we were told to learn the history.

So I did.  And I apparently know it better than the pro-mascot supporters of Biloxi, Mississippi.  Here is what I put together for my recent radio appearance on Native mascots, Biloxi, and the lack of history or honor in Biloxi’s stereotyping representation of members of the Tunica-Biloxi tribe:


I’m going to give a little information about the history of Biloxi, the city, its school, and its relationship with the Biloxi tribe.  Unfortunately, some of our allied Biloxi residents who wanted to provide more information from the local library informed me that the library is closed until Tuesday on account of the celebration of a Confederate Holiday.   So we will surely have more information once that date has passed:

 

In my experience thus far with this Biloxi mascot issue, outspoken advocates are nearly always alumni of the Biloxi school system.  I find this frustrating, considering we are dealing with the present.  In short, these folks need to “let go” and stop telling us we have “more important things to worry about” when we consider this something that directly affects our youth.  They, however, see this as something directly affecting their pride.  Every single piece of their evidence for why they should be the Biloxi Indians revolves around their history with the Biloxi tribe, their honoring the tribe, their receiving of a headdress or of permission to use its symbol from the Biloxi tribe, and their confidence in how their tradition will be easily defended by the Tunica-Biloxi tribe as soon as they hear back from them.  Well, many of these people are the same alumni who have said online that the Biloxi don’t have enough blood quantum for their voice to matter anymore.  So many of these people also claim Native blood, yet the demographics to both Oceans Springs and Biloxi, Mississippi show that predominantly white people inhabit these cities.  Out of the Native population, a fraction of a percentage of self-proclaimed indigenous peoples exist in both cities. Regardless, I will present a history of the city and the school, and Jean-Luc will fill us in about the relationship between the school and his tribe, and what he thinks about this situation.

 

According to the Biloxi, Mississippi Wikipedia page, Biloxi was the 3rd largest Mississippian city, behind Jackson and Gulfport, until Hurricane Katrina; now it has fallen to the 5thThe Wikipedia page makes no mention of the name’s origin or of any Indian tribes.  Instead, it talks about “Biloxi” being derived from “Fort Bilocci” in French, another name for “Fort Maurepas”.

 

The Ocean Springs, a neighboring city on the Mississippian Gulf Coast, has a  Wikipedia page as well.  This site declares that “seafood has been celebrated” as its heritage, but, like the Biloxi page, makes no mention of Indians.

 

Biloxi’s city homepage fails to mention the importance of the Biloxi tribe to its existence.  Instead, it notes the 8 flags that have flown there: France, England, Spain, Republic of West Florida, Confederate States of America, and the United States of America, as well as the old Magnolia State flag, and the current Mississippi state flag.  The site says Biloxi was inhabited by Native Americans as early as 8000 BCE up to the 1700s.  It also states that the first French and French-Canadians to arrive in 1699 became “friends with the Biloxi Indians”, without any documentation.  It also says the Indians there spoke “the Sioux language” and that they “most likely migrated form the northeast”.  Furthermore it states that there is “some indication” that the Indians arrived shortly before the French.

 

Ocean Springs also has some history on its website.   It explains that Old Biloxi, was the past name for Ocean Springs.  New Biloxi (Biloxi) became “essentially abandoned after the capital of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans in 1722.”  “The historical record of Ocean Springs during the next 100 years is rather sparse…It is probable that some French and French-Canadians remained in the area after Old Biloxi was abandoned in 1720.  New Biloxi met the same fate circa 1728.”

 

In other words, there is no continued relation with indigenous peoples in the area.

 

In 1763, land east of the Mississippi River was ceded to England. The Treaty of Paris, signed in 1783, gave British West Florida to Spain.  Spain held this land until 1810, when the Republic of West Florida was declared.  In 1811, this became the United States.  Mississippi entered the Union in 1817, bringing many Americans into its land.  Immigrants flooded in to work as seamen and laborers.  In 1853, Ocean Springs Hotel was founded, and in 1854, Old Biloxi was changed to “Ocean Springs” as it was considered a more appropriate title for the tourist and seaside city, abandoned of its Native heritage.  No more is mentioned of indigenous peoples.

 

On the Biloxi Historical Society website, absolutely nothing speaks of honor for the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe or the Biloxi Indian historical inhabitants.   The only mention of any “Indians” exists under the Athletes section and the Time Line.

 

Under the Time Line section for Biloxi, documented as 1682-present, the historian writes “I have subjectively gleaned salient dates and facts relating to our local chronology”…  

 

The historical account does not mention the tribe.  In fact, it indicates that continuous occupation did not exist until long after indigenous peoples had left the area.

 

Fast-forward to the 20th century: the newspaper reports several instances of Bilxoi Indians – but none of these pertain to the tribe.  Beginning on December 7, 1926, we learn that the “Indians”, under Coach Tranny, “were outweighed 24-pounds per man” against the Sunflower County Agricultural High School from Mooreland.  This continues until present use.

 

In fact, we learn this from a publication by the Daily Herald:

 

“In the fall of 1926, Biloxi High School changed its moniker from the ‘Yellow Jackets’ to the ‘Redskins’.  The new school colors became maroon and white, replacing the former black and gold.  Coach Tranny L. Gaddy (1894-1975) was responsible for the change.”

 

In 1927, we already see the name “Indians” being implemented.  Throughout the spring semester, the term “Biloxi Indians” is referenced several times.  Meanwhile, both amateur and professional baseball teams reflect the seafood culture and heritage of the city, going by the mascots of Sea Gulls and Pelicans through at least the late 1920s and also the 1930s.

 

On March 30, 1927 – going even closer to the change to “Redskins” – the Daily Herald writes, “Biloxi INJUNS Add Big Six Crown to Titles”.  Yes, not Redskins.  Not Indians.  But Injuns.  This theme continues into next year.  October 10, 1927, “Biloxi Indians Run Wild over Moss Pointers; 44-0”.  April 9, 1928, “High Schoolers Play Hard But Lose to Finny Tribe.”

 

Under the Public Schools section, we learn that the Biloxi school system is actually rather impressive in its outreach and educating students, such as in the area of health and in its success in athletes and college graduates.  However, the history, like most of the south, is steeped in racial segregation.  Clearly, it does not have a good recent history in educating its students on human equality.  Its first Colored School opened in 1893. “Wade-Ins” on the segregated beaches of Biloxi occurred in the late 1950s.  In 1964, a litigation, “Gilbert R. Mason v. the Biloxi Municipal School District”, made some changes.  It was stated that “a plan was submitted to Federal authorities to desegregate the 1st grade in Biloxi Public schools for the 1964-1965 school years.  15 Biloxi schools were affected.”

 

On November 7th, 1975, the Daily Herald reported a demonstration by 40 black students against the school’s grooming policy outlawing cornrows.  This would, in theory, be the senior year of the first integrated students. 

 

The Class of 1961 was the last one to be in the “Old School” – a school that neither saw Air Conditioning, nor integration at any point in its existence.

 

In the meantime, from the Tunica-Biloxi’s recommendation for Federally Recognized Tribal status, we can learn a lot about the most comprehensive history in existence of the Biloxi people and their current existence.

 

In this letter, we learn that four tribes have fused into one, having extensive documented contact with French and Spanish authorities through the 1700s.  A Tunica community has maintained at the Marksville site since the Tunicas first migrated into the area in the 1770s.  The Ofoand Biloxi came into the area around the same time.  The Avoyel were located in this area at the time of the earliest non-Indian contact.  Thus all were located in the area before the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.  

 

In 1763, the Biloxi are recorded as living across from the Tunica on the Mississippi River.  In 1784, the last Biloxi to live near the mouth of the Red River on the Mississippi across from the Tunica are recorded as living with the Pascagoula.

 

In April 1778, the TunicasOfos, and Biloxis all traded their English medals for Spanish replacements as a token of their allegiance.  Essentially, they moved west to evade British rule.

 

The Tunicas tried halting non-Indian encroachment on tribal land in 1826 and again in the 1840s through several State Court legal efforts and hearings.

 

At about 1810, the Tunica Village at Marksville had technically been fused with other tribes already.  Some remnant Biloxi communities had remained separate.  Even in the 1930s and 1940s, a portion had migrated into Texas.  By 1797, Biloxis were living in villages near Marksville, Louisiana.  By the 1840s, they’d lost any communally held land.

 

In 1826, the US government referred to the Tunicas as “Indians” and “savages” in their documented land disputes.

 

On October 9, 1924, the Biloxis recognized Eli Barbry, then a Tunica sub-chief, as leader.  Authorization was given to unite the Biloxi with the Tunica.  This tribal merger therefore occurred before Biloxi, Mississipi’s alleged honoring of the Biloxi Indians.  In 1936, chieftainship was established.  In the 1930s, twice the tribe sought federal recognition – but were considered too small.  The tribe finally established its recognition in the 1970s, and the Biloxi school system, in all of its modern claims to “honoring” the tribe, had no play in assisting during this process.

 

From my research, I see no evidence in the history of the tribe, the city, the school, or anything of the area that suggests the school is honoring the Biloxi people is at all true.  From what I see, this mascot and its names originated in an incredibly racist era where indigenous peoples were not respected as human beings.  Yet the same people who have been cyber-bullying Natives continue to insist they are honoring us, that they are continuing their tradition after having been given permission by the Biloxi to use these symbols and the Biloxi headdre.  Furthermore, testimonies from tribal members confirm our understanding of the history and deny any honor given by Biloxi or permission granted to use stolen cultural symbols.

Biloxi, have YOU done your research?

mascots: imagery, expectations, and modern human artifacts.

The Cleveland Indians logo is antiquated, morally wrong on many levels, and really only here today because native rights have been the slowest of any race in the States to begin, evolve, and finally build momentum.  People’s daily exposure to such logo imagery has allowed it to become a familiar part of life in Cleveland and sports all around.  Having that piece of nostalgia threatened to be removed from fans’ experiences blindsides them and makes them lose their common senses in arguments that truly just boil down to equality and cultural respect.  But I totally agree with them on one thing: It’s a logo, it’s a mascot – it shouldn’t matter.  Yet it does.

“I’m just getting so SICK of hearing about this mascot issue.”  Well, buddy, guess what….The Indians are getting sick of these centuries of marginalization!  You’re not the one standing on your ancestral soil being ridiculed and sidelined in life on a daily basis.  So get over yourself!

I have written many times how the mascot issue is a “microcosm” of a bigger problem.  I still stand by that, and I probably always will.  The way I see it, the mascots aren’t worth caring about – but only on a personal level.  As an individual Indian, a person shouldn’t let such imagery haunt him or herself and instead rise above it.  However, finding peace with oneself is only one realm of feeling happy and safe.  When you leave that realm and step out into a world that surrounds you with that imagery, with people who blindly support such imagery because they do not understand your culture or the culture of your fellow Indians, because they will not take the time to understand you… that is a different story.  You can respect yourself, but the outside world is demonstrating its lack of respect for you when it supports these images.  Of course, the claim is classic: IT IS HONORABLE.  NATIVE AMERICANS SUPPORT IT.  Well, I know a hell of a lot of Indians, I’ve sat through many a community discussion on this topic, and I personally agree that it is not okay.  And it all boils down to ignorance of American Indian history, policy, cultures, sensitivities,…  I believe any human with half a heart and a genuine understanding and knowledge of these topics would want to burn the imagery off of their favorite jerseys in a heartbeat.  If any fan doesn’t believe it, it means they are one of those few cruel souls who can’t rise above racism.  Anyone who wants to physically act in rage against Indians over it, well you might as well join the Klu Klux Klan because you are that low of a person.

Perhaps one of the things I find the most frustrating about Chief Wahoo as I live here in Cleveland is that so many people agree with me that the character doesn’t represent an “Indian” at all.  They use that argument to justify why I shouldn’t be offended by it.  Yet, these are the same people who, upon being introduced to me, look at me and say, “Oh, you do look Native American.”  I always want to pull out a picture of Chief Wahoo in that moment and ask, “Like this?  Do you even know what an Indian looks like?”  Well, we look like a hell of a lot of things, and none of them are that.

Ironically, I never really gave much thought about mascots before Cleveland.  Of course, I also was never exposed to them.  I always had a Wildcat as a mascot with the exception of two private schools I attended – one in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania – which had no mascot at all.  My school was predominately white with the second largest population being American Indian, at least in the years I was a student.  My professional sports teams were represented by career titles and animals.  I never even knew Cleveland’s baseball team existed, or paid enough attention to realize what Washington’s team was about.  In fact, in hindsight, I feel like an idiot.  I guess I knew Washington used the word it uses, I knew there was a generic Indian logo involved, but I legitimately went my entire childhood believing that the NFL would never use the R word as a name.  I thought the R word in the Washington team was some kind of football term for the leather used in a football.  I’m not even joking.  I thought it represented pigskin, not my ancestors.

My father is a steeler.  I can take pride in the Steelers representing our Steel City.  My father is also an Indian.  I cannot take pride in any of those teams represented all 566+ groups of our people in one offensive representation, or under one phrase akin to N*****.

Moving to a city, especially one like Cleveland with the logo it has,…that made me realize why the issue didn’t matter to me before.  Because before, I didn’t have it in context.  Before, I wasn’t experiencing it in my face.  When I finally made the move and came here for University, I had it spat at me – often literally.  I was degraded for wearing beaded jewelry.  I was denounced for admitting my heritage.  I was told hurtful things like “Oh, don’t cry a Trail of Tears over that”.  Once, on a bus to a track meet, I was handed a blanket because I was cold and someone joked, “Don’t take that!  It might have smallpox.”  My coach used to call me “Pokey” because Pocahontas was the only Indian he could liken me to.  Then I went to my first Indians game and experienced the racism firsthand.  Not being able to keep my mouth shut, I quickly became a victim of scalping jokes and racial slurs.  I vowed to never return.  Over the years at school, I’ve had my belongings vandalized and found insulting anonymous posts about me to a website that has since been shutdown.  Even in the workplace I’ve sat through a one-sided accusation of how life as a minority, woman engineer must be the easiest life when the government just hands me checks so why do I even work?  To all of these things, I have burst of anger but often just have nothing to say.  Even friends accused me daily of “still caring” about native rights when I wasn’t living on a Reservation.

And they’re right: I don’t even live on a Reservation.  My heart goes out to all those friends I have who do, all those friends that I haven’t made yet, all those people that deal with this on a regular basis who cannot hide their identity as well as I can, a mixed Indian living in an urban setting.  Being exposed finally to these injustices just makes me cringe on how it must feel to be a full-time Indian, to really be in the heart of this dilemma, not just someone like me who can avoid those baseball games, who can shut off the TV or sign out of social media, who can bit her tongue, turn a blind eye, let go of her culture and identity, and pretend to be someone she isn’t.

The imagery…the disrespect…the pressures to change yourself, as if something was wrong with you to begin with (which isn’t true).  I’ve come to realize that, no matter what my blood quantum, tribal status, or living conditions – I cannot just sit and be idle.  I am just too greatly disturbed by the amount of hatred I feel as an urban Indian, and I can never even begin to imagine how these feelings – in addition to the daily struggle that already exists – crush my friends and peers every day as they uphold their identities on the Reservations.  And yet the more I speak out about these issues, the more and more resentment I am faced with.  Every once in awhile I break through and am gracious for a conversation of curiosity and understanding.  However, this often turns in to the making of the human artifact: “Hey kids, come over here and meet this real Indian.  Yeah, she’s American Indian.”  And suddenly children are staring at me, some touching me, some shaking my hand – and I feel like I’m living in Ouidah, Benin or Batoula-Bafounda, Cameroon again where no child has seen a human being who isn’t black.  I become the modern human artifact.

Why am I so fascinating?  Because suddenly that logo has come to life and it’s not up to the expectations?  “You do look Indian”, justifying that I meet some standard expectation society has of my appearance?  One that isn’t the logo, yet is surely not informed either?  I hate these encounters, when I feel like an artifact.  I hate it because not only does it feel miserable but I sit there and think I am not a representative sample of all 566+ nations.  I am one single person with one unique heritage.

See, the mascot and logo issue delves a lot deeper than just the imagery and the sports.  It’s all interconnected, just like the planet.  It rebounds in places the general public cannot see and does not take the time to seek out.  And I am just one person, and this is just one perspective, I am fairly confident it is not a unique one.

And, no, I do not live in a tipi.

 

just be heard.

Why am I even writing? At first, it was a little bit just wanting to rant. My sarcasm got me a side-job. It was pleasant. But now that I’ve found a niche, it had become much more than that.

I just want to make people think.

You go through your ordinary day except suddenly you recall something I’ve said about the environment or society. You make the smallest change. Those changes add up.

And as far as native awareness goes…I began reposting and writing to spark awareness. It’s working. I’m getting friends posting to my Facebook wall about sports mascots and casinos and membership rights…. There are people liking statuses about racism and “red power” concepts who aren’t native. I know it sounds silly to rely on Facebook….but the reality is so many people are on it and so much information is circulating.

Seriously. I have friends reconsidering their outlooks. I have white and black and Asian friends sympathizing and de-Chiefing and raising awareness. I’m even encouraging a profoundly deaf friend to seek a way of medically assisting the disadvantaged through the IHS because I know she’s passionate about health rights and making a change.

Rag on me all you want for my writing random posts because it’s these little things that spark the mind that encourage the biggest changes. And it’s slowly working 😘

the land looks after us.

“The Earth does not belong to man – man belongs to the Earth.” – Chief Seattle, 1854.

I’ve often thought about this quote and about property ownership.  Territorial protection is something I can understand, but actually writing up deeds and claiming titles and values to land?  That doesn’t make sense to me.  It seems to contradict Chief Seattle’s notion, and I feel like I cannot be alone in my sentiments.  I used to work evenings in downtown Cleveland drawing property plats for surveyors in Florida, thinking A.) how dull these suburban plans are (they’re all the same, they’re all monotonous) and B.) land ownership just leads to conflict (the plats were for checking violations).

Even territorial protection of this land before settlers arrived caused conflict, but of a different nature.  Back then, most conflicts probably occurred over ancestral lands held by peoples of differing religious views or practices, or because of fishing or hunting rights, or maybe access to water, or even to obtain terrain with a particularly protective characteristic which sheltered people and resources from the weather or gave military advantage in defending a village.  Essentially every conflict, in other words, was borne of a strong connection to the land and its resources.

Land ownership today doesn’t strike me as the same thing.  Most of the disputes I was working to resolve were about fences being put as much as a fraction of an inch across a property line, or maybe violations of easements for utilities and other public services.  As with the Gold Rushes that displaced countless natives over a century before, shale and oil industries snatch up property rights and extract billions in profit at stressful rates.  Even the agricultural industry – probably the only remaining significant connection to the land that could be in any way respectful in this country – is, in my mind, becoming completely corrupt.  GMOs are replacing native crops so that food hardly resembles food anymore, corn and soy are being grown in enormous quantities to feed humans, livestock, and also to provide as fillers in nearly everything we eat, and industrial techniques are destroying the integrity of the earth.  Nearly all of this country’s topsoil has already washed out the delta of the Mississippi River.  What’s to blame?  Well, for a large part the industrialization of the farm.  Mono-crops are also to blame, a theory supported wildly by the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas (which studies what makes a prairie thrive in its natural environment, etc.).  Also, tilling techniques (before farmers tilled to contours) adds to the erosion, and chemical additives do incomprehensible damage to nitrogen-fixation levels, biodiversity, organism nervous systems, etc. etc. etc…  The farming, harvesting, and gathering practices of the last thousands of years have fallen on deaf ears who think their short-term high yielding crops, animal domestication, and “sophisticated” techniques are the answers to our successes.

But we can’t succeed if we ruin the land.  Why are people forgetting this?

As Chief Seattle said, the land dictates everything we do.  It decides if we live or die.  How has society become so far removed from reality that it has forgotten that?

I just finished reading a book today called The Land Looks After Us: A History of Native American Religion by Joel W. Martin.  It brushed on relevant historical events and jumped around a lot between a huge number of nations, predominantly those in the continental states.  It stressed how, while all the native cultures vary sometimes greatly, they all share the commonsense that the land gives everything they have.  In fact, nearly all Creation stories in North America personify the earth as a mother out of which the first humans rose.  The book continues to modern times, listing numerous ancestral sites of religious significance that are being defiled by tourists, such as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.  I know I’ve been disturbed in the past by ancient sites and exotic islands being over-run and destroyed by tourism (hello, our native Hawai’ian friends!), but I’ve begun seeing it in different ways – as lifestyle errors.  For example, my native Alaskan friends impress me with their heritage.  Their peoples were some serious survivors out there on the tundra.  Yet they completely honored the land and had resources for as long as they needed and took no more than that.  While traveling in Alaska during the winter of 2012 for AISES Nationals, I was disheartened to see how drastic the contrast was between the host cultures we were exposed to at Conference and the heat-blasting, oil-thirsty, Commodity Central Anchorage that I was experiencing.  This is NOT how these people lived!  And while I loved the outdoor enthusiasm Alaskans have, I still felt hurt by the energy consumption (and Alaska does consume more than it produces, despite its excellent wind energy categorization).

In my mind, I’ve kept a tally of disturbing facts.  For example, my mom did some volunteer work for children at charter schools in Pittsburgh.  I remember going with her once.  She dressed in black and hid in the bathroom while the children filed in to an auditorium. Then, she put on a cape, black triangular ears, and painted her face black.  She slipped into the auditorium while the lights were off and a woman got on stage: “I think we have a visitor!  Who do you see?”  She then ran around the room, jumping over children.  They laughed and tried touching her, shouting “Bat!  Bat!  Bat!”  She then broke into this limerick (that I was sick of hearing at the time) telling children how bats are the only mammals that fly and that they shouldn’t be afraid of them.  This was just one example of the work she does, but the program she was volunteering with has to work in a constant effort to dispel myths city children have about wildlife.  Even the parents can be incredibly ignorant.  (On a bioforray, I watched a woman peer into a pen of flying squirrels and go, “But, wait…Where are their wings??”)

When I moved to Cleveland, I realized the severity of the situation.  Children, adults, people of all ages and education – they do not understand wildlife.  Like, at all.  AT.  ALL.  Sometimes they can’t tell a squirrel from a chipmunk.  They’re shocked by the sight of a goldfinch if they leave their city of drab urban birds.  They’ll cry about guns and hunting rights while ordering a burger from McDonald’s, then plead that I don’t remind them it is animal muscle they’re consuming.  I’ve talked to children who were dumbfounded that their food grows, apparently never having seen food that doesn’t come out of a can or out of a produce bin.  Maybe Adam and Even taught them that apples come from trees, but I could list a number of vegetables and they’d have no idea how they come to be.  I’ve actually heard some kids suggest some produce is made in a factory, like Twinkies.

And it’s not just things that grow; it’s home cooked meals, too.  I know so many adults now who never realized what “cooking from scratch” means.  I remember making a chocolate beet cake and people being flabbergasted.  Why?  Here’s what they thought I did: Bought it in the store.  Oh, you made it?  Okay, from a box – but why’s it called “beet”?  THERE ARE BEETS IN HERE?  Here’s how I actually made it: I’ve milled my own flour, but usually I just use a bag.  Yes, I add all of the little ingredients like baking soda and baking powder and real vanilla extract.  No, I whipped my icing by hand with cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Yes, I did use real beets; no, they weren’t canned; yesbeets do grow and I got them at the farmer’s market because they’re in season.

So not only are children unexposed and therefore fearful and disrespecting of the animals around them, they don’t understand where their food comes from.  Their parents don’t cook them real meals, they probably don’t sit down together and have a TV-free conversation, and they are most likely filling up on junk.  Its this ignorance that I see at the forefront of land disrespect.  Who is going to care about the land if they don’t realize they need it for their food, the animals, and for the ecosystem to keep the world turning?  And without the strength of a family unit, values and morals and other virtues get lost in the chaos of our egocentric society.

And that egocentric society scoffs at the natives who still hold the land of the highest value, who love and respect and prefer their culture so much that they’ll face the hardships of Reservation life to not leave.  It’s the boastfulness that the modern way is “right” that leaves all of the sensible people feeling hopeless as they scramble to fix problems others are creating out of neglect, like me at my environmental engineering job or my mom in her children’s education program.  Or like both of us at Wildlife Works, Inc. when we volunteer to feed raptors and other creatures that have been injured or abandoned as a side effect of humanity’s infringement on their natural lives and habitats.

Me, I can’t see myself without the land.  It’s beyond impossible.  Even if I could live in a sterile white building and eat endless, manufactured food at no cost, I would run away and risk starving as a hunter-gatherer.  It’s not just about the nutritional value of natural, organic food, it’s in part about doing it myself.  About maintaining control and knowledge over how to survive.  About remembering I belong to the earth and not the other way around, so I can’t have the final say in anything.  I just have to be prepared.  But I’m not upset about it, either, because it’s the reason why I ever came to be.  So I love the land.  I especially love Appalachia, where I have lived my whole life.  Whether in the mountains or cornfield, or even now along the Great Lakes, I couldn’t imagine life without being in the outdoors.  Without gardening.  Without going out of my way to make the best choices I can for the planet every time I have a choice to make.  I get too anxious locked indoors or too far away from the mountains for too long.  I have to climb to a peak or to the top of a tree and just feel like I can see, to remind myself that the world is still here.  At least for a little.

And maybe I’m weird, but I think Twinkies are disgusting.  Modern fruit is too sweet and too pulpy.  Vegetables on the other hand…  I can’t imagine not eating a huge bowl of vegetables, rice, and beans every once in awhile…with a nice cup of tea.

what makes the savage?

On one of my other pages, I made my banner read the quote by Chief Dan George (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) that says what we don’t understand we fear, and what we fear we destroy.  This is so true.  If a bear stands up on his hind legs in front of you in the woods, he may just be saying “Don’t come closer!  My family is behind me.”  If you don’t understand his gesture, you might think he is attacking.  He might be communicating, but you might pull out a gun, kill him, and now his family has no papa bear because you destroyed him out of ignorant fear.

That’s just a bear example.  But, as people, we do this to each other all of the time.  Americans who don’t understand what it’s like to immigrate from Mexico and learn English make fun of Mexicans for their accents, poor English, and mock their customs.  Every single time a “New World” has been discovered, thousands of cultures – if not peoples – died for the sake of expelling the unknown.  Manifest Destiny operated at the heart of these cruel crusades to kill the savage in people and save the Christian, a mentality that I hope is an ancient, long-gone misinterpretation of “God’s will” so that I don’t have to live in fear of future Holocausts and genocides.  Sadly, I see how much hatred is expressed towards the Middle East.  That is to me confirmation that our “forward thinking” is still as backwards.

I strongly believe that morality comes from one thing and one thing only: Religion.  That doesn’t mean you have to be Christian to have morals, it just means that, if you’re Christian, you center your morals around the 10 Commandments and what your version of God tells you is right and wrong.  If you’re another world religion, it’s slightly different.  (But, in reality, I think all world religions are different versions of the same single belief, that their Commandments, etc., are just verbalized standards of how to live harmoniously, i.e. are common-sense, and yet tons of people are dying over vain dispute and have been for centuries.)  Religion can be just about anything, though.  It can mean you have certain values and you hold yourself to those values.  For example, many Native American religions or religious stories are based off of how the earth has created and continued to support man.  These peoples refuse to separate life from the health of the planet and they often view animals as spiritual beings of equal belonging.  I most certainly find my values aligned to these practices before I could ever agree with the controversial passages of Genesis which declare man as made “in the image of God” and as having “dominion over” all of the animals.  Talk about egocentric.

I find it ironic that “savage” i.e. indigenous cultures, who all live so closely to the land and are attuned to its pangs as modern society plagues it, are the only ones who have ever revered the land since Judaism took root in the Middle East.  Is it not common sense that the land comes before all?  I guess it’s not if you think the land was made by and in full control of its “creator”, but even indigenous peoples have come to acknowledge a “Creator” and refuse to sit back and watch some other being clean up messes for them.  Yadda yadda I can go on about a lot of things here, but I have one major point in writing tonight: HYPOCRISY.

When Pilgrims first came to the New World, they were all Puritan and devout and desperate and whatever.  They heard about this new place, and they were like, okay, cool, let’s hop on that…boat…and then months later they finally got there.  Well, some of them did.  Everyone else just died because of like scurvy or whatever.  Or, like, your neighbor got on the boat with tuberculosis, which no one knows until they’ve already left, and everyone’s like, “Really dude?  Rude.”  Anyway, now they’re all in Massachusetts and who really knows how the story went exactly but the gist is PROBABLY that the tribes who encountered the first settlers were respectful to them and helped them in exchange for respect back.  (And later empty promises ensued, and lies, and Constitutional rights revoked, and genocide,…but not today’s point!)

Long story short, Manifest Destiny was the reason for the attempted annihilation of any native person in America that white settlers could get their hands on.  Boarding schools, relocation, laws forbidding traditional dress or religious practices, punishment for speaking native languages, etc. – these were all techniques used.  Andrew Jackson, in fact, was a total bully who thought it was cool to set up a lot of the cultural stripping of natives, including stripping them of land and going back on promises that he probably never intended to keep.  So like Tuberculosis-Dude-on-the-Boat, Andrew Jackson was just rude.  He was exercising his rights and duties as a Christian which, by the way, included stripping these homelands to expand the cotton industry (and, thereby, African slavery as well – which was totally chill because they weren’t white Christians so God apparently didn’t care about them or whatever).  Oh, but wait, it’s not like Galatians 3:28 says this or anything: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Okay, it does say that – I guess it just means Jesus loves you even if another human owns you and doesn’t love you…and dudes, keep your hoes in line,…or whatever.

So when white immigrants were coming to America, they were like “Holy Toledo, these people are weird!!!  Look at their hair, their jewelry, their clothes, their swagger,…”  (UMM, HELLO???  That’s exactly what I say every time I look at my parents’ yearbooks!  Not to mention a history text… like, nice ‘fro, George Washington.  It’s whiter than my grandma’s doo.)  They were all flipping out because these people ate strange foods, lived in weird accommodations, and practiced strange traditions.  They were probably watching rain dances or some ceremony and scoffing, saying “You really think you have a say in that?”  They were comparing the lifestyles they had chosen to what they were observing and were completely convinced that these were modern heathen Canaanites., these strange (i.e. different) tribal people.  It never once occurred to them that they get down on their knees and talk to themselves every night and that maybe some cultures think THAT is weird.

Meanwhile, I bet the Pequot and whoever else at the time was checking out these FOBs and going “Oh, HELL no!  HAHA!”  I mean, do I even have to describe any of the past styles of clothing?  Men with their shoes, their hair, their hats, their restrictive and uncomfortable clothing?  Women with their bodies completely tied up, sometimes in corsets, with layers upon layers of clothes to render them even less useful in daily tasks?  Sure, they managed to make some massive boat (Do you want a high-5?), but then a lot of them died in the journey and now what are they gonna do?  (And imagine the first time a native saw a blonde or a ginger…Maybe it’s just a disease?  Maybe that’s why they’re so pale and avoid the sun?)

My  point: They’re different.  This creates a lack of understanding.  Not understanding things generates fear.  Well, the immigrants largely acted on that fear and took advantage of the different cultures they encountered in ruthless means – for the sake of Christianity.

Now, how do they feel entitled to do this?  I’ve already made my point that no one is more or less civilized than the other, they’re just held to different standards, different values, and different opinions on what is right and wrong.  This entitlement surely comes again from this Manifest Destiny where these Christian people are the “chosen ones”, but how in the world do their lifestyles affect their Christian-ness?  If a native person retains his native identity with the exception of his Christian practices, is he not a Christian?  Is it because he lives in the tribal, “backwards” state that he is considered a “heathen”?  This state which respects the land rather than destroys it because he has dominion over everything and so he’s allowed to (and God will fix it)?

Let’s not forget that the Bible – especially the Old Testament – is transfixed on tribal status.  I mean, TRANSFIXED.  There are books just dedicated to genealogy and delegating work based on tribal status.  The twelve tribes of Israel, anyone?  Oh, and how about burnt offerings?  I mean, seriously?  Dancing a ritual dance in thanks for a harvest is a heathen thing to do, but sacrificing “unblemished” goats every day is totally normal and okay?  It’s that very wastefulness, a mentality reflecting man’s “dominion” over other animals that was practiced widely in hunting the Colonies, which places “Christians” in the “heathen” category to those otherwise dubbed as “heathens”.

And finally, it was not that long ago that Europe was divided by tribes.  I’m very familiar with this considering my Celtic background.  Not only am I accustomed to tribal rituals in America, but I’ve also done Scottish Highland Dance since I was 8.  (We literally dance over swords as superstitious ritual.  And the Highland Fling?  It’s danced on one spot because soldiers danced on overturned shields in the marshes – another superstition before battle.)  I’ve been to more Highland Games than I can remember.  I’ve performed the Scottish fiddle, learned the penny whistle, and played the bagpipes in three different military bands.  When I come to the Games, I run off to the Celtic jewelry stands, buy Empire Biscuits, and see if my Clan (Douglas) tent is on-site.  I have designated tartans and a family crest.  My tribal peoples had their own dialect and ancestral lands with “pagan” traditions and monuments, many which came to embrace Christianity and Christian symbols.  (My Scottish family has its most ancient roots in the Presbyterian church.)

How is that any different than competing in dance at a Pow-Wow, representing the Potwatomi or Shawnee, buying beaded jewelry, and eating fry bread?  It’s not.  In fact, I love the similarities and I love recognizing the tribal roots of peoples all over the world.  So suck it, hypocrisy.  You’re ridiculous.  Boo, go home.

And with that…I’m going to end with an excerpt.  In 1995, Sr. Juanita, enrolled in the Mescalero Apache tribe, wrote this piece:

“My grandfather was captured by a band of Apaches near the Chihuahua area in Mexico when he was six years old.  They brought up my father according to Apache ways.  My mother is San Juan Pueblo.  I really consider myself a real New Mexican.  My grandmother was a Spaniard and I’m really proud of that fact because we have a little bit of all the cultures of New Mexico in our family.  The Spanish, Mexican, Pueblo, and Apache.  Now our younger members in the family are marrying non-Indians and when we get together, we are quite a nation.  It is lovely.  It is beautiful!”

Hashtag, BURN.

occupée.

I love studying language, but it’s a lot of work.  Not just because you have to memorize and practice and repeat word upon word, though.  It’s a lot of work because each language – and each dialect of that language – requires learning the culture, too.  Sometimes it’s things like realizing, in French, it never rains cats and dogs but “Il pleut comme vache (cow) qui pisse”.  Other times, it’s things like realizing why Potawatomi Podawadomie Padwadadadada… or Ojibwe Ojibway Ojibjakwejralsjkdfasd… haha… why they’re spelled a million different ways, and none are incorrect.  Well, native languages were oral so it’s all phonetic.  (In Ojibwe and Potawatomi, for example, there are even two “methods” for written language – a single and a double vowel spelling.)

This past week, as I will be earning (or “winning” – gagne, in French) overtime money on a holiday week, I’m finding myself not only ridiculously overworked but also overlooked.  It’s like everyone forgets they sent me six emails between midnight and 5am with a stack of work to do the next day.  They’ll ask, “Can you do this or are you busy?”

Well, define busy.

It usually comes down to who is “less busy”.

So I was thinking about “busy” – I mean, what is busy?  And I’ve decided, in American English at least, it is a highly cultural word.  Working Americans are always “busy” – sometimes way more than European or Australian counterparts.  Overworked.  Never stopping.  As fast as replying as the Internet connection.

But in French, one would ask me, «Est-ce que vous êtes occupée ?» which literally means Are you occupied?  There is no “busy”, per se.

Cultural context, for sure.  In France, I would say that I’m occupied, surely, but in America, I might say I’m working on something – but that’s not busy enough and so here’s ten more assignments.  Of course, I’m not saying the French don’t respond the same way or take on more work.  It’s undeniable that their work culture is less stressful, as nearly every country in the world compared to America,… I just find the difference in words amusing.

Also, the word for a lawyer is avocat – the same word for avocado, hehehe.  In trouble?  Better get yourself a good avocado and go on into court.

civilization and measuring wealth.

I’m reading The Rights of Indians and Tribes (4th Ed.) by Stephen L. Pevar.  It’s incredible to read chapter 1 and see, in brief, the hypocritical and genocidal patterns of the US Federal Government between 1789 and the present.  It seems like, time and time again, the native populations in America were labeled as one group of uncivilized, needy people.  Act after Act was passed by Congress in the efforts to “improve” the economic development of tribes which was really just a fancy way of saying “ethnic cleansing”.  The cycle began with the settlers’ push westward, greedy for land and safety from Indian attacks.  It induced action to be taken against tribes which was justified by the settlers’ mentality that their Christian, “modernized” ways were superior and that they were doing the Indians a favor.  Any governmental actions were completely two-faced, though, since their underlying motives were – until recent history – to undermine tribal systems and assimilate Indians into non-Indian culture.  (I’m definitely picturing Uncle Sam with a Hitler mustache these days.)

I still can’t get over this two-facedness.  And I think part of why I feel that way is the inherent irony of the circumstances: Settlers thought they were modern and that Indians were the uncivilized ones.

[Those powdered wigs definitely don’t shout “civilized and modern” anymore.  Nor does slavery.  Or taming horses to pull carts when you can just drive a car.]

Yet it’s not just the materialistic things – it’s the values.  These settlers imposed their civilized ways on native cultures, and modern society continues to hold biases.  If it doesn’t align with “modern thinking”, it’s radical and unacceptable.  Like traditional medicine.  Or nomadic lifestyles when we’ve developed agricultural techniques.

It’s just so ironic, that “native ways of life” are outdated – that assimilation would bring wealth to native communities.  It’s so ironic because I think it’s the complete opposite.  All you have to do is look at the health of the planet and you can see that it’s health has declined aggressively over the last century.  And what has also changed over the last century?  “Civilization”.

Civilized – 1. having advanced agricultural and social development; 2. refined in tastes.

To be “civilized” is to be advanced.  Or, by the second definition, kind of arrogant and picky.  But what is advancement?  I think it has come full-circle.

For the last couple of centuries, we’ve seen dramatic advancements in technology.  We’ve been able to learn and manipulate things we couldn’t have imagined just generations before.  But how does this gain of knowledge help us in the long run?  Certainly it has increased our laziness, thereby causing higher energy usages that deplete resources and consequently harm the planet – our forever home.  Certainly it has increased our life expectancies when not ailed by obesity or diabetes or cancer, for example, but that has increased our population and shed light on the possibility of a carrying capacity to the planet – our forever home.  Certainly it has made the quality of life better in some arenas, but it has also caused new problems and threats to our lives as a side effect.  How are those advancements?

The Paleo Diet.  All of the health advancements we’ve been allegedly making, yet people are reverting back to traditional diets, avoiding manufactured foods, and seeking more natural herbal remedies.  They have been thinking more of what we are and the origin of our medical advancements and rediscovering ancient knowledge.

Many are longing for simpler lives.  The communication systems we have are impressive, but stressing.  We are so interconnected it becomes dangerous.  It’s not uncommon for those in “civilized lifestyles” to long for something less, something more like “what it used to be”.  Or, as Miranda Lambert sings, for the time “before everything was automatic”.

Since the practices of the Indians have been widely replaced by the practices of “modern civilization”, America has lost nearly all of its topsoil.  It’s polluted and ravished by pesticides and other chemicals.  Bison populations were obliterated (intentionally), and other animals that have thrived for as long as humanity knows are suddenly finding themselves scarce and suffering.  No more “three sisters” planting – now everything is mono-crop, industrial-size, motorized, artificial…And, just like with the Dawes Act, all anyone can do is take more, more, more, more, and more…and think they’re entitled to the rest.

What is civilization?  Modern civilization hardly seems civilized to me.  It’s destroying this land and it was brought here by people who accused other cultures of being “uncivilized”, the same other cultures who lived here for thousands of years in peace with the planet.

Being civilized should encompass acknowledging that advancements are only made if a part of that advancement is preservation of the planet.  Because, seriously, can you imagine living in a world without it?  It sounds stupid to try to imagine it because you can’t.  Yet people are living like that, taking what they want as they can because they feel entitled to do so.  Not obligated to respect and pass up opportunities that are wrong.

And what is wealth?  Because I don’t think it’s having all of these silly, materialistic things.  I think it’s knowledge, wisdom gained by experience, giving and thus receiving respect, and – most importantly – finding happiness in next to nothing.  They always say you can never be happy with someone else until you’re happy alone, and I think that’s true of any kind of wealth.

Oh, just my rant for the day.