, great grandmother, an article about my great-great-grandfather George Niper. He 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, and 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 1880s in presidential elections. Grant wanted a third term. 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 Americans was a minor issue during the years recovering from the governmental corruption of Grant’s time. The government seems to be, by nature, corrupt. We watch as senators and congressmen argue over health care, yet they have universal health care for life. Maybe if on equal footing, the legislation would be different, and possibly 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

It’s interesting how an invaded people fought back yet we condemned them and how history changed their 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 are. Nerburn was invited to bring the words of an elderly Native American, a member of the Sioux nation, to the world and 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 your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)

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