Friday, September 17, 2004

French Interview, gives hope for Indians

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with and talking to four very special people, three were from France the other from South Korea. For the past five years they have been traveling the world, taking photos, observing cultures recording and publishing several books along the way. Now they are on a new quest, this time in North America retracing by canoe no less the trek of Lewis & Clark up the Missouri river. They hope to have this experience published in France when completed. They are video taping this journey as well, meeting with the native people along the way. I was fortunate and honored to be one of their documented, they questioned me about my ancestry, my cultural beliefs, customs and values. They wanted to know how I felt about the impact that Lewis & Clark made and what did my ancestors think of it as well. I did the best I could to respond and I introduced them to an Omaha Tribal Council member to be interviewed.

I told them several stories that were told to me, then I gave them this example of what I felt about what Lewis & Clark meant to me and what I felt as to how my ancestors might have felt about this meeting. I said: " It would be like if I came to your house one early morning knocked on the door politely introduced myself and promptly told you that I just came by to look at my new house and to let you know where to now send your rent payments. Your response might be but we didn't sell our house and have no plans on doing so. I would say Oh but I didn't buy it from you I bought it from your neighbor on the other end of the block for a very good price I might add." that's how I would of looked at it and that's probably how my ancestors looked at it as well. Im sure they wondered, how can someone else that I don't know sell the land under my feet that my ancestors fought and died for, hunted gathered and lived on for hundred of years without my knowledge? Now I am invited to participate in a flag raising ceremony that proclaims ownership of the land and tells me that I now have a new grandfather to take care of me and my family. That I am to follow without questions, my new grandfathers wishes and wants in regards to the land and all the things that are on it. I told them that my ancestors gathered several times to ponder about this situation they now found themselves in. Prayer and ceremonies revealed to them the future in it was dark hard times and the elders shed tear for the people that were coming. They said it will be hard to be Indian one day and many of our ways will be lost and we as a people will suffer greatly.

Now today alcohol & drugs are smothering our communities, economic development and personal growth are almost non-existent on some reservations. Un-employment is higher than the national average on most reservations, all of the social ills like suicide we have the highest rate among teenagers, poor health care, not to mention political tribal infighting are prevalent as well. The dominant society limits its contact with us and governs us still today as incompetents. Nonetheless there is hope, we are a resilient people, our faith in the Creator prevails and allows us to endure these hardships. Our ancestors' were right about the future, but they left us a way to survive as well. Our traditional ways have kepted many good things for us as a people to hang onto. In fact their are people growing stronger in their faith because of these hardships. Satellite's and tepees for prayer meetings are going up all over Indian country, allowing for prayers and spiritual growth to continue. Our communities are still havens for our people, they go out to the white mans world but they come home in the end, so the people are still alive, the people are still praying.

If these four young explorers complete this task, I hope it will gain a new light for the native American Indian in regards to who we were but more importantly who we are today. Maybe we can even rekindle a new relationship with the country of France and the Omaha Indian in Nebraska. After all there are many who have French ancestory that are Native American Indian. If we look hard enough, I think we will find that we are more alike than we are different.