Caring Enough to Face Fear

Carol A. Hand

 

To say I hate driving is not quite true

But it’s no longer something I like to do

Yet here I am, every other Saturday morning

turning onto the entrance ramp in second gear

right foot pressing the accelerator as I climb the incline

gaining speed, shifting to third then fourth

merging with traffic on the interstate south

shifting to fifth as I gain matching speed

“Breathe, swallow,” I remind myself

as the familiar sensation comes, my ears filling with fluid

with the thinning atmosphere on my winding ascent

I feel like I’m under water as I travel ever higher

up the rising ridge of the highway that bounds my city neighborhood

I watch the road ahead, knowing if I peer at the scenes to the east, below

dizziness will wash over me

Breathe, swallow, drive onward, watch the road,” I chant

There are colleagues and students waiting

***

The Descent to Duluth - January 1, 2016

The Descent to Duluth
– January 1, 2016

***

“Now’s not the time to worry about the drive home,”

the even steeper descent, the city and lake panorama below

the highway sign sometimes flashing

Caution, slippery road ahead or Be prepared to stop, crash ahead

Breathe, swallow, drive onward, watch the road,

There are colleagues and students waiting

***

(8 – AR.Drone | Enger Park Aerial View | Duluth, MN)

Acknowledgment: This poem is a love story of a different sort than the one that inspired me last evening. I was reminded of the many North-country snowstorms and ice-storms I’ve driven through during my career when I read Annika Perry’s “The Whiteout Years.” It’s one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve ever read. I hope you will visit her lovely site, Annika Perry’s Writing Blog , and take time to read this story and others. It will be time well-spent.

***

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Poems from My Editing Journal

Carol A. Hand

Editing a 400-page book manuscript is proving to be a rollercoaster ride through topics and emotions. I began keeping a journal to record the journey. It allows me the space I need to process thoughts and feelings in the morning before I begin or during breaks. I’ve realized it’s unhealthy to be too disciplined and obsessed with an end-product at the expense of simply taking time to be present in the moment.

I’m posting a few lighthearted poems from my journal.

Editing Journal Day Five – 2/16/2017

Morning Reflection

Winter 2017

Winter 2017

I greet the morning with gratitude that life has led me here
to a little old house on the working-class side of a city
poised on the southwestern tip of Lake Superior
I think of the oceans, rivers, and streams I’ve visited
the forests, prairies and mountain plateaus I’ve called home
I now have the peaceful space to reflect
and a simple but energizing purpose
to share what I have seen and learned
from the vantage point of compassion
for those whose journey is just beginning
May you too find deeper meaning and gratitude
for the chance to look back and know
that despite uncertainty and suffering, laughter and tears,
Life has given you priceless gifts and memories

***

Lunch time

The scent of frozen carrots thawing
always reminds me of the summer sun
Green beans simmering with the essence
of verdant gardens growing
Solace during February, an assurance
that spring will someday come

Carrots and Green Beans - September 22, 2016

Carrots and Green Beans – September 22, 2016

***

Transition Day to work on class 2/17/2017

Morning view of the waning moon
inching west to whirring city-traffic’s tune
a lone crow calling in the distance

Waning Morning Moon - February 17, 2017

Waning Morning Moon – February 17, 2017

***

Posted in On the Lighter Side | Tagged , , , , , | 30 Comments

Signs of These Times

Carol A. Hand

Do you ever experience times when all of the signs seem to converge? I’m recovering from being quite ill. Tomorrow, my blog will officially be three years old, and in nine days, I will officially turn seventy. I’m not afraid of death (usually). As my time here is growing ever shorter, I need to once again reflect on priorities.

February 9, 2017

February 9, 2017

 

I’m still teaching and probably will as long as I can move, think, and speak. I do love it. But to be honest, the income (though meager as an adjunct) is also a necessity to support a very simple life.

I’m still periodically a caregiver for a delightful granddaughter who will soon turn 10. That means we read, draw and play. It also means spending many hours preparing food and washing dishes, chores that are not my favorite things to do. But still, I do them lovingly.

Then, there’s the matter of a 400-plus-page book manuscript that is only 25 percent edited. As I was working on a beginning draft of a post about my mother’s parents, a follow-up to my last post about my paternal grandfather, I realized how important it is for me to finish editing this book. I had to turn to draft chapters for historical details that are not available on the internet.

Over the years, I have learned to view so many of you as beloved friends. I look forward to your posts and your kindness. I don’t know how many of you know that I always try to reciprocate. I try to return every visit to my blog with a like, and sometimes when I can find the words, a comment. I do take the time to read what you write before doing so.

WordPress doesn’t make reciprocity easy for someone with my lack of technical skills. The dropdown menu on the upper right of the screen only lists the past 10 “likes,” and often, the links don’t work. The images of “likers” at the bottom of a post don’t work then, either. The messages – “that blog no longer exists” or “there is no such blog” – mean I need to use google to try to find people. I know some of my friends prefer it that way. But I wonder how many bloggers check their avatar page to make sure the correct blog address is listed? That would make it so much easier for others to find you.

Blogging takes a lot of time for me, and I don’t even do it well. I’m interested in learning, experiencing the world through others’ perspectives, engaging in dialogue, and sharing my thoughts. I’m not here to sell anything or have massive numbers of followers. That would make reciprocity even more daunting than it already is.

I don’t know what all of this means for my blog in the immediate future. I do know that I need to carve out blocks of time to edit and that requires making sure I remain grounded in my own thoughts and voice. Reading or listening to others deeply for me can only be accomplished by shifting perspectives to see the world through other lenses. In the process, I lose my own voice for a period of time.

february-9-2017-moon-3

 

I may find that I need to limit what I post for a while. I’m sure some of you have already seen how long it has been taking me to respond to comments. I will still visit your blogs when I can because I care about each and every one of you. You have brought wisdom, laughter, beauty, music, and updates about important issues into my life. I will be forever grateful. I didn’t want to simply become silent or disappear without sending my blessings and saying chi miigwetch (Ojibwe  for “thank you very much“) to all of you.

***

Posted in Gratitude | Tagged | 78 Comments

My Father’s Father

Carol A. Hand

My Anglo-American grandfather lived in a goathouse
Perhaps it was my father’s father’s way of resisting classism
flipping the bird to his gated-community neighbors
The descendant of the youngest son of British aristocracy
who emigrated to make his own way because of primogeniture

***

Grandfather Wes and Aunt Margaret by the house my Grandfather built -  New Jersey, 1953

Grandfather Wes and Aunt Margaret by the house my Grandfather built –
New Jersey, 1953

***

My grandfather became a master plumber for NYC highrises
but built his own home without working indoor toilets
The hand-pump in the kitchen the only indoor source of water
It’s where his oldest son lived with his family
easy targets of derision from the privileged classes nextdoor
He preferred his two story shack out back
with goats in the basement and scores of canaries flying free upstairs

His wealthy neighbors offered him fortunes to sell his farm
But my grandfather steadfastly refused
Sometimes I wonder if he stayed there just to spite them

Despite the foul smell emanating from of his goathouse
and his dour, unwelcoming and cold demeanor
I respected his eccentric, independent spirit

***

Grandfather Wes - 1977

Grandfather Wes – 1977

***

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Simple Gifts

Carol A. Hand

When my beloved dog Cookie died, my heart was broken. We had weathered many challenges during our eleven years together. She survived many moves from her prairie home – to the northwoods, Rocky Mountains, and different Great Lakes region cities. I knew as we shared our last walk together in October of 2013 that no one else would ever take her place. I had no intention of ever adopting another dog. I hoped my grief would pass with time, but instead of diminishing, it only deepened.

By the end of October, my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter went with me to see if I could find a larger female dog. (I’m sure I wrote about this adventure, but I can’t find the story anywhere.) When we entered the animal shelter to look, the first dog we saw was Pinto, then tiny, a Papillon/Chihuahua mixed-breed.

Pinto Adoption Photo 1 - 2013

Pinto Adoption Photo 1 – 2013

Pinto Adoption Photo 2 - 2013

Pinto Adoption Photo 2 – 2013

Pinto Adoption Photo 3 - 2013

Pinto Adoption Photo 3 – 2013

 

 

 

My granddaughter fell in love with him at first sight. Who wouldn’t? I promised her that we would walk him after we tried the two large female dogs that were waiting to be adopted.

I did walk the two larger dogs, Barbara and Ginger. They made me aware of my age and physical strength limitations. Both were powerful, spirited, and emotionally wounded. My daughter laughed heartily at the spectacle of me trying to control Ginger when she started jumping and tugging to avoid going back into the shelter. When I was eleven years younger, Cookie could pull me over and drag me. Ginger almost did the same in the animal shelter parking lot on her maiden walk.

“Maybe a smaller dog would be wiser,” I thought, so it was finally Pinto’s turn. And he was a joy. He didn’t jump and pull. He merely trotted proudly with his butterfly ears in constant, graceful motion and rolled over so my granddaughter could pet his belly. It wasn’t until I went to pick him up a couple of weeks later that the shelter listed his challenges. He had been abandoned so they knew very little about him except the health issues when he arrived and his behavioral challenges. Many of his teeth had to be removed because they were too badly infected to be salvaged. And he was too dangerous to be around children.

We’ve been together for a little over three years now. I’m glad to say it’s been months since we’ve had to deal with a feral incident. Because I’ve agreed to listen to his “no brushing my ears command,” his feral fits only happen occasionally over some forbidden outdoor “treat,” like rabbit or deer droppings or a twig that will be sure to make him choke. His timeout kennel is still in the living room just in case, although my special leather gloves for handling him have been repurposed for outdoor work.

He really is very gentle with my granddaughter.

Ava and Pinto - June 28, 2016

Ava and Pinto – June 28, 2016

I made a choice early on that accommodates my personality. I don’t like to fight or try to bend others to my will. With Pinto, I haven’t tried. I can only imagine why he’s so terrified when the grooming brush approaches in a gentle trusted hand. He snarls and fights for his life. I would rather be the safe person who gives him a place where he can sing even if he’s grown a little plumper and his lovely fur is a little dreadlocked. He really is a gifted singer.

***

***

The frozen image on the video clip above doesn’t do him justice.

Pinto - July 18, 2016

Pinto – July 18, 2016

I’m truly grateful for his mellowing presence in my life.

***

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Greeting the Dawn

Carol A. Hand

February 3, 2017

February 3, 2017

***

The magic of morning
dawning
cold and clear
peaceful reflections
and deep gratitude
for life’s priceless blessings
here

Sending a silent prayer
for
peaceful mornings
everywhere

***

Posted in Gratitude | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Somedays, I Wonder What Is True

Carol A. Hand

“Love …. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.” (Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, 2002, p. 11)

A strange message passes through my mind as I greet the morning.

“I sent my children, prophets, to many nations. They walked the earth teaching peace and love, working miracles to show the power you have within to heal others and create beauty.

“And look what happened. Self-proclaimed priests arose to oppress the people to acquire ever more power and riches. You built golden temples while children went hungry. You fought bloody wars for centuries and destroyed the earth to prove your prophet was the one that was true. Your priests grew fat from others’ labor, ever richer and more powerful while so many died.

“This time, I decided to do something different. Reverse psychology if you will. This time, I sent my children to sow fear and hatred. Maybe this time you’ll unite and apply the lessons I intended for you to learn so many years ago.

“The answer to peace lies within. It’s the responsibility of each one of you to find the path to love and peace.

“Don’t follow those who will merely use you to enrich and elevate themselves. Stand together and create a world where no children die before they have realized their full promise and lived a full life filled with joy.”

Knowing what happens to those who share messages others don’t want to hear, I question the wisdom of posting this. Yet the muse that visits won’t let me rest easy until I take the risk to share what was lovingly given.

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Crossing Divides

Carol A. Hand

 

Finding common ground,

It’s not as easy as it sounds

Just try it once or twice

Crossing divides

into discomfort and uncertainty

Suddenly your attention is heightened

Searching intently, listening deeply for clues

about how to act, what to say

unless, of course, you think you’re there to save others

But it’s definitely worth trying in either case

You’ll learn more about yourself and the world

than you ever thought possible

***

***

It seems in divisive times such as these

We need more peace-builder boundary spanners

People who genuinely want to understand

The essence of our shared humanity

***

Posted in Bridging Cultures | Tagged , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Reflections about Roots and Resistance

Carol A. Hand

I want to thank Miriam for her though-provoking reflection about the need for resistance in these times. Her example of the Menominee Tribe’s successful resistance to the policy of tribal termination is inspiring. Her reflection sparked my memories about the Menominee Nation, referred to as  “The Forest Keepers,” and how carefully they have tended their forest. It’s one of the oldest sustainable-yield forests in the U.S.

With the advent of casinos and gaming resources, the Menominee Tribe invested in their infrastructure, expanding health and educational services. Many Tribal members, who had been forced to move away from their community because there were few jobs, returned. The tribe was faced with a conundrum. There wasn’t enough land or housing to accommodate the influx. Another community would probably have cut down the forest to create new housing developments. Instead, the Menominee Tribe used their resources to buy farmland around the reservation that had already been clear cut. Their wise stewardship is visible in satellite images like the one below.

According to Alan Caldwell, director of the Menominee Cultural Institute,

“the forest provides the Menominee people with a link to their storied past and to the old ways that have allowed them to endure through even the most difficult of times. It provides old medicines, silence, and hidden places to conduct ancient ceremonies.” (Ron Seely, Wisconsin State Journal, October 05, 2003)

Miriam’s reflections also inspired me to think critically about my own views about resistance from a different cultural perspective. Ojibwe history and people have taught me a lot about how to survive the challenges of changing times, reminding me again of the metaphor of trees. Knowing our roots becomes crucial for many reasons. Although unseen, roots provide nourishment and grounding. Making sure our roots are healthy helps us withstand storms.

 

These are some of the lessons I learned from studying and reflecting about my Ojibwe roots.

***

“Be moderate in all things; watch, listen, and consider, your deeds will be prudent.”
(Midewewin Code, the Ojibwe “Path of Life,” Basil Johnston, 1976, p. 93)

“When I was a boy, there were only about twenty-eight families that lived in the village here. All of the families were poor, but we hunted and shared what we gathered. Deer were divided among all of the families, and my friend and I snared rabbits as young boys and would share what we caught with everyone. [Laughing]

“I remember one time when I was a young boy, it was winter time, and all of us were really cold. We didn’t have any fire wood. So I had gone off to find some wood, and there was little to be seen. It was cold, and it was getting dark when I came up to a white farmer’s fenced in land. I thought ‘those fence posts would burn nicely.’ So, I cut them and brought them home. We had a fire that night. The farmer was really mad when he saw that his posts were gone and wanted to have the thief arrested.

“Ogema [the hereditary tribal leader] found out about it and figured out who had taken the posts. He came to wake me up early the next morning. It wasn’t even light out yet. He told me to get up and get dressed. We were going out to the woods to gather cedar trees. He showed me how to choose the right tress, cut them, and prepare the wood that is sacred to the Ojibwe people. And he taught me how to make posts.

“When we were finished, we brought the posts to the farmer and helped him repair the fence. I apologized for taking the posts. Ogema persuaded the farmer not to report me since I realized what I had done was wrong and worked hard to make up for my mistake. The farmer agreed. After that, Ogema knew how many families in the village were cold, so from then on he made sure that the community worked together so there was enough wood for everyone in the village.” (Ojibwe Elder, September 10, 2001)

This account of a life-changing formative experience for an Ojibwe boy illustrates the enduring legacy of a culture which valued children highly and had developed sophisticated techniques for ensuring their education and well-being (Broker, 1983; Johnston, 1982). Unlike most of the children of his generation, the boy in this account was able to remain with his family. Others his age were abducted as they walked along the village road by Bureau of Indian Affairs agents or missionaries and driven more than one hundred miles away to institutions euphemistically referred to as “Indian boarding schools” (Prucha, 1979; Johnston, 1989; Adams, 1995; Szasz, 1999; Child, 2000). Or, they were taken from their families by agents and sent off to live with Euro-American farm families to help with farm chores: they were sent to learn the skills of farmers, the value of private property ownership, and the morality of hard work. The lessons he learned from Ogema, from his family, and from his culture during his formative years during his childhood influenced his life and the life of his Ojibwe community profoundly.

The story reveals pivotal values: respect for other people and their lifeways, no matter how different, and the delicate arts of building cross-cultural relations and negotiating effectively with the larger world that surrounds the Ojibwe community. These lessons, grounded in Ojibwe values, have remained important throughout the lifetime of the elder who shared his story.

This account may not appear at first to be related to the topic of resistance to colonial oppression and Euro-American hegemony. However, differing cosmologies, and the values, ideologies, ethics, and behaviors which emanate from them are at the heart of ensuring the survival of tribal cultures.

Ojibwe children were embedded within everyday lives of the community. By watching adults, listening to stories told by elders, and participating in rites of passage and ceremonies, they learned to live according to the ethics of pimadaziwin (the good life) for the sake of higher ideals and the survival of the people (Hallowell, 1967; Kohl, 1985).
The central core of pimadaziwin was the “doctrine of original sanctity” (Ross, 1992, p. 165). Children were viewed as sacred gifts bestowed on parents and the community as a whole by the Creator. All people were seen as good. Each had their own connection to the Creator and their own specific path to follow to assure not only their own well-being but to ensure the survival of their community and the Ojibwe people overall. There are a number of ethical principles for achieving and maintaining pimadaziwin: (1) the ethic of non-interference; (2) the ethic of conservation; (3) the ethic of expecting excellence; and (4) the ethic of acting when the time is right (Ross, 1992).

The ethic of non-interference means that it was considered an ethical breach for Ojibwe people to correct, criticize, control, or coerce others, including children (Ross, 1992; Densmore, 1979). Physical discipline as a means of socializing children was very rare (Densmore, 1979; Hilger, 1992). Teaching children knowledge, skills, and appropriate behavior was done primarily through stories and example. Humor was sometimes used to curb troubling behaviors, and in cases involving serious risks, scaring stories were sometimes used (e.g., “the owl is going to get you if you don’t stop”). As the opening story illustrates, Ogema offered the youth an alternative set of actions which helped him make restitution for his behavior and heal relationships. It also protected him from police intervention. The youth was not coerced to go with Ogema even though his transgression – stealing someone else’s property – was contrary to pimadaziwin, Ogema didn’t shame or criticize him. Instead, he was taught a new skill, developed self-confidence, gained respect for others, and clearly began to understand the connection between his actions and the welfare of the community as a while. Six decades after the incident, the lessons of Ojibwe “morality” remain important to the elder.

The ethic of conservation makes it inappropriate to show anger of sorrow, or to talk about such feelings in an open or confrontational manner (Ross, 1992; Hallowell, 1967). This was a highly evolved mechanism for building and preserving congenial relationships in small, closely-knit communities. The ethic encouraged withdrawal from conflict and mediated against angry, violent outbursts. Careful deliberation and balance in all actions, even war, were regarded highly by the Ojibwe (Hallowell, 1967). Again, Ogema’s strategy was carefully crafted. Ogema was able to present an alternative to an errant youth in a way that made the youth feel it was his own choice. Ogema didn’t yell at the youth or tell him he was wrong. And he didn’t tell the youth that all “white farmers” were invaders whose property should be confiscated whenever possible. Nor did Ogema yell at the farmer or show his fear of police involvement and all that might mean for the youth.

The ethic of expecting excellence, a requirement for survival in a challenging environment, made the oral expression of praise or gratitude superfluous and inappropriate: excellence is what one is expected to achieve. One’s survival and the survival of the Ojibwe people depend on it (Ross, 1992). Affection and approval flowed, rather, from every day interaction (Densmore, 1979). Ogema showed his concern and affection by seeking the youth out and caring enough to work with him to restore balanced relationships. Ogema chose cedar for the new posts, a wood that had proven resistant to decay in the wetland home of the Ojibwe. He taught the youth how to work with cedar, but didn’t praise the youth for his cooperation, hard work, or skill. Ogema did work alongside the youth until the job was completed and the conflict resolved, a clear indication of his positive regard and commitment.

The ethic of acting when the time is right requires keen observational skills and complex reasoning which considers actions from the perspective of larger social, environmental, and temporal contexts (Ross, 1992). Ogema’s actions reflect an understanding of both the physical environment and the prevailing social context. He knew the BIA would use any excuse as a reason to round up children to meet boarding school quotas (Guthrie, 2001). His intervention was also carefully crafted to minimize the anger and retaliation by the farmer – he approached the youth as soon as he heard about the mischief and made sure they repaired the fence before the police were called. Building peaceful relations with the surrounding Euro-American residents also built a buffer zone around the community as well as a collection of allies who sided with the Ojibwe in their dealings with the state or federal government.

As in any society, transgressions, disputes, and failures in caregiving emerged among Ojibwe people. The goals and methods for resolving differences, however, flow from this constellation of principles.

The goals of addressing conflict were ultimately to restore harmony, to help an “offender” re-establish pimadaziwin, to restore healthy relationships with those he or she has harmed, and to reintegrate the offender into the community. Survival necessitated healing disputes and assuring that all members contributed in positive ways to the group as a whole (Ross, 1992).

(Edited excerpts drawn from a number of essays I have written in the past.)

***

In these challenging times, it was helpful for me to revisit these ethical roots and once again reflect on pimadaziwin. It helped me remember that effective resistance requires deep and sturdy rootedness guided by thoughtful reflection and prudence.

Of course, I’m merely human. In times of conflict, I try to remember these ethics as I choose paths of resistance. Supportive networks like those of trees in the Menominee forest, with healthy root systems intertwined, add to our collective ability to stand strong. By making sure our community is healthy beneath the surface of things, we are better able to meet challenges in resilient, creative, constructive ways. Remembering our roots, nurturing each other, reflecting on the merits of different courses of action, and acting when the time is right seem to me to be the wisest long range strategies for survival.

The goal that inspires me to act is the possibility of building bridges of understanding and healing rather than reifing walls of conflict and division. This path, demonstrated by Ogema’s example, has enabled the Ojibwe people and many other oppressed groups to survive despite the power of destructive storms.

“Manido Gizhigans,” “Spirit Little Cedar Tree.” - Grand Portage, MN Credit: CBS

“Manido Gizhigans,” “Spirit Little Cedar Tree.” – Grand Portage, MN
Credit: CBS

 

References:

Adams, D. W. (1995). Education for extinction: American Indians and the boarding school experience, 1875-1928. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press.

Broker, I. (1983). Night Flying Woman: An Ojibway narrative. St. Paul, MN: Minnesoata Historic Society Press.

Child, B. J. (2000) Boarding school seasons: American Indian families, 1900-1940. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Densmore, F. (1979). Chippewa customs. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press. (original work published in 1929)

Guthrie, M. (2001). Chronology of Lac du Flambeau Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. Lac du Flambeau, WI: Lac du Flambeau Tribal Preservation Office.

Hallowell, A. I. (1967). Culture and experience. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. (original work published in 1955)

Hilger, Sr. I. (1992) Chippewa childlife and its cultural background. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press. (original work published in 1951).

Johnston, B. (1976). Ojibway heritage. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Johnston, B. (1982). Ojibwe ceremonies. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Kohl, J. G. (1985). Kichi-Gami: Life among the Lake Superior Ojibwe. (L. Wraxall, Trans.) St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press. (original work published in 1860)

Prucha, F. P. (1971). The churches and the Indian schools, 1888-1912. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Ross, R. (1992). Dancing with a ghost: Exploring Indian reality. Markham, ON, Canada: Octopus Publishing Group.

Szasz, M. C. (1999). Education and the American Indian: The road to self-determination since 1928, 3rd edition (revised and enlarged). Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.

Posted in Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Resistance

by Miriam Schacht (RoteZora)

I haven’t contributed much to this space yet, and that’s in part because things are awful out in the world, and in part because I struggle with depression, and the combination of those two things, well, it’s not great. But I’m working on it. And a good thing, too, because things are bad and getting worse.

I probably don’t have to recount to y’all all the horrible things President Voldemort has done so far, and we’re not even through his first week in office. Things are going to be bad or worse than bad for quite a while. You know what, though? This is what I keep reminding myself of: Things have been bad and worse before. And people resisted. Sometimes, things got better. Even when they didn’t, we still benefited from the examples of fighters who did not give up in spite of immense odds, and in doing so inspired future generations of fighters.

Here’s one example that I’ve always found pretty awe-inspiring. In 1954, as part of an ill-conceived policy called Termination, the federal government ended the Menominee Nation’s status as a recognized Indian tribe. This means that from the standpoint of the feds, Menominees magically stopped being Indians from one day to the next. For many, many reasons, this was awful, and things went from bad to worse over the next two decades.

What did the Menominee Nation do? Well, they did what they’d been doing for the past several centuries, only more so: they resisted. They organized–as “shareholders,” since they could no longer officially organize as tribal members. They held meetings. They planned. They tried to hold everything together in the day-to-day while also trying to bring about massive change.

That kind of thing is unbelievably hard to do, especially because in the moment, you don’t actually know whether anything you do is even going to work. They had no idea that they would eventually be successful, and yet they kept trying, because they had to. Their very existence as a people was on the line.

And even though they were taking on the federal government, and even though that’s not often a situation in which tribes come out with a win, they did not stop, but kept on working and planning and RESISTING.

And they won. It took nearly two decades, but they won. In 1973, President Nixon signed the Menominee Restoration Act, which re-established the Menominee Nation as a federally recognized tribe.

As a side note, one of the people who was instrumental in this fight was Ada Deer, and if her name is not familiar, you are missing out. (I know that Carol knows her–in real life, even!) Read about her here and here, for starters. If you’re looking for some activist heroes, look no further–and keep in mind that she’d also likely point out how many people fought alongside her, and that they were all heroes, and that she’d be right.

Menominee Restoration happened, against the odds, because people got together in protest and fought for their rights. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fun (though I bet there were jokes and laughter at meetings, along with serious business), and it had no guarantee of success–and it was necessary.

That’s the kind of spirit of resistance that we all need right now. Indigenous people have been resisting for over five hundred years, and their struggles are at the heart of everything that happens on this continent. Not coincidentally, the Menominees are the people indigenous to the place where I am writing this right now, and it is right and proper for me to think about their struggles and their rights (including their rights to the land I am on right now) and acknowledge my debt to them as we all move forward in resistance.

So as we think about how bad things are going to get, let’s also remember that resistance is never futile (contrary to what the Borg Collective would have you believe). It may take years, or decades, or even centuries, but each act of resistance breeds more resistance, and more power, and so each act of resistance is vital.

And if you haven’t already, go learn about the ways the nations in your area have resisted colonization. Because the Indigenous people of this continent are, and should be, the wellspring and heart of resistance, and all of us need to recognize and honor that in order to move forward together. In resistance.

Posted in Adversity and Resilience, Challenging the Status Quo, Guest Author/ Reblog, Native American Issues, Social Justice | 3 Comments