Sunday, October 9, 2022 - 9:47pm
Here at KBOO, we celebrate Native American Heritage, as we honor the Indigenous people whose traditional and ancestral homelands we stand on: the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Tumwater, Watlala bands of the Chinook, the Tualatin Kalapuya and many other Indigenous tribes and nations of the regions of the Willamette River, as well as that great river, known as Swah'netk'qhu, Wimahl, Nch’i-Wàna, Columbia. Many names for the living water force that has sustained this region for countless generations, and provided phenomenal life to our blessed ecosystems.
We believe it is important to acknowledge the ancestors of this land and to recognize that we are here because of the sacrifices forced upon them. In remembering these communities, we honor their legacy, their lives, and their descendants with the forming of relationships to each other and the living world.
Celebrating the heritage of Indigenous peoples is an easy reminder of the long and valuable history of these lands, and indeed of our entire continent. Long before the slow and progressive colonization process, with all its miriad of terrible things that have become part of the history of our nation, our lands were inhabited by humble yet brilliant people, who lived lives in perfect consonance with the world around them. Their legacy is evident in the well known Native American philosophies and understandings of life and the world.
It has never been easy, anywhere in the world, for people to assimilate to an overwhelming, seemingly undefeatable military force, and this has caused enourmous pain and distress everywhere on the Earth. The ages past were barbaric, cruel, and almost difficult to accept as things that actually happened. People who were humble, living with the land, in sisterhood and brotherhood with each other, and who never had the need or resources to develop advanced warring technologies, found themselves overburdened to the point of extinction.
Here in America, during the 1800s and even well into the 20th century, specific policies were developed and carried out by a great number of governmental agencies. Many of these policies were clearly and openly designed to disempower Indigenous people of everything that gave them sovereignty and self-sufficiency. The local, indigenous languages and cultural expressions were made illegal. And this continued for many years, unchallenged by the Federal government, or the Executive and Judicial branches of government. Boarding schools were created, and many Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families in order to ensure they would be assimilated into Standard English American culture and customs. The amount of trauma many thousands of Native Americans have experienced is almost beyond the capacity to put into words. When the language and culture of people is denigrated and ignored to the point of making it illegal, that's when we can safely see things were taken too far. We have lived dark times in this world. But the spirit inside all of us has proven to be indestructible. Our bodies and minds can be easily damaged, but our spirit cannot be destroyed. This belief in the sacredness of life, beyond what we can see, has kept many Indigenous people grounded on what they believe is right, and not only that, but on the best that their ancestral culture, knowledge and philosophy can offer the world.
Today we live in a very different time. The work of countless activists, intellectuals and even entrepreneurs, has propelled our nation to a very different place. A place where we can see the errors made in ages past, and we can deflect them from occuring again, with apparent ease. As a nation, and a world, we are growing up. Western culture and interests are evolving to a point that many of us see as beneficial to us all, *if* we are able to use our massive resources to do what's right, and not only what corporate interests believe is right for them.
We certainly have enourmous challenges ahead, but many of us are certain that it is indeed possible to take action and fix many wrongs that are, currently, de-facto running our entire world. We have a serious, emergency situation with the way we interact with our environment. We see it everyday in what we have named Climate Change, and this is a very real event that is taking place before our very eyes. In addition to that, we seem to have a tragic relationship with our fellow beings in the world, and more and more species are becoming closer to extinction. Butterflies, Dragonflies and Bees are slowly but surely disappearing. Spectacular animals like the Tiger are already considered endangered. The Northern White Rhino became extinct in 2018. The Vaquita, the smallest cetacean in the world, is on the brink of extinction with an estimated of twenty individuals in the wild. And this is not to mention the devastasting Factory Farm paradigm that we live in, where millions of Cows, Pigs and Chickens are treated like lifeless commodities in sterile and unnatural industrial facilities. This is far from the natural ways humans harvested animal flesh before industrialization, and it doesn't show the best that the human spirit can achieve.
At times, after seeing so much disorder in the world, many wonder: are we actually going to make it? Or are we done for? Well, many of us are certain that yes, we are going to make it. Our world is going to make it. Our fellow beings are going to make it. We will not destroy the oceans. We will not destroy the world. We will find a way to organize to a point where we can make real decisions that can be of real benefit to people and nature. And all these superb changes that many of us foresee, must be informed and inspired by Indigenous wisdom. That ancient, deeply philosophical way of understanding how humans are supposed to behave with each other and our environment.
We want to give a special shoutout to Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary, as the Secretary of the Department of The Interior. This is a sign that we are on the right path, because what better person to manage the Department of the Interior than a Native American woman? Last November, Deb issued Secretary’s Order 3404, which declared the word "squaw" to be a derogatory term and created a task force to identify its use in names of geographic features on federal lands and find replacements. This word has a long history of disempowering Indigenous women. Stolen from the word for “woman” in one specific Indigenous language, possibly Algonquian, the word has been distorted and turned into a powerful racial slur, able to remove individual identity and dignity from many women of Native American heritage. This has effectively denied the humanity of generations of Native wives, daughters and mothers. In broad, traditional Native American culture, Woman and Mother are sacred beyond the limitations of our current age, and this must be remembered because it is crucial we accept Woman and Mother, as the givers and sustainers of life, must be honored with all our might.
Regarding this remembrance celebration, and the current administration's efforts on offsetting disastrous past government actions and allowances, here's a White House proclamation.
Let's celebrate Native American Heritage with the thought that we can achieve amazing things in America, if we dare to supplement our policies, actions and goals with Indigenous knowledge, philosophy and wisdom.
Public Affairs Department
KBOO 90.7FM Portland