Our “Special Month” — Almost in the Bag
So as we head into the final week of National Native American Heritage Month as proclaimed by the 44th Rahnatakaias, or as I call it, our “special month,” we get to witness another misappropriation of our culture or, at the very least, another great falsehood of American history, the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving. History books, Disney and other tellers of fairy tales continue to promote a feel good fantasy of happy little Pilgrims inviting equally happy little Indians to the “first” Thanksgiving feast in the “New World” and that is just wrong.
To me, there is double irony in the fact that our “special month” neglects who we are today and then, supposedly honoring our past, caps it off with a complete misrepresentation of historical events that proclaims this holiday as a uniquely “American” concept.
I don’t want to talk about the heinous actions of these “loveable” little Pilgrims with their cute hats and shoes so suffice it to say that 50 years of tension between the Wampanoag and these people, including the spread of the white man’s illnesses, bad trade and sketchy land dealings, culminated in the bloodiest clashes that Turtle Island has ever known. The Wampanoag would become witness to savagery never known to the people of their land, including the slaughter of women and children by these “happy little Pilgrims.” This is not quite the friends and family dinner party you were taught about in kindergarten.
The images of the real history, including the decapitation of Metacom and the mounting of his head on a pole are now merely props for diehard sports fans when their teams take on the “Redskins” or the “Blackhawks.” And this may be the real problem with our “special month.” You see, unlike the Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony, we are still here. And if the President of the United States is going to proclaim a month to honor our heritage while who we are today is not just ignored but trampled on every day by American law enforcement, judges, lawmakers, teachers and even cheerleaders, then, Mr. Obama, stuff your proclamation and our “special month” in your pardoned bird! And don’t get me started on who really needs a pardon.
Yeah, I know. Rahnatakaias invited 567 “federally recognized tribal leaders” to D.C. recently to shake his hand. A dozen of them even got to go to the White House. Of course, barely half of the “tribes” bothered to send anyone. Who could blame them? Why bother making a trip to D.C. to hear Ray Halbritter trying to become the “Redskins” killer and Barack Obama tell us how much he is doing to us — I mean, for us.
But let’s get back to the “Presidential Proclamation” for a moment. So how did the President’s call for “all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities” work out? Well, there was this…
Oh, come on! Of course they weren’t talking about us being sent on another “Trail of Tears” where a third of our population would be killed in a forced migration. That would just be wrong, especially during our “special month.” This high school was just using the event as a theme for their football game against the Pinson Valley High “Indians” in Alabama.
I’m pretty sure this wasn’t what Mr. Obama had in mind as an “appropriate activity,” but tell me how appropriate is a trademark for the Washington Redskins? Or the state and federal policies that pretend to have successfully “killed the Indian and saved the man,” creating a conformable compliant American where a “wild savage” once stood?
It’s fine to suggest that “Trail of Tears” reference crosses a line, especially during our “special month,” but where exactly is that line? If a high school, college or professional sports team can dehumanize us by appropriating a name or image associated with us for their own pleasure, how far is the line moved when their opponents mock a historical event associated with us for their pleasure, too?
When federal agents dismiss the sovereignty of our people and the integrity of our lands with their gun toting raids, criminalizing not only an activity but also our freedom to engage in such an activity on our own terms, it is the same as suggesting that we no longer exist as a distinct people. So let the “Indians” stand with the Tigers and Cubs. And let “Redskins” take the field with the Patriots or the Vikings. It’s not like “real” Indians or Redskins exist anymore, not for Americans.
Just remember America — your President is only calling on you to commemorate our “heritage” — but not to really acknowledge our presence. In doing as he asks, you can be relieved of any guilt by simply stating how much you love our cultures without acknowledging that we still exist to own them. This is White privilege as promoted by the White House and the first Black Rahnatakaias.– John Karhiio Kane, Mohawk, a national expert commentator on Native American issues, hosts “Let’s Talk Native…with John Kane,” ESPN-AM 1520 in Buffalo, Sundays, 9-11 p.m. Eastern Time. He is a frequent guest on WGRZ-TV’s (NBC/Buffalo) “2 Sides” and “The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter” in Albany. John’s “Native Pride” blog can be found at www.letstalknativepride.blogspot.com. He also has a very active "Let's Talk Native...with John Kane" group page on Facebook.
Friends and Colleagues,
John Kane was interviewed about "National Native American Heritage Month" on WBFO-FM, Buffalo, NY's NPR affiliate.
John says: "We live in a time where we are still struggling to assert our autonomy and our distinction. It's one thing to say they want to honor our heritage, but we are still here." Intrigued? Listen to John's interview with Eileen Buckley at http://news.wbfo.org/post/
local-native-american-says- native-american-month-doesn-t- go-far-enough.
Remember to tune in to John's weekly two-hour radio show, "Let's Talk Native...with John Kane," which airs Sundays from in the Buffalo, NY area. His show can be heard on ESPN-1520 AM. You can also access the live stream on John's
letstalknativepride.blogspot. com and on his ESPN web page at www.espn1520.com/pages/ 17325417.php.
As always, John appreciates your feedback and is grateful for your your support. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (716) 864-8462 (mobile).
With best regards,