From the Editor's Desk: Listening to remember and speaking to change

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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgOn any South Dakota reservation, those

who listen will hear elders saying, “Anagoptan!” It’s a command

to listen and pay attention to what’s being said or discussed. It’s

something we both dread and enjoy in retrospect, being put in our

place. The elders do and say this not because they’re smarter than

younger generations but because they’ve seen patterns of mistakes

repeated throughout the years and by explaining it – sometimes ad

nauseam – they hope to keep us on a good path.

With the arrival of the Washington

team at TCF Stadium on Nov. 2, the Twin Cities Urban Indian community

is gearing up for what is expected to be 5,000 protestors outside,

making the case to change the name of the mascot. (It is The

Circle’s policy not to use the team’s mascot name because it is

offensive to our community and we have listened to the community on

this issue.) For my part as managing editor, this will be the second

year of covering this particular protest and this particular issue.

It’s my privilege to do so for the sake of recording our struggle.

However, no progress is made if we – as a community – continue to

protest the team to no avail.

It’s difficult as Native people. While

on a very basic, human level, we do want to lead lives of happiness

and prosperity. We want to do work that’s fulfilling, pay our bills

and provide for future generations. But without fail, whenever the

mascot issue comes up in mainstream media and conversation, every

Native person is seen as an ambassador, activist or representative

for their entire race. Dissenting opinions are often held up as a

sign that the mascot issue is a silly one, surely, in the face of

more pressing problems like poverty, addiction, health care or

education.

To hear any non-Native person frame

it, we are wasting our time with this silliness. Clearly, we have

bigger problems.

That patronizing attitude is

indicative of how pervasive the systematic racial discrimination is

in America. We are sovereign, we know our issues, we know how to go

about solving them, we have picked our course in a way that makes

sense to us, we do not require anyone’s assent or approval to tell us

what issues with which, we should and should not be concerned. We do

not think like you, we do not compartmentalize, we approach our

problems holistically.

This is where our history of listening

and paying attention comes back into play. We keep up this fight

because we have heard our elders talk about how they were

dehumanized, patronized and discriminated against because they were

not seen as actual human beings with valid thoughts, experiences,

identities and opinions. That legacy continues to haunt our children

through how they are seen: not as human beings, but as caricatures.

Our experiences and reasoning are deemed incompatible with mainstream

society and therefore, we are less than. Our nuances in thought are

often overlooked or lumped together without regard to each tribal

community.

We pay attention to how we are

treated, how we are thought of and who comes to our aid in times of

struggle like this. As a matter of survival, we have developed long

memories that go back, beyond our own lives, into the lives of our

ancestors. In those memories, we have stories that are invaluable to

us in our daily lives.

Sean Sherman, Lakota chef, is gaining

momentum in media with his new endeavor: pre-contact cuisine. It will

be the first of its kind, not just in the Twin Cities, but in Indian

country as a whole. He pledges to use only locally-grown, raised and

harvested ingredients but to spread that culinary knowledge among the

Native community as a way to address health problems and disparities.

As a Native, he does this because he looks at our diets from a

holistic point of view, “all our food is medicine.” Here again,

how we look at an issue, from the root to the fruit.

We draw strength through our identity

and our stories, even if they seem contradictory to outsiders. In our

cover story, the students at Warroad High School – a significant

number of whom, are Ojibwe from the Red Lake Nation – find honor in

their public school’s mascot: the warriors. This arrangement works

for this community because an Ojibwe leader

spoke and the non-Native community listened.

Beyond the

protests, with elections looming in Indian Country, it is important

for us to continue to speak, so others may listen. We speak with our

votes. Promises may be made and while it’s tempting to disengage in

the face of such ignorance around us. Remember that we listen to what

those seeking office tell us and remember that we use our voice when

we cast our ballots.