01 November 2012

National American Indian Month

On my writerly journal, I posted some links referencing American Indian Month.  It's a month during which Tribes across the nation strive to educate the public about Native American Tribes.

Native American Month is a hit or miss proposition for a lot of people I know, including myself. I think it's because it's such a part of me that I don't think about it until December, if at all.  I have posted links sporadically.  The United States government had to pass a public law in 1978, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, before we could openly observe our culture's tribal way of life.

In the 34 years since that act was passed, not much has essentially changed regarding our perception as a People.  Hollywood has stereotyped Natives to the extent that many of our young ones don't identify themselves as "the People" of whatever tribe they're born to.  An insidious remnant of pre-1978 actions persist to this day.

School teachers, the most important influence on young kids, have influenced our children in a subtle manner. Social services workers and the clergy have arbitrarily taken children from their homes.  It took another act of Congress, The Indian Child Welfare Act, to enable tribes to regain control over our children. Legal jurisdiction is another influence.  Some reservations are closed-meaning only tribal/federal jurisdiction and others are open-state has jurisdiction as well as the tribal and federal.

Now, I live in a three generation household.  Each generation grew up under different influences, thoughts, beliefs regarding our culture.  That influence stretches back to 1865.  My great grandmother born 1865, babysat me and took walks with me, died in 1965. My grandmother born 1918, also babysat me, attended my high school graduation, died in 1977.  And us, the current household, mom, me and my sons. Thus, influences from every decade since Minnesota became a state in 1858.

Each woman had to fight in their own way, to teach Anishinabe identification, in an environment that was telling kids that it's cooler to be someone else, who, 95% of the time,  was non-Indian. And usually, there were tribal members who were doing the same type of teaching-you're not Indian if you're not full blood. And now, the emphasis is on potential language loss. There are scientific studies out on how the brain processes language.  The brain only keeps what you use. There are within each of us, that little part that remembers the put downs for not speaking, or for speaking, our language.

For me, education about our culture is ongoing, an everyday part of my life. And prejudice, bigotry, is a fact of life that I face every time I go out the door of my house.


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