Sunday, January 4, 2015

"A Cry For Respect"

Creator, I know so very little
Though I have "Native heritage"
I was not raised among them;
I grew up as a white American

Values, culture, traditions, ceremonies
Stories, histories, joys, griefs
Community, elders, powwows, prayers—
The very fabric of Native societies

I knew nothing of these things
No parents or elders taught me
to dance, to sing, to make regalia
I did not grow up in the circle

When You awoke my heritage
I still knew that I was outside
I knew I had to learn and grow
I had to walk this journey with respect

And seeing how much I didn't know—
the uncountable number of tribes and languages
the unfathomable variety of cultures—
how could I not be utterly humbled?

To pretend I understood would be
dishonor, disrespect, and insult
My blood gave me absolutely no right
to wear feathers or "war paint"

But I see people doing this
at sports games or Halloween
And my blood boils, Yowah
because they have no respect

They don't know anything about
the people, the culture, or "honor"
But so many of them get defensive
and insult Natives who protest

Some Natives even support it
Some tribes have been bought
Some have sold out their culture
for which their ancestors bled

Some welcome the chance—
dancing for the spectators
selling trinkets to the fans
giving away sacred things

Tsisa once said not to cast
your pearls to the pigs
And while I won't call fans that
I know they don't know real respect

Native "things" are souvenirs to them
"Pretty things" that often just validate
their dishonor and their disrespect
and teach them nothing of Natives

I speak as one who grew up white
as one who knows how trivial
the majority feels about Natives
I speak as one who has repented

There is little I can do where I am
to help the ills in Indian Country
and I am still an outsider
so I would not dare presume I could

But this I can speak of truly
I can speak to the majority culture
I can cry out "stop this mascotry!"
I can cry out for respect

Creator made no people
to be trivialized this way
No culture should be treated
with such dishonor and disrespect

I pray and I cry out
as one with opened eyes
Creator open our hearts
heal this ongoing abuse


See also: "I Know How It Feels"

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