I don’t usually repost articles or editorials. In the past month or so, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about those of us a generation or two from a great “something” that happened to us as a social group or demographic, or that our social group did that we as a culture now regret. Most of us are descendants of immigrants who came to this country for a better life, but some also came to escape persecution or some kind of racism or prejudice. There are many stories held within our families, and it is helpful to think through these stories to find out how they have influenced us, how these stories have impacted our choices and identities, have impacted what we think is possible for ourselves.
This year is the centenary of World War I. In the years since that war and WWII, many of us in the U.S. and Canada find ourselves living in neighborhoods where also live the descendants of our former “enemies”. My brother in law is from German ancestry, a sister in law is of Japanese ancestry. Here in Lethbridge we have many Japanese families who relocated here after the Second World War, having been uprooted from lives on the west coast of Canada and sent to internment camps inland near the mountains during the war. We also have many First Nations People here, as we live very close to the largest reserve in Canada. As Dr. Estes says, all of us, if you go back far enough in our history, come from conquered tribes, from groups that were almost wiped out. And too, all of us come from peoples who have tried to destroy other peoples. Her point is to remind us to treat ourselves and others with care, for we have all had much suffering in our histories.
It’s important to be conscious of these things, to tell the stories we hold, and to work for a world of reconciliation. Truth and reconciliation. It doesn’t “just happen.” In that light, I want to share a letter to the editor that appeared in the Lethbridge Herald on July 31. I don’t know the author, but I thank him for sparking some good conversations I’ve had with my son. May this letter serve as food for thought for you, too. And with love,
“Indian Mascots Obscure the Real Human Beings” A white man and an elderly native man became pretty good friends, so the white guy decided to ask him, “What do you think about Indian mascots?”
The native man responded, “Here’s what you’ve got to understand. When you see black people, you see ghosts of all the slavery and the rapes and the hangings and the chains.
When you look at the Jews, you see all the bodies piled up in death camps, and those ghosts keep trying to tell you to do the right thing, but when you see us, you don’t see the ghosts of all the little babies with their heads smashed in by rifle butts or the Big Hole, or the old folks dying by the side of the road on their way to Oklahoma while their families cried and tried to make them comfortable, or the dead mothers at Wounded Knee or the little kids at Sand Creek who were shot for target practice. You don’t see any ghosts at all. Instead, you see casinos and drunks and junk cars and shacks.
Well, we see those ghosts, and they make our hearts sad, and they hurt our little children. And when we try to say something, you tell us, “Get over it, this is the American dream, this is America!” But as long as you are calling us Redskins and doing tomahawk chops, we can’t look at the American dream because these things remind us that we are not real human beings to you. And when people aren’t human beings, you turn them into slaves or kill six million of them or shoot them with Hotchkiss guns and throw them into mass graves at Wounded Knee.
No, we are not looking at the American dream, and why should we? We still haven’t woke up from the American nightmare.
Rodney Big Bull, Brocket, Alberta