End Government Days of False Honor and Reclaim Soil’s Family


October 11, 2015

Funny (in a non-funny way) how many people and State governments have learned a flag (Confederate) has the ability to destroy justice and people and that there is integrity of removing it from the public life, but continue to hold on to and honor a day ruin—Columbus Day. Some are going to talk about this day of history that honors humanities quest of exploration and adventure. I would not be surprised to see the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria compared to Friendship 11, Apollo 11, and Space Shuttle Columbia. Others will speak of the day as a day of conquest, subjugation, and genocide. While others will move for a governmental name switch to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, like the City of Seattle did in 2014.

Columbus Day, Indigenous People’s Day, I am not a fan of either. I find governmental days of recognition little more than fluff when it comes to justice. Few folk give them serious thought. After all, there is already Native American Day—just a few weeks ago (September 25). What special events or education opportunities were in your community on that day? What did you attend? (Really, feel free to post!) Alongside, Native American Heritage Month is all next month! What might your congregation, non-profit, or business have planned? What event do you plan to attend? (I’ll give two suggestions found in the Northwest: JustLiving Farm is screening of who are my people a film Emmy Award winning filmmaker Robert Lundahl on November 05. And Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon is offering the Collins Lecture in Portland on the Doctrine of Discovery with Robert J. Miller, George “Tink” Tinker and Kim Recalma-Clutesi on November 19.)

Changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Day is but a symbolic move. Does it matter? Well of course it does, but it benefits the government much more than people. Does anyone believe the City of Seattle is going to make substantial change that would have governance structure become accountable to American Indians? Or fund better education for American Indian children? Or fund better American Indian health, mental care, spiritual care, or care for family structure? What I am getting at is while Indigenous People’s Day sounds good, it is a day of governmental structure, which allows governments like Seattle sound and look good while maintaining oppressive policies against American Indians. Meaningful insight is not going to come from the government, but from the people. I’ll take Idle No More or #BlackLivesMatter any day over one more government holiday (that does not honor a person of resistance).

Having said that, I not going to change anything, so let us talk about what I like about Indigenous People’s Day: its broadness. Indigenous People’s Day specifically is not Native American or American Indian, but Indigenous. That distinction is one of resistance.

Indigenous, when spoken in the American landscape is something very different from that of Native American or American Indian. Indigenous is a call to rootedness in the land. Indigenous should be a reminder that American people, as a whole, have lost the identity of their ancestors, themselves, and their children. Indigenous is a call to resistance and a reclaiming of identity.

Indigenous calls folk to learn their family and their people were and are violated by the US manifest destiny construct. A violation seldom noticed. For instance, don’t most of us hear or think US citizen we say or hear the identifier American? Such thinking tears both the individual and their people from the land. This violation also holds true for any government on American soil who uses blood quantum to define their people. This is a violation of the landscape and her people, for family is not known their creative being rising out of the soil but rather through the abstract of blood purity. Such intangibles hurt people because their allegiance is no longer to land, family, community, and Creator, but to government.

Indigenous calls people to remember their people and their land. A hard idea for many living within US borders, both Native and non-Native. Movement is possible though when one begins to accept the soil on which they are birthed is intimately and forever part of them. It means every person born on American soil is American native (soil identity not political identity). Such a thought calls people to quit playing at the surface of identity and delve deeper into the presence of self and neighbor.

Being one of the soil is to know the soil is the identifier of self. Knowing self of the soil is to know the heritage of one’s soil is fundamental to knowing self and neighbor. This speaks to a richness of identity that does not change with revolution of governments or colonization. The American native whose folk come from, say Scotland, is fully of American soil and at the same moment a person of the soil—the feel, the fragrance, the life—of their ancestors birth. That Scottish soil is forever part of them and their children’s children. The American who comes from people of Scotland is an American native but also an intimate native daughter or son of Scottish soil.

Similarly, is to know the richness of being American native whose ancestors are of American soil. The heritage that goes to the beginning of time on American soil means one has within them the ancient stories of American canyons, mountains, rivers, and deserts flowing through their veins. To recognize the soil within is to know there is a difference between the American native who is Native American and the American native who is also native to the creeks and hollows of another landscape.

I figure such thinking is not what Seattle politicians and people—Native and non-Native alike—had in mind when they moved from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. Which means Indigenous Peoples Day lies in the realm of the political rather than the grounded or the spiritual. Perhaps that is fine and perhaps it will bring about some political justice for American Indians. Yet if people of the Americas are to become a people known for their presence, life, and spirituality, there is need to become a people grounded in the soil.

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