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Articles    H4'ed 6/30/10

More on the Politics of Indian Identity

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I can understand people's reluctance to share with the children of the conquerers. Anger persists. Ceremonies were outlawed. Children were taken from their homes and placed in residential schools, not to mention the genocide of smallpox blankets and massacres like that of Wounded Knee. How is it that we can forgive so quickly? I take my answer from the words of a favorite Blood elder, who said at a science conference in Calgary, when asked about this, "What happened, happened. To forgive does much more for the one doing the forgiving, than for the one being forgiven." Curiously, this has been studied biologically, and has scientific support. In addition, I suspect that the potential for eco-disaster (Gulf Oil Spill, Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl, Alberta oil fields), is so great, that we must band together to survive, but that's only my story. Another elder told me that he teaches everyone, because an awful lot of Indians are trying to reincarnate right now and there aren't enough Indian bodies to go around. I don't know how much of what he said was tongue-in-cheek, but certainly not all of it.

The most uplifting comments I received came from a Tuscarora elder who had me crying within 10 minutes. He spoke about offering ceremony and knowledge to all people because the teachings came from the Creator to benefit all the people. They were not the property of one nation. We are equal in our misery and pain, he said, and equally deserving of assistance. Creator does not discriminate. The beauty and sincerity of this man cut through the intellectual arguments. All around him felt peaceful. The results of his way of thinking lay in the outcomes of his succeeding at his mission.

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Lewis Mehl-Madrona graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine and completed residencies in family medicine and in psychiatry at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, and (more...)
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