As a Cherokee Native American activist and a former member of the Richmond California Violence Prevention Movement, I have seen close to 515 homicides in the city of Richmond from 2001 to the present.
The declaration of a “war on violence” by the Richmond city government was not a panacea; it failed miserably.
I have often stated in town hall meetings and on television, the best way to win the war on violence in Richmond is to teach the values of peace.
In the killing fields of Richmond, most of the victims of homicides are youth or young adults. Teaching the values of peace begins with them. From a Native perspective, winning the war on violence begins in the home with a strong spiritual belief and value system.
We believe that the Creator made holy all generations, past, present and future. This is what our elders teach us from the time we are born.
Our families and elders teach our youth that they must tear away the images and stereotypes that mainstream society has placed upon them as Native peoples.
Violence and killing is not a traditional staple in Native culture, it is a learned behavior from mainstream society.
We teach our youths not to attack, punish or beat themselves up for crimes that they have never committed in regards to racism. Our elders and families teach our young people to have good self-esteem, self-worth and self-value, for as the original, holy people this was the Creator’s plan.
Native people know that it is both a family and community responsibility to teach the values of peace to our young people.
We teach our young people honesty and accountability concerning violence. It begins with accepting responsibility for self and acknowledging any past use of violence.
Admitting any wrongdoing, communicating openly and truthfully to renounce the use of violence in the future places our youth on the right path. We place a heavy emphasis that all life is sacred.
The final lesson in teaching the values of peace is quite simple. It is helping young people understand their relationship to others and all things in Creation.
Be responsible for your role, act with compassion and respect, and remember all life is sacred. Native culture is prevention.
– Mike (Ali) Raccoon Eyes Kinney