24 September 2013

What happens next?

I thought I wouldn't be posting any more about the Veronica Brown case.  

The case in the news brings back so many memories.  Watching children being handed back to the parent, knowing ahhh, that isn't really the issue behind this case.  The case is about State Courts and Tribes and the reason all Tribes are watching this case.  I've read many of the comments from people who just don't have our viewpoint.  What people just don't seem to understand is that they must be descended from someone on those lists I mentioned before to be enrolled.  Blood quantum is left up to the individual tribe.  You have to check the enrollment requirements of the tribe you're looking to get enrolled in.

And becoming a Tribal member is so much more than just getting enrolled.  We have a whole culture, a whole set of responsibilities, duties, rights and privileges.  I've watched over the past 30 years as our tribal government becomes more and more a carbon copy of the local county government, right down to the names of the departments.  Job titles echo job titles elsewhere.  Those departments should be modeled after our Clans, our societies, our traditional roles.  Then and only then would people understand that we are a separate People.

Those responsibilities, duties, rights and privileges need to taught as soon as the mother knows she is carrying another human being, another family member.  The teaching doesn't start when the mother has the baby.  It starts with her singing to the child, talking to the child.  It starts with her telling the child what she is doing, what is happening around them, explaining to the child what she sees.  Therein, is the crux of the matter.  For us, as soon as a child is conceived, the child is a human being.  As the child develops within the womb, what s/he hears is how s/he will understand their place in the world.  The father's role is just as important as the mother's.  He also needs to be there, talking, singing.

It's time for all Indian men and women to decide where their heart truly is.  I, for one, told my sons that they need to choose the mother of their child carefully.  I told them not to be sleeping around just because other men were doing it.  I would fight for custody if I had to.  There's not much I can do about other people's children; I sure can do something about my own grandchildren if I have to.

I believe that if ICWA is struck down, we will cease to exist as Tribes in the federal viewpoint.  We'll finally have been defeated.  Defeated not by outside forces; forces within ourselves will have defeated us.  Those forces that cause us to ignore what we were taught by our elders.  And each one of us has the memory of an elder who has told us what we are doing is not the way of the People.

I made the decision that Tribe was a priority when I chose to "walk the Red Road."  I looked at my children and decided that my life needed to change in order for my sons to live as Anishinabeg.  I've tried to teach them what I was taught.  Once I made that decision, I had no further trouble with the fear that my sons would be taken from me.  Neither did I expect other people to carry out my responsibility.  Sure, family helped, and it was great.  The underlying principle was that I was the final authority for my children.

And fathers must decide for themselves if they're going to "man up"to their responsibility.  I watch my brother struggle with this same issue.  It was hard to get him to see that he is the parent and he needs to take responsibility.  He's done it, even though there were a lot of ups and downs.  I'm proud of him.  I can now be the Aunt instead of the mother.

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