Friday, February 01, 2008

Pondering The Way

Big Chief (c) George Yellowhead

My need for balance is engrained in me, as is my need for justice -- it certainly is part of my birth sign, the Scales/la balance -- so it's natural that I'm drawn to the Navajo Way. When things are out of kilter, they need to be balanced so one can "walk in beauty." Last night, reading a book titled Mourning Dove, I came across ch' ééna, the Navajo word for depression, which literally means "a sadness for what will not return." It is treated by a hataalii (medicine man). This resonated so strongly with me because it really hits the nail on the head.

The Navajo could teach us a thing or two. The world is so out of kilter right now. But does most of the population even know the Navajo exist? And would they even care? When President Clinton officially thanked the Navajo Codetalkers of the Second World War, those who had come out of it alive (never mind that it took more than half a century to acknowledge them), did people have any idea of who they were? In a world where the word hero has become so diluted, the Codetalkers were true war heroes. If you don't know who the Codetalkers were, see the movie Windtalkers, starring Nicholas Cage. It is a true story and will open your eyes.

I hear so much about how connected we all are. If that's the case, then read up on their history, get to know the American Indians, the attempt to wipe them off the face of the Continent, the Navajos' Long Walk, Wounded Knee, the Seminole in Florida who were reduced to a handful who only got away because they went into hiding, just to name a few. If you live here, if you claim to be North American, it is also your history. I'm old enough to remember the scandals at the Dept. of Indian Affairs, when I was living in Washington, D.C. I've met people who have called Indians sub-human. Just so you know I'm not talking about 80 or 100 years ago, but in our time.

Did Canada have any idea of the Manitoba Ojibwa reserve where they've been under a boil-the-water advisory for several years? (Hello, government. This is as important as Walkerton. Those 800 souls deserve much better from you.)

I'm a fairly tolerant person, but I do not tolerate immigrants denigrating the First Nations, which they freely do, appalling as this may seem. They don't even know their history, who they are, what was done to them, and why they are where they are today. They should all be made to wear the T-shirt that I saw at a pow-wow that says: O Canada, our home on Native land. Some 50 years ago, countless Aboriginal children were torn away from their families and forcibly put into Christian boarding schools where many were abused and their spirits broken -- all to assimilate them into the Anglo culture. I sometimes wonder if the Borg (Star Trek fans will know what I mean) were modelled after that. Trying to beat someone's identify, culture and language out of them is such a terrible sin. I see the scars in my friends. I know of the suicides, the hopelessness, the poverty and the addictions that ensued. These children, the ones who are still alive, are in middle-age now, and they have won a law suit that took many years, that won't undo the damage, but will help to close that ugly chapter.

I can't do anything. But I can speak out in my own little way. I write this as a response to some things I recently heard: So, where there is ignorance, let me shed some light (to paraphrase St. Francis of Assissi). I imagine some readers may not like what I've written. To them, I would simply say, thank you for coming by, bless you, and goodbye.


  1. Colette, I feel so sad about is something we should think on everyday and ask forgiveness. We( Feds and population) are so arrogant here in the States to talk of the atrocity and genocide commited by other countries when WE did it to our Native Americans! Thank you for writing this.

  2. I agree that the world is out of kilter for sure.. I wish I had an answer but I don't. AND I wish ALL the atrocities over the ages had never happened... you know, I can't even read things about it all as it sickens my soul..


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