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A Better Way to Conceive of Our Being and Existence

Prior to invasion and colonization by the Christian monarchies and nations of Europe, our cultural and spiritual worlds were intact. Our free and independent ancestors had a definite spiritual understanding of their own identities, as distinct nations and peoples.

When the invaders arrived, they worked for centuries to destroy our original languages, cultures, and traditions. They worked to replace our original free existence with their own European languages and traditions that were Christian based. To this day we live with the aftermath of that imposed domination, from which some of us believe we have the perfect right to free our nations and peoples.

Christian evangelism in those days was violently directed at all non-Christian peoples, with the insistence that everyone, and especially every infant, be baptized into what Christians deemed to be “the one true faith.” Non-Christians were at that time deemed “outlaws” and enemies of the state who needed to be either killed off, or “reduced” to Christian “civilization,” often by enslavement and forced conversion. Those who were unbaptized could be killed with impunity, or worked to death, cheated and stolen from, and collectively shoved off the land to make way for a Christian life.

When I look at what we’ve been through at the hands of the invaders and of the governments that emerged from those invading patterns, it has clearly been an effort to eradicate us as distinct nations. It’s as if the invaders all along have been saying: “You are required to accept our Domination.”

What is today called “federal Indian law” in the United States is nothing other than the metaphorical construct of a Christo-European reality system. Even though we are the original nations of this continent and this hemisphere, we have been living for generations under the hypnotic effect of that Christian European belief system with its underlying presumption that it’s the one true reality. It’s as if the dominators have been saying: “You must willingly accept the system of metaphors we have mentally created for your containment; it’s the only Reality, and it’s the Law.”

If we keep replicating and maintaining “federal Indian law dominance” for ourselves, we have only ourselves to blame. Repeating the same dysfunctional, unhealthy reality over and over again and expecting a functional, healthy reality to emerge from that replication is simply another form of craziness. If we consciously embrace the concepts, ideas and behaviors we know result in the same problems we say we want to solve, then how can we blame anyone else for the outcome?

Additionally, the dominating society has devised particular words and phrases for our political integration into its system. Whenever we think, talk, and write about ourselves in terms of the ideas that the dominating society has devised for that purpose, we are working against our own interests. We do this whenever we talk about ourselves in terms of the names and phrases that construct a dominating form of reality for us: “tribes,” “tribal nations,” “domestic dependent nations,” “quasi-sovereign,” “proud to be an American,” “our founding fathers,” “we need to accept the plenary power of the United States,” and so forth.

The more we use such self-diminishing words and phrases, and the longer we refuse to devise alternatives, the more rapidly we are destroying our political distinctiveness as the Original Nations and Peoples of this continent and this hemisphere. Political self-integration works by naming ourselves in terms of the very words the dominating political system has devised as its means of blending our nations and peoples into its predatory body politic.

Every time we unquestioningly use self-dominating vocabulary, we are assisting the predatory body politic to digest (incorporate) our nations and peoples. The only way to stop that process is by refusing to identify ourselves in terms of their dominating reality system. The issue of “discovery” has been a means of getting us to focus on a much deeper issue: The unceasing effort by the dominating society to eliminate our identity as the original free and independent nations of this continent and this hemisphere.

Getting us to identify ourselves with the very system that has worked so hard to destroy our existence has been a goal of the dominating society for generations. That was the purpose of our relatives being programmed and abused in the indoctrination-centers called “boarding schools” and “residential schools.”

Now a new and troubling trend is developing. It is the effort by some to convince us that, in the name of a “belated nation-building process,” we ought to willingly incorporate ourselves into the system of domination imposed on us. It is being falsely suggested that the subjugation and destruction visited upon our nations and peoples will be magically transformed into something beneficial through a process of “incorporation” that is being termed “healing” and “reconciliation.” We are being told this will be accomplished by “incorporating” ourselves into the political system of “the state” that has worked so diligently to destroy us. All we have to do is give that dominating system our free and informed consent. My suggestion: Don’t believe it for even a second.

Steven Newcomb is the co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (2008, Fulcrum).