As a native woman active on many fronts of the modern native war, I have searched for the thing that's been so effective in keeping my people down. The one thing I’ve attributed the largest part of "down" to is the "white historical perspective." I was exposed to that perspective during my entire educational experience, and today I constantly fact both the nonnative and native reliance on that perspective. My children are being exposed to the same perspective at this very moment. My partner and I spend a fair amount of time re-educating our children about the truth vs. the while historical perspective, a truth I had to follow an "instinctive" trail to find. This is the most painful experience of discovery I have had to endure, as the trail of truth is a lifelong one.
In my opinion the most powerful institutions of past and modern times are the religious institutions. Second only to them in money and power are the educational institutions of the world, because of their involvement in developing minds. Imagine an educational experience based on the exorcism of one’s culture, language, and spiritual beliefs. Imagine that same exorcism based on a white perspective.
In contrast to that narrow perspective, I have enjoyed many hours and beautiful moments with our native elders who have received accounts from those who have witnessed the true history of the North American continent. Recently at an occupation camp in the Vallican, British Columbia, the day after a reburial of some ancestors' remains repatriated from educational and government institutions, the elders around the campfire shared memories of school experiences, with much laughter. Although the stories relayed were humorous, the context was very serious, as the impact of schooling on the formation of their minds was immeasurable. The cruelty used against native children of past generations, a double-fisted whammy of church and school, shows that those institutions were willing to travel to great lengths to “take the Indian out of the Indian,” since earlier efforts to “take the Indian out of the country” had been abandoned for a more "civilized" way.
I once spoke to my daughter's third grade class. At the time I was excited about having met a native person from Ecuador, whose people are the only ones in the world who know the secrets of head shrinking, the only surgeons in the world who can take the skin off a cranium without committing an incision, who have a medical knowledge much higher than that of the American Medical Association or any other orthodox modern medical association in the world of the 1990s. As I shared my excitement with the third graders, they seemed so hungry, their faces so pure in their thirst for truth and reality. The teacher's face slowly went from interest, to horror, to shut-down. Once I recognized shut-down, I knew it was time for me to wrap it up. She thanked me politely, saying I was "brutally truthful."
It has always been my experience that truth is mostly brutal.
You readers will no doubt find many of the following accounts of white history brutal. White men were brutal. If you bother, you can look around on this day and see these images. Embrace these stories nevertheless…they are you. Not until the educational institutions begin to teach and embrace historical truth instead of the white historical perspective will the situation change for my people and all native peoples across the globe. The truth is that the white historical perspective was created as a bit of fiction that white folks could live and feel comfortable with, the same fiction being created on a daily basis now in regard to law, justice, racism, environment, and countless other aspects of our lives. The time of the comfort zone is passed. Changes must be brought home to bear fruit, or I fear for the future—a barren intellectual, cultural, and environmental wasteland.
As I read the transcript of the following text, I thought of one addition I want to make. I suggest a book by Arthur Goodman entitled American Genesis for another perspective which will address the theory that natives of the Western Hemisphere came across the Bering Strait, among many other beliefs.
This material is not a pleasant bit of information; in my view, it is an important bit of historical truth.
Marilyn James describes herself as a native woman who takes the responsibility of being native, being human, and being a mother into action for the quality of life and sake of the earth. Marilyn is Sinixt (Arrow Lakes Band) and is presently living in Omak, Washington.