The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, have been branded forever into the hearts, minds and souls of American people. I'm but one of millions who needs to share something of myself ? one American Indian's view of that day and the week since thousands of our brother and sisters perished at the hands of terrorists. We call them terrorists, but these were men who had no regard for life, not even their own.
How would I know that on my drive from upper New York state to Washington, that previous Friday afternoon, that I would wake up Tuesday to a darkly different world. I was enjoying the drive from a business trip at the Standing Stone Casino and Resort where the hardest tasked I faced was to help an Indian Health Board build a more efficient team. Now I can't even make a simple decision without effort.
As I drove south on 195 I looked to my left and sought the familiar sights of Manhattan, the Empire State Building and the twin peaks of the World Trade Buildings jutting upward as if to reach into heaven.
Now it's Monday of the following week and life goes on. People hustle to get back to work, children laugh and tussle on school playgrounds, husbands and wives rush around like crazy trying to balance work with family life. The sounds and rhythms of America continue in the exquisite dance within the hoop of life.
I've joined the ranks of thousands who got stuck in D.C., and who are out of money from the extra expenses. But that is just an inconvenience, a bug bite to be scratched and put aside. We will go back from where we came and pray for brighter days ? holding dear the people we got to know from the news reports ? those who have lost so much, those whose heroism and love stand taller than any mountains built by man.
Maybe we Native peoples can relate better than most Americans to the horror of such inhumane acts against people. We have branded into our genetics a history of terrorism at the hands of those who saw us as less than human. Who saw us as roadblocks to progress, something to be removed and moved ? out of the sight, out of mind, so to speak.
I am amazed at the endurance of the human spirit. Even when the fabric of our survival is tattered and worn thin, threatening to expose our very souls to the freezing winds of terror, we take stock and apply yet another patch to hold it all together. As Native people we know a lot about the patches that hold Indian country together. Even in patches we can create beauty by adding some quills and beadwork.
First and foremost this is our homeland. The blood of our people mixes with the soils of both coasts to form the very clay of democracy that is America. We have contributed more than most through our service in the Armed Forces to ensure that the Stars and Stripes are forever.
Now in this time of need what role will we play as individuals and as Nations to show the world America and indeed Native America will never cower?
What role will we play to rebuild upon the ground made sacred by the lives lost and heroic deeds performed?