All journeys have a beginning and an ending. No matter how large or small the endeavor, it begins, and—at some point—it will most assuredly come to an end. The substance of the journey is everywhere in between the start and finish of it.
Arguably, the most important parts of the journey are encompassed within the first steps taken. They are the learning moments. The “starts” that in hindsight were merely, “false Starts”. The falling down and getting back up … and falling down again. The education of a journey comes only from walking the path in front of you and learning from each and every bump in the road. These moments foster experience and wisdom. They are only set backs if we refuse to learn from them. Later on down the road, we find ourselves calling upon those very early moments in the journey to apply the knowledge we’ve learned from our previous experiences in order to remove obstacles from our path; so that we can continue on, unobstructed.
Each piece of the journey builds upon the next phase of it. Those phases become the chapters that are recorded, collected and assembled chronologically into the book we call our lives. The hope in looking back at all of the moments throughout our journey is that we find we were good students. That we were able to be calm and find the solutions to the problems—no matter how loud the rain and thunder happened to be at that moment in our journey. We would hope to find ample times where we kept our head up on the journey to look around and see the things that we were passing by. That we were accessible to help others “stuck in the mud” in their journey by sharing with them how we had previously “unstuck” ourselves. That we cherished the journey in as much as, we could have easily become frustrated with all the unplanned moments that arose during it. The point is that all the moments of the journey are important and define who we were, who we are and who and what we are remembered as having been. The moments at the start of the journey might be compared to the “edged” pieces of a puzzle. They are the pieces that are most easy to assemble. They lay the framework for the image that begins to come together with each piece that is laid. Several different oddly shaped pieces that we slowly put together throughout our journey that one by one start to form the picture that the Creator painted of us before our birth. Every piece is important. No part of the picture is greater than any other; the sum is a total of its parts.
Much in the same way that all parts of a journey are important and that all pieces of a puzzle are important to create the finished picture—I believe we as the indigenous people of North, Central and South America are the sum of all our parts. It is impossible to leave out some pieces and still complete the picture. I believe it is impossible to speak of “Indian Country” and think of only one group of tribes in one region or country. Thinking this way undermines the journey and makes impossible the completion of the mural that the Creator painted for us. We are one out of hundreds. We are hundreds out of thousands.
And yet we are the descendants of boarding schools and policies of genocide. We are still healing. We are also the providers of the core ingredients that Benjamin Franklin took to create the Constitution of the United States. We are not savages. We are the victims of raids that specifically targeted women and children to break the spirit of its men. We were slaughtered. We are the saviors of visiting pilgrims to this land who became sick and whom we helped nurse back to health. We are compassionate. We are a people who were told and then shown that we were "less than" and that we were not "good enough." We were demoralized. We were business people who gathered in the thousands to do intertribal business and non-tribal business at multiple locations in North, Central and South America. We are entrepreneurs. We are also a people who might not think we are now “good enough” to give a casino or economic development contract to another Indian business because it may not be "good enough."
We are still regaining our self-esteem. It has been said that a race of people no longer exist not when they lose their language or elements of their culture—but simply when they forget. I think it is possible when you forget your journey or large pieces of it, that someone or something will be more than happy to make it up for you.
Have we forgotten the possibilities available to us today? Those that our ancestors implemented into their daily lives? I have often wondered to myself if, collectively, we as Indian People really understand the value we offer to the world? I believe the paradigm shift in Indian Country will happen when we are not afraid to remember our past in whole, embrace it, teach it and then rise beyond it utilizing the lessons from it. Then we won’t need to become, "Good Enough"—we will remember we always were.
Litefoot is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. He is a Native American entrepreneur, musical performer, actor, author, and motivational speaker. More information about Litefoot can be found at www.litefoot.com.