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Indigenous Peoples' Literature

We Will Never Forget

by Brookie Craig BTRU93A@prodigy.com

*Plants her staff deeply, says... degvyeyohv'sga, gvyoliga*

In 1879, four year old Wassaja, a Mohave Apache, was captured and sold for $30 to Charles Gentile, a prominent Chicago photographer. The Apache, as Carlos montezuma, later received a BS degree from the Univ of Illinois (1884) and an MD from Northwestern University (1889) and said:

"In the bloody and gloomy days of Indian history public sentiment was against the Indians, that they could not be civilized; they could not be educated; they were somewhat like human beings, but not quite within the line of human rights; the only hope was to let the bullets do work, cover up the bloody deeds and say no more...to forget. Patient, silent and distant the Indian race has been these many years. There comes a time in human events when abandonment of racial responsibilities becomes very oppressive, unbearable, intolerant and there seems to be no hope, then every man must exert himself, speak and act...."

Brothers, that time has come to our race. The society of American Indians is NOT free. We are not free! In a free country we are not free; our heritage is freedom, but we are not free. Wake up, Indians, all over America! Indians are hoodwinked, duped more and more every year; we are made to feel that we are free when we are not. We are chained hand and foot; we stand helpless, innocently waiting for the fulfillment of promises that will never be fulfilled in the overwhelming great ocean of civilization.

Some well-meaning people feel bad over this matter and pass their hands over their foreheads, take a long sigh, sadly look into space, and wonder what will become of the poor Indians. It is simple. To free the Indian is to free the Indian. There is nothing complicated about that.

As Indians we will never have the efficient organization that gains great concessions from society in the marketplace. We will never have a powerful lobby or be a smashing political force. But we WILL have the intangible unity which has carried us through four centuries of persecution. We are a People unified by our humanity...not a group unified for conquest. And from our greater strength we shall wear down those who persecute us...wish us to assimilate...We shall remember the fire in our hearts and we shall...endure...and survive.

You speak of anger...You want anger? Read U.S. v Crook and Judge Elmer S. Dundy's 1879 decision. Keep in mind that the American Indian was not granted citizenship until 1924. Learn of A.J. Poppleton and John Webster and the Right of Indian to Writ. Read the words in law books:

"The commissioner of Indian Affairs has authority for removing from an Indian reservation all persons found theron without authority of law, or whose presence they deem detrimental to the peace and welfare of the Indians."

When did you learn Indian history in school? You did not. White men call Indians murderers but is it murder to fight in self defense? Our lands were taken...our hunting was ruined...our forests cut down...our buffalo destroyed...We are penned on reservations. Dominant culture men who rose to protect their property are called patriots...Indians who do the same are called "Angry"...

What is civilization? Our houses needed no locks or iron bars. Indians fought for a country of which he was not a citizen, for a land to which he once had no claim, for a people who have treated him unjustly.

The conditions in which Indians live today reflect a world in which every basic aspect of life has been transformed. In region after region, Indian groups find their means of existence either totally destroyed or materially modified. These changes are followed by major shifts in the internal life of tribe and family.

The time came when the Indian people were no longer the masters of their lives. Their life ways survived subject to the will of a dominant sovereign power.

Our young people today do not really know who they are or where they belong. In Alaska I was on a team investigating suicides and there were 37 of then in 3 months...all younger than 21. Angry? Damned right I'm angry.

I am angry over senseless loss of our future...I am angry at the ones who portend to understand us and then tell us to forget our anger...move on..Who, in their ignorance do more harm to us in few words and tear down what we have fought for decades to gain.

The white man tells us we must be white men, that we cannot be what we were born to be...Indian. Tell that to my Grandmother who was kidnapped and taken from her family for 11 years in a Government Boarding school. Tell that to the families of children who kill themselves as they are ridiculed for following the old ways. Don't come to our ceremonies and smoke our pipe to learn our ways and then tell us we are all alike..If you were happy where you are you would not seek our counsel to rescue you.

There is no longer any need to shoot down Indians in order to take away their rights and lands...the government does it much more efficiently. No other people have suffered in all the ways that the Indian has in the past one and a half centuries. All these years we have stood aloof, proud and alone, trying to understand why we are being exploited. We do not need you.

Martin Luther King said, "I have a Dream." But we Indians didn't have to dream...We lived the reality. I remember when the whites said HE was angry also...Funny how when we rise up to defend our lives we are always accused of being angry...It is a overused, ignorant term.

The Indians danced a prayer in their desperation. All they had, the great buffalo herds, everything was gone. They thought they would be saved...Instead they were massacred...The sadness of this is still in our hearts. It was there...that a beautiful dream died in the snow...a people's dream. No..we shall NEVER forget.

So I stand proudly in anger....and plant my staff deeply in Mother Earth and refuse to move from this, our People's last stand. And if you think I'm angry NOW..you have no idea of the RAGE of the Grandfathers who hear the words of those who betray us and they will not allow them to pass unnoticed.

I pray Creator allows this fire of anger to burn in my heart and sparks other fires in the souls of our People. For I shall NEVER stop the anger until my last breath. I will NOT forget. I have spoken. It is so!

tsalagi aniwahy!

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.