I intended to take a hiatus from writing for a while to deal with personal issues, but a YouTuber named Ami Pacheco inspired me to write again. You can see his thought provoking video here.
He presents an insightful and cogent argument for Native American leadership to step up and act. This piece is in response and support of this thoughtful and bright young warrior.
I feel that Native America today is at an unprecedented crossroad in terms of an opportunity to unite despite the diversity of our individual tribes and nations. The opportunity must be seized now and nurtured toward a movement of inclusion and progress for all Native people. The first step towards this is an abandonment of the politics and the mind set of separation of our people. The old ways of bickering over scraps from the Federal table and ancient grudges must give way to a new way where all are welcome to the circle regardless of region, blood quantum, recognition status and all other methods that divide the Native populations.
I feel that the Native mascot issue is a good test of this cohesion. I am well aware that many feel that there are much more important issues at hand. I submit that if we cannot unite on a small matter it will be impossible to get momentum on more serious issues. I propose that even if you are not interested in the mascot issue to support those who have been fighting for change for the sake of solidarity. The small steps must be taken first for any journey to begin.
The second step is supporting the Native press. If it were not for the efforts of people like ICTMN, The Last Real Indians, The Native American Times and others, important issues like the Albuquerque murders would get no exposure at all. The stories that matter to Native America get very little exposure in the mainstream and that is mainly due to lack of readership. The news today is click driven and it takes large numbers to break into the mainstream. I see this as an expression of self-determination. According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 2.9 million people who self identify as American Indian or Alaskan Native with an additional 2.3 million who self identify as Native American in combination with other races. I am not sure if this includes Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, but it still presents a significant number. With 5.2 million people, it is a fair assumption that one million of those people are literate adults. Those one million people need to start clicking their mice. They need to start sharing these stories. They need to get to libraries if they don't own computers or web enabled phones. They need to register as users of these web sites. If those one million people acted instead of sitting on the sidelines, Native issues would be a consistent presence in the mainstream media. One million people are very hard to ignore.
This supports my third point which is the utilization of the Internet as a means of communication and networking. I have had many positive and some negative experiences using social networking to connect with other Natives across the country. The new movement must make good use of these tools to create places where thoughts and ideas can be exchanged on a global scale.
There is a world of indigenous people to connect with and it is prudent to make these connections and create dialogue among the indigenous people of the world. There are indigenous cultures in every continent except Antarctica that face the same problems of discrimination, access to education and economic development, land and water usage rights and cultural extermination that Native Americans face. Networking and sharing non violent strategies for change would benefit all involved. Taking this step on the continents of North and South America alone would present a powerful voice in the global community that would be hard to ignore. This is also a good move at the local level and is something I have been trying to do in my own region of New England through Facebook. Right now, I have a virtual lodge that is focused on Native veteran's issues. I have thought about expanding this to include issues regarding elders, women's rights, youth education and land stewardship. I have even been given permission by my Sachem and the leadership of the Matouwac Research Center (go here:http://www.matouwac.org/ for more information) to establish a non profit organization and initiate projects to this end. I am still in the organizing stage so if any readers are interested, please feel free to contact me through ICTMN or the Facebook page mentioned in my bio line.
Lastly, what is needed is a return to traditional values. It doesn't mean that all Native people have to practice ceremonies or traditional crafts. What it means is supporting those who do and becoming educated about our individual nations and tribal traditions. These cultural treasures must be appreciated and protected whether one participates or not. It is the traditional mind set coupled with contemporary ideas that will create a better future for Native America. Our cultural knowledge must be seen and treated as something that is precious and valuable. This is the key to seeing our nations and ourselves with a sense of value in the modern world.
In closing, I want to thank Ami Pacheco, all of the Naive nations, all of my ancestors and all of Turtle Island for the inspiration. I believe that a unified Native America is possible today and I know that it can be done. It is and has always been a matter of self-determination. That being said, each of us will determine how far we can go together.
Mark Rogers is a citizen of the Montaukett and Matinecock Nations located in Long Island, New York, where he is known as Toyupahs Cuyahnu (Crazy Turtle). He has served as a grassroots activist in the African American and Native communities and is a proud veteran NCO of the U.S. Army Reserves Medical Corps. He is presently working on a writing career and seeks to aid fellow veterans through his writing. See his Facebook page Toyupahs Cuyahnu/Mark Rogers for more of his writing.