Tuesday
Sep212004

« Hope »

Every now and then in life, something goes right.

I was listening to NPR's All Things Considered today. There was a story about the new museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. Apparently there were 20,000 people from over 400 tribes all across the USA, and some from Canada, Mexico and even as far down as the Andes! There were parades of tribes from everywhere. Some were in their traditional garb, playing traditional music. Some were in blue jeans and T shirts. All these people were in the US capitol celebrating the opening of the museum. I mean, just think of that. Washington DC used to be the root of all evil for the Indian population in this land. Treaties signed, treaties broken. There are 500 years of troubled emotions that, for a day at least, were put to rest. For once, the white man did something basically good, and gave the native people a place to shine. The museum is not some white man's telling of the history; the tribes were given a massive amount of input, and from what I have heard, the stories told are real ones told by real people living today. First person accounts are what make this museum special. I'm amazed that congress let that one slip by.

Yesterday, when there was an hour given to the museum's opening on Talk of the Nation, one of the men who called up wanted to sing the praises of Richard West, the main man behind the project. This caller just yelped out his joy that West had seen this project to completion. He wanted to call and say that Richard West would go down in tribal history and folklore, and how would he (West) like to be remembered, in his own words, for doing such a great thing for so many people? This caller was just totally overcome with emotion. It's not too often you hear a grown man cry on the radio.

Another thing I don't think I ever took to consideration was that there are Indian veterans. There were Native American Vietnam vets there too, which if you think about it, is a mindbender too. The thought of these people joining our army is still bouncing around in my head. I don't know if that is a sign of resignation to the white man or not. But these vets were marching along in the parade nonetheless. I wonder what it takes to join the army that killed your ancestors and eradicated your lifestyle. And then I wonder what it is like to not only do that, but to go out and fight people in a foreign country which lives a life not altogether unlike the one that your ancestors once lived. Vietnamese and the Native Americans weren't too different in some regards.

I got a bit of hope out of hearing these two shows about the museum. The museum is trying to be assertive and honest. They could have taken the opportunity to use it as a white bashing forum, but they used it to try to be an educational opportunity for their own people and non-Indians alike. Richard West put it in perspective. He said that the last 500 years of their history was only about 5% of their history here in this land. He wanted to show that these people are a resiliant bunch. I guess that you gotta find hope in that kind of thinking.

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