Saturday, October 10, 2009

Community Day

We had a community day at the new church I attend and I volunteered to do some Native American storytelling. The only way to help a community learn about the Indians in the area is to step out into the open. I wore my regalia, but not any feathers. I brought with me some goose feathers, various beaded pouches, a smudge shell and some smudge to burn, jawbones from animals, and large hank of horse hair in case any kids wanted a hands on experience. Not knowing what to expect, I chose the story of White Buffalo Calf Woman because my mom told me the story.

Stunning sunshine lit up autumn leaves just beginning to turn color, and warm breezes blew gently this day. The temperature was in the low 70s. Other things were happening, a free pig roast, half a dozen deep fried turkeys and other picnic foods were offered for anyone who was hungry. There were bounce houses and raffles and a few people on the music venue. People
came from all over for an afternoon of family fun.

I had no idea when I would tell my story. I very much enjoyed walking around with my regalia on, the long fringe alive with motion. The responses of the people were interesting. Some had no idea what to say, so they said nothing, others commented on the beauty of the dress. My son was worried someone would make fun of me. I suppose that could have happened and if anyone did, it was out of earshot. I told my son, "I'm not embarassed, this is the way I was created."

He felt a little better.

I thought about how White Buffalo Calf Woman came to the people to teach them how to live in peace. I read an account that surmised she appeared to the people about 2,000 years ago. I wondered what it was like to live in a world where she appeared and Jesus walked the earth. I believe there are no accidents but fate and karma are for others to believe. I believe each footstep has been appointed to us.

Can it be that God gave each race a way to build relationship with Him? I have spoken with some Indians who practice traditional ways and other Indians who follow the way of Jesus. I study the effects of both groups. I have encountered Indians who refuse to practice any native ways, fear-filled and I am saddened by this. I have spoken with Traditional Indians who believe Jesus lived but now He doesn't and it isn't respectful to speak of Him. I wonder about that, not ready to dismiss their ways of belief until I know more of what that is grounded in.

I think of the seven teachings: love, bravery, humility, honesty, wisdom. respect and truth and how they remind me of the fruits of the Spirit. There are too many parallels to say one way is good and the other is not. Spirituality is a work in progress at best to us humans. When entire populations of people are excluded, it bears closer examination.

I told the story of White Buffalo Calf Woman that day. I asked anyone who claimed Indian heritage to raise their hands. I saw some hands go up, but it is the hand not raised that I want to know more about. For each person that speaks up there are more left with volumes of unspoken words.

This past Labor Day I had an upsetting encounter I wasn't prepared for and I still can't believe it happened. I was at the local flea market which draws an especially large crowd on Labor Day and I ahd my German Shepherd Dog with me. I always laugh when I see the wide swath poeple make when they see the two of us approaching. I was waiting near a table to take a closer look at a piece of cobalt glass and I saw a flask encased in leather. Embossed into the leather was an Indian, so identified by the loin cloth and headband with a crooked feather attached. The Indian was passed out drunk, so indicated by the x's for eyes and the large red nose. The other curious thing was the flask was stamped with Pensalcola, Florida. Now why, WHY did there have to be a drunken Indian? I am fairly certain no one else was as disturbed by this depiction of Indians.

Until these images disappears, I will tell stories and write blogs and poems and books. I will participate in church community days, write academic papers, wear my regalia so kids can see it, I will tell my son all I learn about the Indian ways, I will take part in dissertations researching anything that has to do with Native Americans and in so doing will not rest until I have done everything within my power to debunk long held stereotypes that harm instead of uplift, that destroy instead of create, that continue to show that prejudice is a learned behavior that is wrong.

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