Values and integrity have always been respected by traditional Native peoples, but when colonization forced its way onto this land, dishonesty and treachery took a terrible toll. Even many mainstream Americans are tired of it, but still don’t understand where they went wrong. Here’s a sample of things mainstream America needs to understand—add your own in the comments.
Honesty and Integrity
Out of the 500 treaties signed between tribes and the United States, none have ever been fully honored. History proves that at the time of contact, Native nations couldn’t even imagine such dishonesty.
Today, oil companies are trying to force pipelines, fracking, and uranium mining onto reservation and treaty lands even as other areas already suffer oil spills. America needs to develop a truthfulness in their dealings and a sense of responsibility for their actions, not just with tribes, but with the whole world.
Wet’suwet’en blockade photo courtesy of UNISTOTENCAMP
Prioritizing Who Is Paid Well For What
In today’s America, the most financially rewarding jobs are often paid to people in power. For those who work to benefit society, the pay is usually much less. Rather than seek personal power, ideally, Native politicians do what is best for the tribe. Self-serving actions are frowned upon. Success, wealth, and a rich life should not be measured by money.
Appreciation for Women
According to the Six Nations Traditional Women’s Council Fire, clan mothers traditionally held great influence in the well-being of their Clans and Nations. They have authority as life givers, as holders of the land, and a deep understanding of the price of war.
For humanity to see all sides of an issue, the woman’s perspective must be included in important decisions.
Women on the frontlines in Elsipogtog First Nation territory, protesting fracking in 2013.
Kinship and the Relationship Between All Beings
How would relationships change if all teachers and students, businesses and clients, saw each other as relatives? Would truth and honesty increase? Would business include a general feeling of love and respect for clients? Would food be processed differently? Would the earth be treated with respect if the four-leggeds and wingeds were considered relatives?
Americans respect positions of power. Natives respect the natural power that comes from wisdom and the knowledge elders carry forward. Natives respect the earth mother while Americans respect the money that can be made from developing the land. Some Americans are beginning to pick up on this, but too many businesses and politicians have no interest in protecting the people and the world around them, because they don’t respect the people.
Respect is about living in the right way, honoring the earth, the people, and all beings. Respect is barely even covered in Webster’s Dictionary.
Americans don’t understand the meaning of life, and buy lots of books on the subject. Depression and disconnectedness are the result of not understanding the world in a spiritual manner. A relationship with Creator, appreciation for humility, and the ability to make the most of one’s journey in preparation for the next world, gives meaning to life.
The Sacredness of Life and Intention
Carol Iron Rope Herrera, Lakota, explained the difference between giving birth to a child with family present singing and praying, as opposed to a baby landing in the hands of a medical doctor, a stranger, who is on a schedule.
Ceremonies, rites of passage, help children and adults understand their roles at home, in their community, and in the world. Mainstream Americans rarely see life in a sacred manner among all sacred beings.
Carol Iron Rope-Herrera is a well-known Lakota leader of preserving the family and traditional ways.
Charles A. Eastman, Lakota, wrote in The Soul of the Indian, “Parents often gave so much to the needy that they frequently impoverished themselves, thus setting an example to the child of self denial for the general good… Children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving.”
Many American individuals are generous, but few understand the Native way of just passing on what is needed until you or someone else need it again. True story: A woman on the Mojave Reservation got a new washer and dryer, and all of her neighbors brought their laundry over.
Carol Iron Rope Herrera said, “Us women have been taught that this Mother Earth has taken care of us, so we have to be like her essence. She never abandoned us, she is here, she nurtures us every day, she protects us, she feeds us, she clothes us.”
Mother Earth is still alive and well, but won’t be if profiteers continue to wreak havoc with her.