I am trying to write this day without mentioning the lost European’s name. There are store sales in his honor. That’s a distinctly American thing; if you are a dead white man that did something spectacular, you would know because they create sales offers in your name. Never heard of a John Doe sales event, have you?
Trying to go about my day without mentioning his name. I am attempting to decolonize my mind; it is a hard job and it takes much attention. This effort is sort of like trying to throw away an old garbage can. Very hard to do.
What does one do to alleviate the pain of remembering the first butcher of this continent? Some cities, towns, tribes and reservations rename the holiday to Native American day. I am not sure about that move. It feels like we are on the road to something like St. Patrick’s Day, or Gay Pride Day (not that there is anything wrong with that), or Polish-American Day, or Oktoberfest (German Day) and you get the picture. What? No Jewish American Day? All complete with parades and feasts and politicians bloviating about their long-lost relatives that had the genetic fortitude to pass down, of all things, high cheekbones.
My goal is to get through the day—well, the week actually—without saying the bastard’s name.
To most Native people, this day feels much like the day when, as a child, the family packs up the car and careens for hours on interstates and backroads only to land at the mean uncle’s house whose 17-year-old, pimply faced, teenaged son likes to molest your 10-year-old sister. It gets awfully quiet and foreboding in the back seat on that long ride. Well, each year we get treated to that ride no matter how old we get or where we move to, or away from. This holiday (holy day, really?) permeates all that is American.
I work on this day. I also work on Thanksgiving and Christmas most the time, even though all I’m doing is leaving messages all over the place at empty offices.
When our family farms were still great in number this day came and went like all the other days. It began with food and a prayer, and it ended with food and a prayer. We grew the foods that our people grew for millennia, and the ones living by the river netted the same fish they were netting and spearing for just as long as the farmers were farming. There are not many family-run farms on the rez these days.
Someone had the big idea that if having a little bit of money was pretty helpful, well, having tons of money would be better. Ah, the pursuit of happiness. It’s not the happiness that is guaranteed, it’s the pursuit that is guaranteed, hence all the sales offers. So, most everyone gave up farming to work in offices to earn dollars to spend on purchasing the very food they used to grow themselves and eat for free. You could tell right away that that idea did not come from a well-fed Mohawk—this is the sort of idea that can only come from a relation of that guy whose name I will not say.
To my point, as abrupt and surprising as the landing of lost sea craft was on our southern shores and the rude and murderous character of its passengers, and as sure as God makes little green apples, some day we will awake and be once again surprised by the quickness of turning tables. As sure as natural law resides in the seed, the ability to grow and harvest one’s own food stores will again be as normal and life-sustaining as it was and is meant to be. But one has to know how and one has to be physically fit to do it, to adapt. To decolonize the mind, then decolonize the market, you must decolonize your abilities and then decolonize the land itself.
This is an important day for sure. It provides the backdrop to efforts to free ourselves from a mentality that is violent and unforgiving and foreign and inappropriate to the survival of our original instructions.
Ta neh Toh.