Inspired by my own Native American heritage, I want to leave with you these words:
In the course of my lifetime I have lived in two distinct cultures.
I was born into a culture that lived in communal houses…
In houses like these, throughout the tribe, people learned to live with one another; learned to respect the rights of one another. And children shared the thoughts of the adult world and found themselves surrounded by aunts and uncles and cousins who loved them and did not threaten them. My father was born in such a house and learned from infancy how to love people and be at home with them.
And beyond this acceptance of one another there was a deep respect for everything in nature that surrounded them…
I shall never forget his disappointment when once he caught me gaffing for fish “just for the fun of it.” “My son” he said, “The Great Spirit gave you those fish to be your brothers, to feed you when you are hungry. You must respect them. You must not kill them just for the fun of it.
This then was the culture I was born into and for some years the only one I really knew or tasted. This is why I find it hard to accept many of the things I see around me…
I see people living in smoke houses hundreds of times bigger than the one I knew.
But the people in one apartment do not even know the people in the next and care less about them.
It is also difficult for me to understand the deep hate that exists among people.
It is hard for me to understand a culture that spends more on wars and weapons to kill, than it does on education and welfare to help and develop. It is hard for me to understand a culture that not only hates and fights his brothers but even attacks nature and abuses her.
My white brother does many things well for he is more clever than my people but I wonder if he has ever really learned to love at all…
Love is something you and I must have. We must have it because our spirit feeds upon it. We must have it because without it we become weak and faint. Without love our self esteem weakens. Without it our courage fails. Without love we can no longer look out confidently at the world. Instead we turn inwardly and begin to feed upon our own personalities and little by little we destroy ourselves.
Soon it will be too late to know my culture, for integration is upon us and soon we will have no values but yours. Already many of our young people have forgotten the old ways. And many have been shamed of their Indian ways by scorn and ridicule. My culture is like a wounded deer that has crawled away into the forest to bleed and die alone. The only thing that can truly help us is genuine love.
You must truly love, be patient with us and share with us. And we must love you—with a genuine love that forgives and forgets… a love that gives the terrible sufferings your culture brought ours when it swept over us like a wave crashing along a beach…
This is brotherhood…anything less is not worthy of the name.
I have spoken.
Taken from “I am a Native of North America” by Chief Dan George (1899-1981)
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