From the Editor's Desk: Overcoming fatalism and claiming victory
Monday, September 08 2014
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgThe greatest enemy we face as Native people is fatalism. It defines our historic, current and future struggles. From the moment the earliest European settlers put foot on our shores, it was because they believed it was their right to conquer our home. When they found us living here, millions-strong, it was their belief that we would eventually become extinct.

Throughout five centuries of wars, battles, plagues, relocations and government treaties, the occupation of our home and our culture was based on the misguided belief that we would eventually die out. But throughout all those wars, battles and broken promises, we continued to survive, thrive and flourish, our identity slightly altered, but ultimately intact. We hold true to our faith, our values and our traditions even when the outside world believes we are irrelevant.

Our current struggles are among culture, race and politics. Whether it is Dan Snyder's devious attempts to buy implied support by tribal nations through misdirected philanthropy, the government's glacial pace at addressing land rights for individual Indian landowners or multinational oil and gas corporations like Enbridge and TransCanada, attempting to damage our homelands in the guise of energy independence and monetary wealth, we face a myriad of troubles.

But over the arc of time, we see how we overcame our oppression and we keep the faith that we will continue to overcome this oppression. We do this by being thankful for everything we have – even if it's not much to begin with – we give thanks for every day that we live. We rediscover our family and tribal language, histories and roots; we nurture them as best we can by ensuring their survival.

This is evident in the Twin Cities by the opening of the Bdote Learning Center, a dream that is six years in the making. Immersion education in Ojibwe and Dakota are the first steps in the journey toward understanding our historic identity. While linguists debate the idea of whether language is formed by culture or culture is formed by language, we know that our language defines us as a people. Its roots hold the key toward understanding our world perspective and forming a new path for living in contemporary society.

In that society, we have suffered. After seeing the opening performance of Rhiana Yazzie's “Native Man The Musical, Phase I,” we understand how identity and experience form who we are as contemporary Natives in modern America. Whether we grew up on the reservations or in the urban setting, it has had an impact on us. The key toward moving forward is to acknowledge our individual and collective experiences, both good and bad, rather than being ashamed of them. When we can acknowledge our history and learn from it, we claim victory over our oppression.

Healing is a paramount chore for our community. With that in mind, we've welcomed Nick Metcalf to The Circle in his new column “Nick-izms: Rez Born, Urban Raised.” Metcalf was born and raised on the Rosebud Sioux reservation in South Dakota and came to the Twin Cities 20 years ago to grow personally. His journey is an admirable one that he has shared over these past few years as a member of the Minnesota Two Spirit Society, engaging the community in trainings, workshops and consultations on identity and healing.

When we can put away the individual and collective hurt and anger that has been our constant motivation and replace it with the devotion to the wellbeing for ourselves and our future generations, we will know true victory over our oppression.

On a personal note, I thank the board of directors of The Circle, my colleague Cat Whipple, columnists Mordecai Specktor, Ricey Wild and Nick Metcalf for their patience and understanding this last month. My mother, Lorraine Iron Shell-Walking Bull passed away on Aug. 24 at the age of 73, after a three-month battle with various infections. She was the woman who helped define my worldview, wisdom and passion to do what I do for the Native community in the Twin Cities. She was always a source of strength, pride and love for me and my family.

We buried her in our home community of Upper Cut Meat on the Rosebud reservation on Aug. 30. She was a woman who valued our tiospaye, Wolakota, faith and traditions. She was of a generation that is slowly leaving us. My family learned everything we could from her stories and examples during our comparatively short lives with her. If there is anything I can impart to our community, it is to learn our histories and traditions from our elders before they continue the walk on which, we cannot join them.

We must make them proud.

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