Musings of the Chronologically Challenged™ Fourth Generation
Monday, August 19, 2002
Apologies in advance for the length of this one. The “link” bulb has not gone off in my head yet, but I wanted to share this piece. It adds a dimension to the reparation issue from an American Indian’s perspective – which I have not seen published before. Hopefully you will find it as thought-provoking as I do. WEST is only one of four sections in the Circle of Nations newsletter written by John Two-Hawks, Oglala Lakota. If you would like to read the newsletter in its entirety, the URL is below.
WEST - Wiyohpeyata - Black or Blue (We are STILL Here!)
There is a lot of talk these days about racial 'reparation'. When I first heard about it, I had mixed feelings. I still do I guess. Should the USA pay for what it did to African-American people in the past? Can the USA pay for it? 'Reparation' means 'to repair something'. Can the USA repair what was done? Perhaps not, as it surely cannot raise people from the dead. But what about how what happened in times past has affected our present? Surely much progress has been made in this country regarding race issues, although there is still much room for more growth. But what about the past? Is it really dead and gone? Does it not affect the present? The future? I believe it does. I must confess, I got a bit upset once when I heard a woman (pro-reparation) shouting "we made America, this is our land, and Americans needs to pay up!" I thought, hmmmmmmmm.... ma'am, with all due respect, that land your house sits on is Indian Land. So maybe you should pay us! *giggle* So, what about reparation? The sacred Paha Sapa (black hills) were literally stolen from the Lakota nation by the United States in the late 1800's. Since that time, the U.S. Govt. has offered our nation what is now the equivalent of $500,000,000 in 'reparation'. We have never accepted the money. The only 'reparation' acceptable to our people is the return of the Paha Sapa to the Lakota Nation. Will that ever happen? Hard to say. I wish it would, but to be honest, I have my doubts. The pro-reparation folks are wanting the U.S. to cough up revenue in reparation for the staggering monetary gains the U.S. made from the slave trade. They claim that the mistreatment of their people in those times has contributed directly to many of the problems in the African American community today. Is this true? I believe it may be, but perhaps only in part. All I have to do is visit my people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to be convinced that the deeds of the past affect the people of today in a very real way. However, the folks on the 'anti-reparation' side claim that the pro-reparation folks are just angry people with a 'victim' mentality. This may be true, but again perhaps only in part. Russell Means, an Oglala Lakota who was a big part of the American Indian activism of the 60's & 70's never met Custer. He never lived in a tipi and he wasn't there at Wounded Knee in 1890 when over 300 Lakota women, children, elders and a few young men were massacred. He wasn't there. But in the 1960's he rose up out of the dust of the white-washed conscious of America and demanded change. Not to change the past, but to change the present conditions our people were living with, which were/are a direct result of the past historic deeds of the U.S. Govt.. Did change come? Some did. There is still much progress to be made. So perhaps there is validity to the claims of the pro-reparation folks, for the past does indeed affect the present. And perhaps the anti-reparation folks have a point too, as the folks living today who are directly affected in some way by the deeds of the past may indeed be 'victims' and be angry about it. Will the U.S. Govt. "pay up"? Who knows. As I said before, I have my doubts. Perhaps there is another way. The USA certainly has plenty of skeletons in its 'history closet'. All in all, much has changed for the better in this country. Heck, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the world. But maybe there is a way to at least attempt to right the wrongs of the past that affect the present. I see validity in both arguments. I also see a bit of foolishness in both. Perhaps we should stop arguing and start examining what we can do to heal the wounds of the past, by addressing the conditions or problems they may have contributed to today. I pray for healing....
In the spirit of mending the Sacred Hoop of the nations of the world,
Your Oglala Lakota brother / friend,