I thought long and hard about what I should write about for my column this week. Today is Thanksgiving, and although many people may try to paint over the “holy day” with a pretty brush, I cannot.
You see, injustice and genocide continue in this world, and I will not remain silent.
Indigenous languages are disappearing faster than they can be conserved; drums, songs, and prayers are being banned from churches; language teachers are being fired over governmental bureaucratic processes that only “they” understand; water rights are sold to the highest bidder; Mother Earth is being chopped up and called real estate; indigenous women and men have become alarming statistics as the murdered, the missing, and the incarcerated; Evo Morales is in exile, while a replacement tweets, “I dream of a Bolivia free of satanic indigenous rites, the city is not a place for indians, they must go to the highlands or the plains.”; while the nation’s highest award for valor romanticizes the actions of soldiers who killed our relatives at Wounded Knee Creek…
At times, it is all too much to think of.
“No Indian alive dares to think too much of the past” is a quote that resonates with every fiber of my being.
I dare not try to explain what I think happened during “the first Thanksgiving”, neither do I dare ask a suffering people to forget the past, nor do I ask them to reexamine their personal beliefs about what Thanksgiving represents.
What I can do is acknowledge the reality of what we face as human beings living in a world that is rapidly losing its understanding of being human. (Words inspired by John Trudell). The reality of what has happened since October 12, 1492 is found all around us in the daily struggles of our fellow man.
I type this in the English language, although my thought process is in Navajo. Would you understand if I typed this entirely in Navajo? Would you understand if I spoke entirely in Navajo? Would you understand Lakota or Hopi?
For over 500 years, we have learned to exist, to survive, to live, and to learn foreign ways, but, most of the nation has yet to even learn our cultural ways and languages.
As disheartening as things are, all is not lost. I need only look to my family and I find hope in my daughter. I find hope in my sisters’ children, who, in the Lakota way, I would call my takojas, my grandchildren.
In the Navajo way, they are my children, and I, their mother. My children are learning the Navajo language, they are immersed in ceremonies, songs and prayers, they are doing and living the Navajo culture. They are the embodiment of physical resistance to over 500 years of genocide and forced assimilation. They are the carriers of our way of life, our stories, our prayers and our tomorrow.
I see that hope here on Cheyenne River. I hear it in the voices of children who sing the Lakota flag song, who speak Lakota in their classrooms, who dance during wacipis, who are present at ceremonies, and who greet their relatives with words like “unci” and “lala”.
My children, our children, are one branch of a tree in an entire forest of indigenous nations who exist from the shores of Greenland, to the tip of the Artic, to the Caribbean, throughout the United States, and into Central and South America.
The roots of our ancestors run deep, and continue to grow each day. Today is just another day of living in hózhó with the natural laws of Mother Earth.