Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Where Colonialism Wounds Me

Yesterday Uncle Warren posted this on his Facebook timeline:
I want to apologize to our kids this morning for the behavior of our tribe. I apologize for the prejudicial decision that will not allow you all to be tribal citizens. You are Odawa, Lakota, Cherokee and Choctaw with some European blood mixed in.

The federal government has defined and enforced the conditions that created the situation you all find yourself in. If it were not for my medical needs and no insurance I would disenroll from the tribe. It would break my heart, but I would do that because I love you all so. So far our tribe and others like them have not been able to overcome the dictatorial foolishness of the federal government and have chosen to enforce it.

You know I was "Indian" before I was ever recognized by my tribe as an Indian. I quote my version of Barbara Mandrell's song, "I was Indian, when Indian wasn't cool." Tim, Gary, Diana, Angela, Barbara Ann, Carolyn, Micah, William and Justin Josiah and all the grandkids you have blessed us with, know that your Dad and Grandpa loves you. I am sorry this morning. You are our beautiful Indian children and grandchildren.....
It's heartbreaking to read. There's much that can be said about the epidemic of disenrollment sweeping through Indian country, not to mention blood quantum requirements, practical needs of tribes, abuses of wannabes, and more. I don't feel it is my place to comment on these things because I have so little experience in Native community and culture. All I can so is write how I feel.

Reading Uncle Warren's words touches my heart. I'm one of the so-called "low bloods" and will likely never be able to obtain any kind of tribal enrollment, not merely because of low "blood quantum" but also because my ancestors did not live in territory where the Dawes rolls were made. They moved away from the tribe before the Trail of Tears and lost connection with the community.

That's one of my generational wounds, which Creator is healing. I long for the community, to know and be in relationship with the Aniyunwiya, the people. As Uncle Warren once wrote, Creator is stirring the hearts and blood of the "low bloods" to find their way back home. I am one of these.

"Coming home" is my main desire, more than learning the knowledge of the people. Of course the realities of enrollment requirements make that homecoming a little bittersweet. But bittersweetness is the reality of colonialism and Native American history. This is just one place where it impacts me personally.

I've said before that I'm not seeking enrollment, and that is primarily because I know it is an impossibility for me. I believe and hope that I can still know relationship and the reunion my blood has been desiring for seven generations. So I've tried not to lament that I'll never be officially included as part of the tribe.

I've tried not to lament it...

But now Creator is telling me that I need to let that grief out. (Wado, Unetlanvhi.) I didn't know what I would write about tonight, but You drew me out here to help me know I needed to grieve over that. Wado.

The truth is that if it were somehow possible to be enrolled, I would jump at the chance. I would hop up and down with excitement. I would rejoice. I would wear it proudly. And I would seek to learn all I could of the ways of the Aniyunwiya to honor my ancestors and the living community.

But I can't.

A good friend recently began the process of applying for his enrollment because he found he had ancestors on the Dawes rolls. I rejoiced for him and I rejoice with him. Of course I'm jealous.

Mind you, for all the words of encouragement I've received from brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and elders, I am eternally grateful. I know and believe to be true what they've told me that it's just a piece of paper, and that "status" and "quantum" are not what's important or real. I know it's the legacy of colonialism.

I know... but somehow it still means something. It shouldn't, but it does. As I said, it's just where the ongoing legacy of colonialism has wounded me. And I need to admit that to myself and grieve.

Well, onto letting out the grief...


"Where Colonialism Wounds Me"

It's not fair, Creator
You made me this way
You put this blood in my veins
You gave me a Tsalagi heart

I slept for seven generations
But You awoke my heart
You called to me in my heritage
And I answered

My life has been changed
And I know who I am
For the first time in generations
I know who You made me to be

My ancestors prayed for this
For my return to the people
And You answered their prayers
I am coming home

But I can't fully come home
Because of all that has happened
Because of colonialism
Because of generational wounds

I can know the people in the house
I can be loved by them
I can love them and learn from them
But I can never change my address

It hurts, Yowah
I didn't want to face it
I tried not to let it matter
But it does, anyway

Why, Yowah, why?
Why must it be this way?
The wise among our people know better
They tell me it shouldn't be this way

But it is, and no one can stop it
I hate that, Yowah
I know they hate it to
Not all, but many do

I am thankful for them, I really am
I believe what they tell me
But somehow it still hurts
Almost as if it's not really true

It's like all spiritual realities
I now understand—
We live so much by sight and feeling
We take those to be the most "real"

But You always tell us that
What we can't see is more real
Than what we can see
That the Spirit is the truth

Wado, Yowah, Ugodidi Wado
I will accept and live by Your words
I will live by the truth of the unseen
I will live by the Spirit

Until the day when all is made new
When my faith will become sight
When I will no longer see dimly
As through an ancient mirror

Until that day comes, Yowah,
Until that day I will find comfort
In You and in those You have given me
And I will remember that You understand

For people questioned Your lineage, too
They called You illegitimate
They called You blasphemous
They denied Your heritage

They were offended
When You called Yourself
The Son of Your Father
Yes, You know how I feel

Wado, Unetlanvhi Uwetsi
Even to this day they doubt You
Your own tribe does not accept You
And many only accept You in name

Wado, Yowah
The wound of colonialism hurts
But You will bring something
Beautiful out of these pains

I can't wait to see it, Edoda
I can't wait to see the last day
To be with You and my ancestors
With brothers and sisters

We will gather around the sacred fire
The sacred fire of eternity
That will never be put out
Where all will be welcomed home.

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