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The Great Forgetting

Posted on Oct 5, 2007
American Indian

By Eunice Wong

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, located on the Mall in Washington, D.C., is a monument to historical amnesia.  The blond limestone building, surrounded by indigenous crops of corn, tobacco and squash, invites visitors on a guilt-free, theme park tour of Native American history, where acknowledgment of the American genocide is in extremely bad taste.

The beauty of the architecture and landscaping conceals the hollowness of the enterprise.  The first two floors of the four-story building are turned over to gift shops and the cafeteria.  The museum provides no information on the forced death marches, authorized by Congress, such as the Trail of Tears, the repeated treaty violations by the United States, reservations, infamous massacres such as Wounded Knee, or leaders such as Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull), Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht (Chief Joseph), Tashunka Witko (Crazy Horse), or Goyathlay (Geronimo). 

“If it does not talk about massive land theft—3 billion acres of stolen land in the continental United States; if it does not talk about broken treaties—over 400 treaties violated by the United States government and its European American citizenry; if it does not talk about genocide—16 million native peoples wiped out by the United States and its citizenry; if it does not talk about residential Christian boarding schools, about the suppression of our languages, our Indigenous spirituality and religious ceremonies, and on and on, it is literally a whitewashed history,” said Dr. Chris Mato Nunpa of the Dakota Nation, professor and head of the Indigenous Nations and Dakota Studies Program at Southwest Minnesota State University.  “And then they get our colonized, Christianized Indian colleagues to tell the same story that has been told by the European Americans for generations.”

The lobby of the museum is a soaring, glass-domed atrium filled with natural light.  The walls are smooth and white, and a large circle of honey-colored wood, resembling a dance floor, is set into the dark stone of the ground.  Three small boats, all built in recent years—a Peruvian reed boat, an Arctic kayak with a cedar frame and nylon covering, and a Hawaiian canoe—are displayed on the floor, dwarfed by the open space.

The Chesapeake gift shop, with its glass cases of aquamarine stones and glittering silver, all artfully lit, faces the lobby.  The shop displays silk scarves, pottery and handmade designer jewelry, such as a necklace of sterling silver and turquoise for $1,800, or a belt made entirely of tiny beads for $4,000. 


Square, Site wide
The Mitsitam Café is down the hall from the Chesapeake gift shop.  The cafeteria, in natural wood and large floor-to-ceiling windows, groups its native-themed food by geographical region.  The buffalo eye steak with two sides costs $14.50.

The Roanoke gift shop occupies the entire second floor.  Dream-catchers, medicine wheels, aromatic herb sachets, tote bags and books are for sale.  The designer jewelry in this shop runs about $100 to $180.

The exhibits begin on the third floor.  There is a hall for temporary exhibits.  When I visited, it was filled with spot-lit mannequins in native women’s dresses.  The permanent exhibition on this floor focuses on contemporary native life and identity.  There is a hulking Bombardier ice-fishing vehicle, an Alaskan-style mask made of dental mirrors and tea strainers, and a re-creation of a contemporary native living room, featuring traditional Indian blankets on the couch.  There is a pair of red Converse sneakers, entirely beaded, with Indian figures on the high-top ankles.  The tongues are blue with white stars.

It is on the fourth floor that the expunging of history begins.

A video installation, “The Storm: Guns, Bibles and Governments,” is featured prominently in the center of the fourth-floor gallery on native history.  Tall, curving fiberglass panels enclose the viewing space, backlit in shifting shades of blue and gray.  Television screens are set into the panels.

Rapidly scudding clouds appear on the screens, tidal waves, palm trees lashed by typhoons, the debris of cars and houses in floods.  Howling wind, shrill flutes and ominous music are heard as a voice intones:

The hurricane.  A turbulence.  A steady pressure.  Unpredictable.  Uncertain.  It brings death and life.  It creates and destroys.

The video tells us, in oblique, lyrical terms, why guns, Christianity and foreign governments are both bad and good things.  Of Christianity, the narrator says:

We all know Jesus.  He has been with us for a very long time.  Christianity, a weapon of forced conversion, slavery and oppression.  A weapon of liberation and social justice, salvation and eternal life.  Today, many of us are Christians and many are not.

The video closes:

The storm is powerful and unceasing.  It creates and destroys.  It offers life and death, hope and despair.  It is never simply one thing.  The storm is an opportunity.  The storm teaches.  We have learned much.

“The Storm” turns the American Indian genocide into a faceless, mindless natural disaster with a silver lining. 

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By Partizannka, June 14, 2010 at 10:15 am Link to this comment

A couple of thousands of dollars for a string of beads!! I will never manage to understand that!!

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By eleanorlebeau, January 10, 2008 at 10:34 am Link to this comment

Indigenous writers and scholars began discussing NMAI’s offensive “cultural amnesia” before the museum even opened its doors in September 2004. For a more in-depth discussion, see American Indian Quarterly’s special issue called “Critical Engagements with the National Museum of the American Indian,” which contains nine thoughtful essays. (Vol. 30, Nos. 3 and 4: Summer/Fall 2006).

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By Shenonymous, December 14, 2007 at 12:46 pm Link to this comment

There are a lot of folks who post here that do not celebrate Xmas for some reason or another.  I don’t because I am atheist.  I hope that doesn’t put anyone off but if it does, sorry, life is a bitch, then you die.  Whether or not you might consider this trite or too sentimental, I don’t really care what you think.  But if you do happen to appreciate the spirit in which it is posted, then here’s to your laudable credit. Because there is such turmoil and sadness in the world at this time, and because there are so many different people with various beliefs that are often at odds with each other, I am proposing something to you, that a few others and I will participate in, that is to celebrate the universe, the planet Earth, and yourself, your consciousness by jubilating in the Winter Solstice.  What some of us are doing is on December 21 or 22, depending on where you are at in the world, the solstice happens, we will raise a toast to remember the love we have of the universe, the Earth, others, and of course, ourselves.  If you don’t know what the solstice is, I am directing you to a couple of websites that explains it much better than I could ever.

Some of it refers to your regular variety religious holiday associations, and pagan events.  For me none of these are interesting as there are the perennial selling efforts that is anathema to my mind.  And I do not subscribe to any religious order of any stripe.  But I do have always in my consciousness the wonderful experience I am having with this life I have found myself in and the lovely people I have had the pleasure to learn of and some even to know.  And I honor it at this time since winter solstice is the beginning of a new year, and with it the possibility of a better being in the world.  We can celebrate the world, and ourselves with all our warts and beauty marks, can’t we?

8 days to solstice

You may see this invitation elsewhere as I hope to be ubiquitous with it.

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By Douglas Chalmers, December 1, 2007 at 3:57 pm Link to this comment

117271 by Kilantra Ouspenskaya on 11/30: “Would we show the life of Christ without the scourging, and suffering on the cross…”

Sadly, that is exactly what does happen at this time of year, Kilantra. People revert from the Christian to the pagan winter solstice ceremonies.

There is nothing wrong with that except that they then ludicrously fantasize about Jesus being born in a “manger” without understanding the galling reality of the story.

Think about a stinking filthy cowshed at the back of the inn. They had to lift Mary up into the hay in the manger (where the cattle feed from) to get her out of the shit and piss on the dirt floor!

Anyone who has ever been to a country fair where there are livestock penned for a few days on show or to a dairy where there is a milking shed will know exactly what I mean, uhh.

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By Kilantra Ouspenskaya, November 30, 2007 at 11:52 pm Link to this comment
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Would we show the life of Christ without the scourging, and suffering on the cross?  Of course not.  Why omit the
cause which put is where we are today?

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By Christie, October 30, 2007 at 8:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you, shenonymous. That’s very in keeping with what I was trying to explain.

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By Shenonymous, October 30, 2007 at 4:01 am Link to this comment

The keyword is ‘understand.’  One track minds do not lead to understanding.  It is called not being able to think beyond blind emotion.  You just can’t get it.  It is not like the world does not know about suffering.  Every ethnic group has suffered in one way or another since men discovered ways to subjugate other men.  Why don’t you and others who think as you do put up billboards across the nation about the vanquished American Indians, then the world can see it, constantly?  Perhaps you enjoy gutwrenching since you seem to need eternal visual reminders of living on this ‘stolen blood soaked land.’  Your melodrama is a personal psychology.  What Jews would do in Germany is something you would not know.  And what do you know of African American museums?  Try the Kendall Whaling Museum, in Sharon, Maine.  It doesn’t mention slavery but rather exalts the mastery and skills of African Americans in that industry.  Or check out the Bridgewater State College Hall of Black Achievement that cherishes and respects the achievements of African Americans throughout American history and if slavery is mentioned at all, and I haven’t found it, it is en passant. 

The massive crimes you mentioned are not ignored, for if they were you would not know about them.  I bet you never took a classor even read a book on the atrocities whites committed on Native Americans.  And if you did, well there you go, they were not ignored.  Oh, by the way, there are about 10,600,000 references on Google for American Indian museums, that’s like over ten million!  If you want to know the gutwrenching bloody history, I’d bet again it could be found there, plenty.

The Native Americans who put this museum together are amazingly enlightened people.

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By tentaculata, October 18, 2007 at 9:04 am Link to this comment

Thank you Outraged.

Celebrating living culture is possible without defecating on history.  By all means feature the work of living artists, tribal dances, and “daily life.”  But HONESTLY ACKNOWLEDGE THE PAST WHILE YOU HONOR THE PRESENT. 

I have been to the museum.  It IS tantamount to holocaust denial and it does not matter who is doing the denying.  The fact that this museum was designed and curated by Native Americans only makes it more appalling. 

A simple policy fact: The Smithsonian Institution and the United States government that funds it necessarily approved the Native Americans involved in the creation of this museum.  Otherwise they would never have been permitted to be involved.

White men did not kill Sitting Bull.  He was shot in the chest and in the back of the head by two of his own people – Red Tomahawk and Bull Head – who worked for the white men.

There have always been, in the relations between whites and indigenous peoples, the “hostiles” and the “friendlies.”  The hostiles included the likes of Sitting Bull, Geronimo, and Crazy Horse.  The friendlies assisted the whites in subjugating the hostiles.  The friendlies did as they were told. 

The NMAI is a disgrace.  A disgrace to the country, a disgrace to those who designed it—regardless of their race and PARTICULARLY if they were Native American—and a disgrace to history.  The friendlies are all over it.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, October 8, 2007 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment

Tao Walker, I’m sorry Confucious thinks I have a keyhole view of the world.  Now, he has no view of the world and soon I’ll have none, too.  I don’t know about you.  I don’t think you’re going to go too easily.  With such a highly developed sense of self and of the world, you’ve got a lot to work through before you buy the farm.  I’m jealous.

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By mike kohr, October 8, 2007 at 5:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Excellant article,  “The Great Forgetting.”  It reminds me of the quote, “What seems to matter most is the great silence,  the denial of any holocaust.”
Carter Revard -Osage-

You may wish to visit a page on our website called “Your Heroes Are Not Our Heroes,”  Often quoting the words of our nation’s greatest heroes, this page records the Native/Euro discourse and conflict from Columbus, to the bloody preacher John Milton Chivington,  to George W. Bush.


mike kohr
International Brotherhood Days

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By P. T., October 8, 2007 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

Putting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. was kind of ridiculous—like putting the Museum of the American Indian in Berlin.

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By P. T., October 8, 2007 at 4:26 pm Link to this comment

There is no way the Indians are going to get into the Holocaust Museum, any more than the Christian Armenians have.  The Armenians have the problem of Israel being allied (however loosely) with Islamic Turkey.  The Indians have the problem of having had the U.S. as a nemesis and of the analogy of the Indians with the indigenous Palestinian people.  The Holocaust Museum is to a substantial degree about trying to build sympathy for Zionism.  All of this museum stuff is politics by other means.

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By TAO Walker, October 8, 2007 at 2:58 pm Link to this comment

RML (#105542) makes a worthwhile suggestion here, though one wonders how willing the Zionist interests who’ve so monopolized (and “capitalized” upon) the “Holocaust” brand-name, would be to let the Native Peoples in on it.  Then there’s the high probability (make that absolute certainty) that very few if any of us surviving free wild Human Beings would want to fall into that self-pity party trap anyway.

The real agenda of the institution-in-question-here’s instigators is revealed in the “American” part of its name.  Had their focus been genuinely on The People, it would be called something like The Museum of the Native Nations of Turtle and HummingBird Islands.  Even then there would be the unavoidable odor of virtual embalming fluid in the word “museum,” which is invariably associated in the minds of the domesticated with the curiosities of an effectively “dead” past.

Speaking (no ill) of the dead, Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, again weighs in heavily (#‘s 105496-539) on the side of those who would have Humanity, as such, trapped forever (or until the last “dog” dies) in the “dog-eat-dog” virtuality so many are unable to see their way clear-of here in these latter days.  His gratuitous (and grossly inaccurate) ascribing of something he terms, sardonically, “lofty thinking” to those of us who don’t share his own bleak assessment of our Human Nature and actual condition, betrays a kind of terminal resignation to the captivity he probably can’t admit he is in.

Besides, he’s got it exactly backwards….not so surprising for someone stuck in a Heyoka world.  It is his adored “civilization” that is in fact the product of “lofty thinking.”  The Song ‘n’ Dance of LifeHerownself, on the other hand, is not a “product” at all….being entirely primary and originating and not at all secondary (or tertiary or quaternary or etc.) and derivative.  His is the “keyhole” view of the world Confucious says is appropriate only to very young children.

If Shenonymous (#‘s 105512-552) means by “teach (those who are soured on) America,” that she intends it to be exclusively by-example rather than by the usual shock-and-awe instruction, she at least makes a start toward a more grown-up approach to things.  It’s a daunting undertaking, though, because one of the more ingrained and enduring flaws in theallamerican character is americans’ penchant for studiously ignoring the festering rot in their own polity while making pet-projects of Peoples elsewhere, who by-and-large end-up a lot worse-off for america’s attentions than they might’ve been without them….Afghanistan and Iraq being only the most currently telling cases-in-point.

As GreatGrandDaughter White Buffalo Woman is fond of reminding us lately, however, that’ll all come out in The Wash.  It’s her wise way of keeping our attention on the Great Purification Ceremony we’re all fully engaged in these Days.  Washte!  And….


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By Amy L. Beam, Ed.D., October 8, 2007 at 2:51 pm Link to this comment
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Your essay is masterful and moving.  I had the same experience of awe and disgust the first and only time I visited the Native American museum.  I will not honor it with another visit.  Of course, it’s okay for the Smithsonian to build the Holocaust museum so Americans can point to the atrocities of the Germans, but they dare not show the holocaust against Native Americans.  If we did, we as a nation would have to admit to the atrocities of our forefathers, right up to the current Bush administration.

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By P. T., October 8, 2007 at 2:34 pm Link to this comment

Buffy Sainte-Marie is among the followers of the late TV preacher Gene Scott, who advocated, at about the time of the Gulf oil war in the early 1990s, “to nuke them [Iraqis] in the name of Jesus.”

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By Shenonymous, October 8, 2007 at 1:32 pm Link to this comment

Then we must teach those who hate us (America), that we all are not wrong, that a great many of us are rational, humane, and have a great love of the commonfolk and the Earth.  Yes, there will always be the attempt at political control.  Humans give life to governments and humans can take that life away.  It is the motive of greed and power always at work, it seems to be genetic to all animals, but even those animals lower than humans find ways to co-exist most of the time, and I italicize that “most of the time.” But very few, infinitesimal really kill for anything other than food and its source even if tht means territorially.  As rational and reflective creatures, humans have the unique facility to arbitrate that primordial tendency. Your humorous jibe at Bush is fully appreciated,

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By RML, October 8, 2007 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The genocide of the American Indians should be PROMINENTLY featured in the Holocaust Museum. The hundreds of thousands of visitors to that site should leave with a deep understanding of our American holocaust which nearly anihilated all the tribes of this continent.  Such a permanent exhibit would educate American visitors to their own national guilt. The Museum of the American Indian could then rightfully focus on the culture and art of these decimated peoples, and the renaissance of those who have survived.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, October 8, 2007 at 12:35 pm Link to this comment

Agreed, but America, who considers itself to be highly moral and ethical is hated by nations who think we’re wrong (delusional.)  There has to be moral and ethical consensus and I doubt we’ll ever get it.  I think there will always be a way for a government so inclined to rationalize its behavior, moral and immoral.  Big rationalizations these days are religious.  Get rid of religion and we might have a chance.  In the meantime, be ready. (Furriners is my little dig at G. Bush)

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By Shenonymous, October 8, 2007 at 9:31 am Link to this comment

As you say, the genie is out of the bottle and mankind has evolved, even if we want to call it a smidgen.  Thinking beyond one’s personal or immediate group’s survival is how we humans have evolved.  Certainly you don’t want to take that away from us and we can now, that is, have the ability to think and talk ourselves out of war!  The furriners (silly way of calling foreigners, marauders in this case I believe), may be not yet evolved but that is how the world has worked.  Mental development didn’t take place all at once.  Prejudices and avariciousness has been mediated in many of today’s societies and although not exactly perfect is in a state of development toward the better and moral state.  Anything else is misery for the unique thinking brute.  As you ought to notice in your rush to reply, I indicated that steps to protect one’s physical self is only rational.  Perhaps the early and world of the cave was not built on “lofty thinking,” but the ancient Greeks did have the greatest of rational and high-minded thought.  The kind of thinking we ought to go back to doing.  And the time spent on that is the only way to saving humankind.  Mind built the bomb, and mind can keep from using it.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, October 8, 2007 at 8:24 am Link to this comment

Agreed, lofty thinking is a good thing.  Just don’t let it take time away from your preparing your defense against immorally acting furriners invading and taking your stuff, unless your lofty thinking is all you need to sustain yourself.  The immorally behaving furriners won’t care if you don’t like or agree with them and they won’t even care if they can’t take your thinking from you.  If your lofty thinking is all you need, good for you.  I doubt the world was built on lofty thinking, although I accept it might be better had it been.  I don’t think we can change that now.  The genie is out of the bottle, as they say.

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By TAO Walker, October 7, 2007 at 9:11 pm Link to this comment

This Person’s old friend WolfChild from Rocky Boy’s was Buffy Ste. Marie’s uncle.  She visited family there more than once.  Her voice alone can carry one’s Spirit to good places.  TwoSkirts ((#105352) herself offers both wisdom and encouragement to all of us here, and a fine example of “rising above” the demoralizing “logic” of a “dog-eat-dog” world-view.

Shenonymous (#105399) also rises above it, and reminds us that we have available the experience and thoughts of good Persons and Peoples from everywhere to help us get, all together, through the present “troubles.”  Douglas Chalmers (#105405) offers a specific example, in the founder of Aikido.

Mike Mid-City (#105404) points out the crippling effects of hypocrisy and denial.  Finally, mary (#105427) makes it clear there is no healing from any of it apart from facing squarely up to those things in our conduct and character that betray a lack of integrity. 

Several others here also demonstrate the possibility, indeed the necessity, of coming together as Human Beings to address our difficulties and respond to them in ways that are beneficially effective.  This is, after all, the very essence of our organic function within the Living Arrangement of our Mother Earth….Humanity’s own steps and verses in Life’s Song ‘n’ Dance.


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By Ed, October 7, 2007 at 8:05 pm Link to this comment
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The great United States genocide is why I won’t recite the pledge of allegence, why I will not fly the flag and why I will not sing christian hyms at funerals. I am not a patriot and I disdain any religion emimating from the Middle East.

The history of slavery and genocide shows the reverance for the U.S. constitution and founding white fathers to be a ruse and a control for the wealthy oligarchy. It’s all been about wealth and power before and since the Boston Tea Party. And even after the constitution was ratified and we are given all these rights, agents for the U.S. government and their ilk trample and kill with impunity. This “law of the land” is a joke. It’s about paper; mostly money.

The United States is a bully empire and, as with all empires, it’s demise is certain. It seems to me that it is now rotting from within.

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By Douglas Mahnke, October 7, 2007 at 7:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A museum that does not acknowledge the genocide carried out by the government of the United States located in a city that has a professional football team named “Redskins”?  No contradiction there.

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By mary, October 7, 2007 at 6:56 pm Link to this comment

The atrocities of the past can’t be changed, but if we don’t discuss and learn about them and acknowledge them, won’t we be doomed to repeat them….......

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By Gary Carper, October 7, 2007 at 6:31 pm Link to this comment
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I think the main point of Eunice Wong’s article, at least what I take it to be, that white America’s refusal to acknowledge the true nature of its historical and ongoing relationship with   its native population is a form of denial which helps to make current and future atrocities (such as the invasion of Iraq and perhaps of Iran) possible is a brilliant and instructive insight.  Americans have always preferred the myth of “How the West was Won” to the brutal genocidal reality which underlies it. It sounds to me as though this museum is tantamount to holocaust denial.

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By Douglas Chalmers, October 7, 2007 at 5:39 pm Link to this comment

#105399 by Shenonymous on 10/07 at 3:18 pm: “...advice on how not to lose is useless because 1) if you presuppose your enemy is out to get you, you put yourself in a state of paranoia…... One could take lessons in a martial art called Aikido, which is called the way of unifying with life energy, or the way of harmonious spirit…”

“The Art of Peace is medicine for a sick world….
There is evil and disorder in the world because people have forgotten that all things emanate from one source….
Return to that source and leave behind all self-centered thoughts, petty desires, and anger….
Those who are possessed by nothing possess everything….”

Morihei Ueshiba

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By Shenonymous, October 7, 2007 at 4:18 pm Link to this comment

Greed has no moral boundaries because it is a measure of immorality.  The Dr. doesn’t know it all.  Dr’s meager advice on how not to lose is useless because 1) if you presuppose your enemy is out to get you, you put yourself in a state of paranoia which if left unchecked can lead to hallucinations. 2) defending oneself can take many forms, mentally or physically, and one can only “make sure,” to a certain degree; again one can become paranoid and spend an unhealthy part of one’s life in some irrational self-defense mode.  One could take lessons in a martial art called Aikido, which is called the way of unifying with life energy, or the way of harmonious spirit, and that would probably keep one always prepared for physical attack, and studying philosophy would keep one continuously ready for mental attacks. Also the Dr. doesn’t say what the loss is about, is it to not lose at anything?  That would be a delusional expectation about oneself.

Arguments can be civilized or not.  What is useful in arguments depends on the nature of the argument.  If an argument is civilized, then it is entered into with agreed to rules of engagement, if there are rules of engagement, then morality does play a role; morality is defined as ethics.  If it is not civilized, then the outcome is dependent on innumerable factors: strength, armaments, the weather, one’s continuing health, nourishment, cleverness, etc., however one wants to define each of these.

The Dr. is a simple pessimist, not really an all-knowing skeptic. The comment about Dr. Phil is really about the value of history, and quite contradicts Dr. K’s opening sentences about the uselessness of history.  The entire commentary is an example of weak argumentation.

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By Dale Headley, October 7, 2007 at 11:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The extermination of the native population of half the earth was just another in a long line of Christian depradations, including the Crusades and the Inquisition.  Wither wentest the church, there followed death to those who refused to kneel to the god of the Europeans.

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By TwoSkirts, October 7, 2007 at 10:56 am Link to this comment

So I was watching Buffy Sainte-Marie on Rainbow Quest with Pete Seeger (Episode 38) singing “My Country Tis of Thy People You’re Dying”.  It is one of the most heart wrenching songs anyone will ever hear.

I watched, and I listened, and I wiped the tears away.  And I felt the tears dry on my face, and it made me think: Are we supposed to cry forever, or can we let the tears dry? 

What I’m saying is, on my visit to the SNMAI last year, I had a different feeling.  I grinned at the cultural merchandising, I must admit.  I had the same grin on my face when I walked through the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. 

The thing is, I felt a sense of the desire to acknowledge the past while desiring to continue moving forward.  To not allow the injustices of the past and present to render us motionless - especially since ***that is the goal.***

My mother and I are Chiricahua (Chokonni), my dad is Irish (and totally supportive of our matrilineal culture).  Believe me, I know the histories of both branches of my ancestral roots, and both families and the nations from which they came had really tough times (understatement).  We still do. 

But that doesn’t mean that we’re not allowed to rise above.  The sentiments in this article seem to suggest that people need to have permission to move forward and thrive.  I tend to disagree.  If it’s permission we need, let me tell you this:  Our ancestors would NOT be happy to see us dwelling on negativity to the point of paralyzation.

Yes.  Let us acknowledge the atrocities of the past.  But the past cannot be changed.  Let us do everything in our power to stop the atrocities of the present and prevent the atrocities of the future.

That is what I felt as I walked through the SNMAI.  It’s the same feeling I get when I go to pow wows and other NDN cultural events.  Yeah, there’s stuff for people to buy, some of it’s a true credit to our respective cultures and artisans, and some of it’s crap.  Some of the recordings are truly inspirational, and some are just pithy.  But due to the blessings on the events, and due to the diligence of those presenting the bulk of the cultural material, the atmosphere is always positive.

The point is this:  My country, tis of… - thy people ain’t dead yet.  And we ain’t gonna be.  We got too many songs to sing and too much dancing to do.  We got demonstrations to organize.  We got ancestors to make proud.  We got dialysis centers to build, habits to kick, and kids to teach.  Let’s go people.


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By Leefeller, October 7, 2007 at 10:37 am Link to this comment

Posted but not sure by whom, looks like T.W. via P.T.

“religions at least have the sophistication and compassion to acknowledge we humans are only one small part of this planet and would not survive without respect and gratitude toward the rest of the life forms living on this small blue orb.”

Yes the sophistication of religion has been very apparent throughout history.  Demeaning of women, for entertainment we had the inquisition, then calling people witches and burning them at the stake, manipulation of young minds molded from birth.  The list goes on. Rephrase to say, the manipulation by religion has been very apparent throughout history.

Duplicity has always been a tool of religion and government, depending on which one is using the other at the time, symbiotic relationships we see today.

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By TAO Walker, October 7, 2007 at 10:05 am Link to this comment

Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD’s “history” (#105305) is sure as hell the “zero sum game” s/he describes so gleefully here (expecting to end up on the “winners” side, probably).  The Song’n'Dance of LifeHerownself is not such a mono-dimensional construct, however….which is why this present particularly “western” version of “history” is so rapidly reaching its pre-ordained null conclusion.

P.T. (#105337) just keeps on trying to avoid having to face the howling emptiness of his/her own half-“life” (as a “civilized individual”) by projecting it onto the effigies s/he cobbles together out of willful misconstructions of others’ words here.  The hard fact is, us Ickche Wichasha are not required to conform to P.T.‘s ill-conceived images of us….even if we didn’t already have much better things to DO/BE/DO/BE/DO.


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By P. T., October 7, 2007 at 9:14 am Link to this comment

TAO Walker free and wild?  Poseur is more like it.

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By Paolo, October 7, 2007 at 8:20 am Link to this comment

When you meet a man who can admit he was terribly, terribly wrong, you have met a great man. Such men are extremely rare.

The same goes for cultures and civilizations.

Most, if not all, cultures and civilizations have a lot to be sorry for. It is a rare culture that owns up to the most sordid elements of its past.

I have known good Germans—fine, hardworking, good-hearted folks—who tell me quite earnestly that “not everything Hitler did was bad, you know.” Which is not quite the point.

Most White and Black Americans have no idea, to this day, of the crimes committed against the indigenous tribes. When told about those crimes, they usually either don’t believe it, or they shrug their shoulders and say, “well, the Indians committed crimes, too.”

Sometimes, you’ll hear, “yeah, but that’s all just history now. We need to move on.” This is similar to the argument for staying in Iraq: “sure, every reason we gave was bogus and a lie, but we’re there now, so we we gotta stay to fix things.” Old data—let’s just erase it.

Or, you’ll hear from seemingly intelligent, thoughtful people: “Well, if two cultures collide, the one with the better technology always wins. The inferior culture gets destroyed. That’s just the way it is. No need to feel sorry about it.”

Human beings have a remarkable ability to rationalize their crimes, don’t they?

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, October 7, 2007 at 4:40 am Link to this comment

Peoples’ opinions about behavior in history are just that, right or wrong.  We know that knowing history has little to nothing to do with its repetition.  If you’re a loser, you can find a thousand reasons, moral or otherwise, to blame the winners.  If you’re a winner, you can get on with the next conquest.  The best thing to do, if you don’t want to be a loser, is to 1. assume your enemy is out to get you and 2. make sure you can defend yourself.  It also helps to recognize when you’re in your enemy’s sights. Greed has no moral boundaries and morality, therefore, has no useful place in arguments about what peoples do to one another, unless, of course, you just like to argue morality.  “All’s fair in love and war.”  Rodney King said, “Can’t we all just get along?”  The answer to that question is, “Hell, no!  How can we change after, what, a million or so years of human history?”  Dr. Phil says, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”  Dr. Knowitall says, “If you have a lot, bring it to America.  We’ll help you keep it (after taxes).  But remember to make out your will.”

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By Antonio Lopez, October 7, 2007 at 2:06 am Link to this comment
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I found the museum to be a powerful reassertion of presence. Sometimes it’s necessary to acknowledge you are alive and you survived. How long can we dwell in a land of ghosts?

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By TAO Walker, October 6, 2007 at 11:30 pm Link to this comment

Time was when such questions as P.T. pretends to pose here (#105280) had to do with us driving Model Ts and wearing Stetson hats.  Sorry if her/his “picture” of us surviving free wild natural Human Beings comes from Hollywood, National Geographic, and the Travel Channel.

But here’s one for P.T.  How come the wasichus are all so obsessed with their “evil white” gadgetry?  Any fool can use it, the proof being that so damned many of ‘em do.  To us it’s all just stage dressing and movie props….“special effects” you might say.  It shows-up.  It stays around for awhile.  It slips away again.  Meantime, the Song ‘n’ Dance of LifeHerownself goes on and on and on and…........

So P.T.‘s pride-and-joy toys don’t loom anywhere near as large in our lives as they likely do in his/hers.  We’ve already seen electro-mechanical configurations, that were orders-of-magnitude more subtle and sophisticated than today’s crude appliances, get “civilized individuals” who were a lot smarter than today’s stunted crop into way worse trouble than P.T. can probably even imagine.

We’re just not that impressed with what is, after all, essentially nothing but a rather limited choice of furniture arrangements, here in these latter days.  And anyway it’s kind of fun being able to watch somebody get all worked-up over the delivery system for these squiggles on a screen, while their actual meanings seem to escape her/him altogether.

Us surviving Savages can do anything P.T. can do with any of this stuff.  Of course there’s a lot of it that just ain’t worth the bother….and even more that’s much better left un-done.


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By P. T., October 6, 2007 at 10:23 pm Link to this comment

And what’s a so-called “old Savage” doing on such evil white inventions as the computer and Internet?  How free and wild is that when compared to, say, the Aztecs?

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By P. T., October 6, 2007 at 10:11 pm Link to this comment

TAO Walker again dodges the question.  Guess it’s tough when you’re caught between evil Hispanics and evil Indians.

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By TAO Walker, October 6, 2007 at 8:16 pm Link to this comment

P.T (#105201) again conveniently cuts short a quote, evidently to “prove (a) point.”  Then s/he pretends to seek an answer to a question that really has no meaning.

The critical distinction to be made among the parties to the Cortez/Moctezuma donnybrook is not found in their ethnicity, or even their beliefs.  The two principals were really only superficially different one from the other, anyhow….slight variations on the basic human physiognomical theme, strikingly similar tastes in wardrobe, some consequential (but not all that marked) technical differences in choice of arms, and other trivia of that sort.  All of that comes essentially to nothing, however, when set beside the all-subsuming trait they shared….both were thoroughly “civilized.”

Those “....Indians who helped Cortez,” on the other hand, were no longer altogether free and wild, having come under the thumb-tip of the Aztecs.  Yet neither were they completely domesticated, living as they were at the edges of that empire.  Which is why this old Savage described them earlier (#105094) as being between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place, once the Spaniards showed up on the Gulf Coast.  There’s was truly a Hobson’s choice; whether it was better to provide slaves and sacrificial victims for Moctezuma, or slaves and murder victims for Cortez.

Other subjects of the Aztecs did choose to side with “the devil they knew” against the hairy-faced newcomers.  All of these “primitives” came to pretty much the same ends….in the end.  Maybe that does somehow “prove (P.T.‘s) point,” whatever it is. 

As to whether this surviving free wild Human Being “....blame(s)....” those who came to that common grief as allies of the conquistadors, it’s a silly question.  No one here in Indian Country blames any of those forced to choose between accommodation or resistance, whichever way they went.  Hell, we don’t even “blame” the wasichus for anything.  They could no more help doing what they’ve done here than shit can help rolling downhill.

That doesn’t mean we’ll mince words when describing the happenings of the last half-millennium here on Turtle Island.  We don’t shrink, either, from taking note of the glaring discrepancies between what the euroamericans have preached at us, and their actual practices.  If they don’t come out looking so good on that account….well, it sure ain’t us Ickche Wichasha (who never had any inclination to “convert” anybody) they have to “blame” for that.


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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, October 6, 2007 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment

Ga, good point.  It’s dog-eat-dog out there.  When you have something someone else wants or even feels entitled to, you’d better protect it or they’ll invade and take it away, along with your life.  Maybe we should all re-think our attitude towards our military; that’s probably all that’s stopping furriners from coming in here and stealing our stuff.  If the indiginous peoples had unified and bought a few more guns, they probably could have beaten back the intruders. But, alas, the language barrier, geographic separation, their own squabbles and so forth probably helped make that unlikely.
As the islamo-fascist muslim extremists continue to systematically drain our resources to the point we can no longer defend ourselves, us whities may end up on reservations run by the sand people.

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By prairdog, October 6, 2007 at 5:24 pm Link to this comment
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The National Museum of the American Indian is only a few years old.  There will be future exhibits that deal with this controversial history.  The founders and curators are not “sell-outs”, but chose quite consciously to begin their presence on the Mall as a Celebration of the cultures and peoples of the Americas. Pride before anger serves better as a dialogue position.

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By P. T., October 6, 2007 at 2:16 pm Link to this comment

Whatever the Indians’ (and everybody elses’) shortcomings, I do agree that saying they deserved to be invaded by Europeans is like saying the Europeans, due to their wars and so forth, deserved to be invaded by Huns.

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By Hammo, October 6, 2007 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment

Looking at United States history and current developments within the U.S. from the perspective of Native American Indians can be helpful for all of us.

The troubling activities we see in Washington, DC, are not all that new.

In addition, thanks to a new focus on our genetics and ancestry, many Americans are taking a second look at the Native American Indian DNA deep within some family trees.

Food for thought in the article ...

“Who is a Cherokee? Many Americans have Indians in the family tree” (March 6, 2007)

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By desertdude, October 6, 2007 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

Everyone, has the Idea that the Indians were perfect.
Give me a break! I grew up in the Dakotas and I can tell you they were not. They even tell stories in their tribes how they destroyed the “People.” Learn a little from Antropology and you soon find out they were waring tribes that fought constantly, which by the way included slavery.

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By P. T., October 6, 2007 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment

“Native American, First American (or whatever the current term for the hundreds of nations still surviving the bloodbaths of American duplicity) religions at least have the sophistication and compassion to acknowledge we humans are only one small part of this planet and would not survive without respect and gratitude toward the rest of the life forms living on this small blue orb.”

The sacrifices made of young women were kind of sexist.

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By P. T., October 6, 2007 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment

“Those ‘....Indians who helped Cortez (supplant) the Aztecs,” for example, were trapped between the ‘rock’ of the gold-lust of the former and the ‘hard-place’ of the blood-lust of the latter….and/or vice versa, as it turned out.”

Now you’re singing a different tune.  You just proved my point.  And can you blame the Indians who helped Cortez?

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By steve, October 6, 2007 at 11:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Be sure to protest any celebration of Columbus Day this coming Monday.

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By Leefeller, October 6, 2007 at 9:11 am Link to this comment

Cortez, after all did bring Christianity to the Aztecs, must have done something with,  the world being flat when Christ was born?

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By Douglas Chalmers, October 6, 2007 at 6:35 am Link to this comment

Interesting that this memorial to Native Americans and their history of ther suffering was written by a woman of Chinese origin.

It is also very intersting to look at the history of China and, in particular, the voyages of admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He/ San Bao) and his voyages of discovery between 1405 and 1433.

Quote Wiki: “His voyages, records, and maps are suggested to be the sources of some of the other Ancient world maps, which are claimed by Menzies to have depicted the Americas, Antarctica, and the tip of Africa before the (European) official discovery and drawings of the Fra Mauro map or the De Virga world map…...

Gavin Menzies in his book “1421: The Year China Discovered the World” claims that several parts of Zheng’s fleet explored virtually the entire globe, discovering West Africa, North and South America, Greenland, Iceland, Antarctica and Australia (except visiting Europe) (and) the Arctic Ocean…..”

This is significant because it is now believed that Cheng Ho may have been the first to discover the Americas (and Australia). If the Ming emperor in China had acted differently, the history of the Americas would be today written in Mandarin and not in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Needless to say, the experiences of the Native American would have been far different, too. China is a nation made up of 55 different language and ethnic groups. They already had a long history of assimilation and co-operation and trade whilst the Europeans were still mired in their own arrogant “warring states” era.

The Admiral Of the Western Seas: “However, a new Ming emperor had come to the throne. His scholar-officials criticized Zheng’s achievements, complaining about their great expense. China was now fighting another barbarian enemy on its western borders and needed to devote its resources to that struggle. When a court favorite wanted to continue Zheng He’s voyages, he was turned down. To make sure, the court officials destroyed the logs that Zheng He had kept. We know about his voyages only from the pillar and some accounts that his crew members wrote…..

Thus, China abandoned its overseas voyages. It was a fateful decision, for just at that time, Portugal was beginning to send its ships down the west coast of Africa. In the centuries that followed, European explorers would sail to all parts of the world. They would establish colonies in Africa, America, and finally in the nations of East Asia. China would suffer because it had turned its back on exploration. Zheng He had started the process that might have led the Middle Kingdom to greater glory Unfortunately the rulers of the Ming Dynasty refused to follow his lead…..”

All sounds rather like another “emperor” and his “court’s” fated decisions in Washington, today?!?!

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By cbx, October 6, 2007 at 5:55 am Link to this comment
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All religions are corrupt, especially Christianity and Islam. Native American, First American (or whatever the current term for the hundreds of nations still surviving the bloodbaths of American duplicity) religions at least have the sophistication and compassion to acknowledge we humans are only one small part of this planet and would not survive without respect and gratitude toward the rest of the life forms living on this small blue orb. Our European forefathers, however greedy and rapacious, were no worse than present-day Americans and our leadership who rape and pillage this planet to keep the stock market growing and the rich merchants who run this country, richer.

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By Verne Arnold, October 6, 2007 at 5:47 am Link to this comment

When I was 15 years old I submitted an essay to a friend of the family who had a 5 minute radio spot in Portland, Oregon; it was sponsored by Portland General Electric Co.  That was 47 years ago (1960).  I valued his opinion because of his “fame” for this great spot.  The theme of my essay was the violent history of conquest by the U.S.A.  I covered the history of America from Plymouth Rock to the present and detailed the persecution (murder) of Native Americans and black people; I believe we called them Indians and Negroes at that time.  I was roundly condemned and told this was wrong and irresponsible and not true, period!  Sure I was naïve, but I knew then that he was wrong.  It forever changed the way I saw “my” country.  Three years later at a dinner at his house, with my mother and father present, this person violently, verbally, attacked my views of the “war in Viet Nam”.  It shocked my parents and this man’s wife…but I didn’t back down…I knew the truth.  History later vindicated me and he knew it. 
What’s my point?  Good question.  There is the condition of being a free human, not tied to any imposed doctrine.  A free human sees for themselves and this freedom allows a clear view not clouded by any doubt.  This clear view is not so much the result of thinking; more correctly, it is the result of seeing…and seeing has nothing to do with thinking.


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By TAO Walker, October 5, 2007 at 11:55 pm Link to this comment

Why then does P.T. (#105084) juxtapose, without any qualitative or quantitative disclaimer, the well-documented and systematically pervasive “brutal treatment” by invading Europeans of Native Turtle Islanders, and the sporadic and essentially occupation-driven “brutal treatment” of some Native Peoples by others (#105064), if not to assert some kind of at least partly exculpatory equivalence?  As for this old Heathen’s “....ignorance (being) appalling,” well whose isn’t….P.T.‘s evident share of it included?

Those “....Indians who helped Cortez (supplant) the Aztecs,” for example, were trapped between the “rock” of the gold-lust of the former and the “hard-place” of the blood-lust of the latter….and/or vice versa, as it turned out.  Most of them were ground to dust anyhow, in the ensuing events.  Cortez had “civilization,” and all its vices, in-common with Moctezuma, after all.  Neither of them had any common feeling at all for the hapless and effectively doomed semi-wild-and-free Indians caught in that particular “clash” of the damned things.

P.T. might find Leslie Silko’s “Ceremony” helpful as a means of filling some of the gaps in his/her own knowledge and understanding of all that has transpired here on Turtle Island since even before the actual advent of European “civilization.”  This old Person sure did, even after having already lived through an awful lot of it.


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By P. T., October 5, 2007 at 10:11 pm Link to this comment

“P.T., along with many other would-be apologists for the privateering criminal enterprise wrapped in “Old Glory,” suggests furtively it is excusable”

I didn’t say that.  Your ignorance is appalling.  By the way, can you really blame the Indians who, given their treatment by the Aztecs, helped Cortez?

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By P. T., October 5, 2007 at 10:01 pm Link to this comment

“You have to be kidding yourself to think for one second that Europeans somehow have some moral superiority over native Americans.”

I did not say they did.  Try to pay attention.  Europeans have developed more advanced technology to enable brutal warfare.

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By TAO Walker, October 5, 2007 at 9:50 pm Link to this comment

P.T. (#105064) seeks to equate 400 years of attempted genocide here, by mostly European invader/occupiers, with a thousand generations of relative territorial equilibrium among hundreds of Native Nations, a balance established and maintained in-part by mostly ceremonial skirmishing along the boundaries.  It did get bloody sometimes, but that was widely regarded as a greatly inferior performance.

When the Europeans staggered up onto the beaches of Turtle Island, though, and began immediately and with malice aforethought to upset the long-standing Living Arrangement here, the rules-of-engagement changed drastically.  Their ruthless avarice and brutal conduct drove too many of our own People reluctantly to respond in-kind to incursions by both their Native Sisters and Brothers and the wasichus displacing them. 

It has been a long hard struggle both to persevere as free wild natural Human Beings, and at the same time to penetrate the material and institutional and ideological and psycho-emotional stockades within and from which those fear-and-death-ridden aliens, who’ve assaulted us viciously in our homes, alternately cower and attack.  We’ve been fortunate in that all we’ve really had to do, for the most part, is wait ‘em out.

Our patience and persistence are what have us ready now to once more fulfill the organic function of Humanity within the Great Hoop of LifeHerownself here.  The americans’ve had their chance to learn what we ourselves could’ve, and would’ve, helped them to grasp.  They have adamantly refused.  They wanted “property” and “power” and “prestige” instead, until now their grip on even those make-believe things is slipping away….as they are themselves fading into ignominious oblivion.

P.T., along with many other would-be apologists for the privateering criminal enterprise wrapped in “Old Glory,” suggests furtively it is excusable because of some transient squabbles and misunderstandings (some of them violent, to be sure) between stressed-out members of the Two-Legged “family” here on Turtle Island.  We’ve all put those troubles behind us today.  The americans’, on the other hand, are only just beginning.






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By Paul_GA, October 5, 2007 at 9:21 pm Link to this comment

Reading this article, I find myself thinking of one of the most inspirational Native American heroes in cinema—Lone Watie (played so memorably by Chief Dan George in THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES):

“We thought about a long time—`endeavor to persevere’. And when we’d thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union.”

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By Ga, October 5, 2007 at 8:54 pm Link to this comment

This type of exhibit is telling on two levels.  Europeans’ brutal treatment of the Indians is greatly passed over. And so is Indians’ brutal treatment of each other.

And just what does that mean? That it was okay to treat them the way they were treated?

What about the Europeans’ brutal treatment of every friggin non-european they ever encountered? What about the Europeans’ brutal treatment of each other?

You have to be kidding yourself to think for one second that Europeans somehow have some moral superiority over native Americans.

War has been part of human kind… European, African, Asian… New World, Old World…

Only a sick, ignorant person, who knows nothing beyond nationalist myths, would think that “their” heritage is better than any others’.

Yes, there was warfare among Native Americans. Who are you to say whether or not it was more so or less so than warfare among Europeans?

Let us add up the number of deaths caused by one people of another. Who shall prevail as less blood-thirsty?

Let us add up the number of deaths caused by one people among themselves. Who shall prevail as less blood-thirsty?

Which culture has come up with the idea of “trial by ordeal?” Which culture came up with the Inquisition? Which culture burned people at the stake for their religious beliefs?

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By P. T., October 5, 2007 at 7:57 pm Link to this comment

This type of exhibit is telling on two levels.  Europeans’ brutal treatment of the Indians is greatly passed over.  And so is Indians’ brutal treatment of each other.

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By TAO Walker, October 5, 2007 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment

All of the above has made america’s “national psychosis” INEVITABLE!  Ask Gore Vidal about “the United States of Amnesia.”

Us Ickche Wichasha do not forget, though.  This old Savage has been to the place described in this article.  It is indeed a monument to nothing but the fatal flaws in americans’ “national” character. 

No People can go on living so divorced from the Song ‘n’ Dance of LifeHerownself.  Wovoka’s vision of Turtle Island rid of the self-serving wasichu, and restored to the beauty and plenty we enjoyed before the Europeans stumbled drunkenly ashore, is even now beginning to show through the threadbare shroud the americans’ threw over us in their death-cult invasion and nightmare occupation.

We remember.


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