Looking through words about California history, my mind wanders momentarily, and a tall timeless man with reddish brown skin and long braids ala Russell Means, appears in the periphery of my daydreams. He says:
They, these conquering men, stepped from their boats
wearing more clothes than was necessary,
shiny metal hats and vests,
heavy leather foot wear,
bearing swords and knives,
boasting of braveries
and some day living in the memories
of civilizations yet to be
and when they gazed our way
they never looked us in the eye
with any deep sense
or human curiosity.
And it didn’t take long for me to see
that all they wanted was the land.
And that the land
symbolized, to them,
only a foundation upon which
they could sculpt cold gray likenesses of themselves,
and erect cities, where they separated themselves
from anyone like themselves,
something over which their kings and queens
could reign supreme,
and I would to them be
but a slave
with the idea that my mind would be swayed
enough to make me fall to my knees,
my head bowed at the altars of their God fearing
and other soul-less non-meditative philosophies
which might have been a possibility
if my people hadn’t been
so unversed in
“ruling the land,”
if we hadn’t been
so of the land
as to be one with the land,
revering it along with all creation,
all there is at hand
all that’s been here and gone,
all that’s to come.
Oh, they must have seen us as:
We danced to express our joys and sadness,
to the beat of the drums
for as little as sheer fun,
for a day well done,
for a child born,
a life lost,
for our appreciation for the
warmth and healing rays of the sun,
for the food we harvest from the rich soil,
for the air in the winds,
for the fish in the sea,
for the creatures in the mountain snows
and in the forest
among the trees.
They must have seen
how we hunted just enough
to suit our needs,
how all that exists
on Mother Earth
is the essence of our spirituality.
But those who conquer others can’t see beyond
beyond narrow definitions of wealth,
beyond the mining of the exotic ores and liquids and gases
that come with the land,
bringing about riches and power
we native people couldn’t possibly comprehend.
But still we stand.
The spirit of my people remains alive
as we are tied to all there is,
and all that has ever been
or will ever be,
and our past
is the beginning of California’s History,
an era this generation of Californians
might want to copy
which would mean that some day,
in later stages of this rich history,
it can be said
that a people came to
learn to live in harmony
with their surroundings,
that they came to
restore the land
to it’s original intent:
a safe home for all of humanity,
the way the spirits
intended the world to be.
And if it is done naturally,
as it is with how we believe,
it will be conceived
through the family.
We see ourselves as empty nobodies
with no where to go
without our families.
The family is where we learn to love and forgive,
where we learn to live,
to go about our days.
In our world the family is the center of all that is,
and it is our
mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles and cousins
all gathered around
who’ve travelled a path we’re
and when they’re taken care of
and listened to
we continue down our stretch of that path
embraced in wisdom
handed down from when it all began
and we feel the vibrant pulsations of moral energy that rises
from a people learning that, in time,
they, too, will be wise
and they go out into the world
as light in the dark,
as the spark kindling needs to start
a fire that glows and glows.
It’s our families
who guide us towards
grasping our roles
as givers and lovers,
as carers and caretakers who know
that Mother Earth bestows
it’s greatest blessing on those
who seek a balance between nature
in concert with everyone else
above all else
in their lives.
Such is how an old world is honored
and a new world is realized.
Image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/
Thank you for such a heartfelt memorial of Russell Means.
What you say rings so true, from RM’s tribal wisdom to the entirety of human
Ernie McCray says
And we just keep on learning – if we’re smart and if we care.
Terry Connor says
I’m confused. Is this something Russell Means said or something you wrote? Either way, it is truly beautiful and disheartening at the same time. There appears to be a time in our distant history when man lived in harmony with nature. Maybe it is just looking back thru Rose Colored Glasses, but whatever it is, it is a far cry from where we are today. We have groups like Green Peace and Save the Whales trying to stem the tide, but the relentless raping of the earth goes on unabated. Part of it is born of greed, part of it comes from trying to feed and provide for an over populated planet where there is one dominant species calling the shots. Will we ever find the wisdom to be good caretakers of what is the only place in the known Universe where life can exist? I can’t believe as a group that man can’t see the inevitability of his own actions. Somehow we turn a blind eye and hope it doesn’t come crashing down around us in our lifetimes.
Ernie McCray says
No, it’s me not Russell. I just pictured the teller of the story as someone standing tall, braided, wise in lessons from the universe. And you’re right, a blind eye to our physical world says pretty much that we’re hoping everything will turn out all right as opposed to making it happen.
Thank goodness the Indians have prevailed…. anyway, here in San Diego County…
They have taken over the ‘duty’ of philanthropy that the Big Banks and Corporations used to perform until they were overcome by their greed and mismanagement…
We survivors of one bad economy after another climb aboard their Casino buses and travel to their once impoverished land and give willing so they can build eight story hotels most of us cannot afford to stay in and serve us from bountiful Buffets and bestow royal titles upon us like ”VIP”… Hey ! It says so right on my plastic card…: )
I think they, for the most part, have come full circle… They used to own the land and now… we are helping them get it back
Ernie McCray says
I’d knew you’d have a nice original slant on the subject.