Before this unit, with the TED Talks, excerpts from When Helping Hurts, and my own reading of Solar Storms, I had a distorted picture of colonization, specifically how North America was colonized. I was seeing through a blurred window.
I had this image that we (whites) treated Native Americans wrongly when my ancestors colonized but I held only a general picture in my hand. With the details blurred, I missed important sections of my own history and past. I missed things that changed my opinion of colonization.
Before I thought about colonization in depth, I believed it was the way my lifestyle came about. Without my ancestors’ want to colonize, my way of life would not exist. Looking at it though those eyes, I saw it as an idea that countries adopted and I believed only a few people took that idea too far. I see it differently now. Overall, the idea of colonization, going somewhere and forcing a way of life onto a different land and people, is damaging and sickening.
I no longer have a single image of colonization. It is an issue with more than one side. It didn’t just bring about my current way of life but it destroyed others as well. Linda Hogan wrote it well in her book Solar Storms, “They believed they were limited and could live in only one way and they wanted us to give up our way of life for theirs” (p 315). This is exactly what brought about the problems between these two very different people. We wanted to live the way we wanted to live and to do this, there was no regard for any other way of life. Why wouldn’t they want to be like us? They could have electricity, cars, and many other things that could “improve” their way of life. By listening to a single story, we have created an image of a people that is mysterious, strange, and old. We allowed ourselves to believe they were dangerous, uneducated Natives who needed our help and wanted it. We didn’t even give them a chance to show us their culture and explain it to us before we started making suggestions or seeing what we could use for ourselves.
The real question we should have been asking is why are we forcing this? Didn’t we leave our homeland because we were being forced to act in ways we didn’t want? Why would we want to do that to another person? Why are we hurting those that could help us understand the land?
I knew about the blankets with small poxs and all the broken treaties. I didn’t know about the uranium mines and the sterilization of “certain” women. Or the destroying of sacred lands and Native Americans’ homes for dams. Each new event and act I learned about shocked me and opened my eyes further.
I used to have a passion to find out all I could about each different tribe in America, what made each one special. Never did I look into what we did to them and later, I lost interest altogether. I have to ask myself why. Why would I only look up the fun stuff? Why don’t I have the desire to learn more about the stories that have hurt the Native Americans? Maybe it’s because I feel guilty. We have set our claim on this land. Not only the land but that claim also includes the people and the resources that are a part of the land. We have continued to hurt these people even after we promised we would change and fix what we have done in the past.
I feel guilty because I sit on the winning throne of history and have done nothing to help those who don’t sit next to me. I have not helped those that were trampled underfoot. I accepted the actions my people performed against others by sitting by and watching. I need to do something. By staying idle, I have accepted these relationships will remain damaged. I could help if I jumped off the throne I currently sit on. In my position, it would be easy to spread what I learned to others. It would be easy for me to even start a small thing, like writing letters, to show I care and what they want or need from me to help them. I have the power to help. I inherited the power, I need to use it.