November is Native American Heritage Month. The Native American narrative has long been controlled by a history told through the eyes of the dominant Western culture. In order to change this narrative, we must understand there is a narrative to be changed and a heritage to celebrate.
Let us touch on a few myths. I did allude to some of these details in my last post.
First, the myth that the Americas (north and south) were vast, ‘untouched and uninhabited’. Lies. Historical demographers have estimated the population of the Americas to have been between 90 and 100 million at the time of Columbus’ arrival in the Caribbean in 1492. The population count of the Natives living north of Mexico are estimated at 10 to 12 million. This is an estimate of more than 20 times the number of people of Indian ancestry who would be living in the U.S. in 1900.
According to the United States Census taken in 1880, there were only 306,543 American Indians living within the borders. What happened to the millions who lived there before Columbus and his cronies popped by to visit? The Native people of this land experienced a genocide—a genocide that until recent years has been largely untold and is still denied by some.
For the Natives who managed to survive this genocide, their cultures and languages were denied and their children taken away to ‘civilise’ them. So many of these children never returned. The physical and sexual abuse and even murder of these children is now being brought to the light.
In the late 1800s, what are known as Indian boarding schools could be found across the country and in the Pacific Northwest. Indigenous children were taken to the schools to learn trade skills, ‘religion’ and English. These schools were created under the Civilization Fund Act. One tactic of the program of assimilation was forcing indigenous children to abandon their customs and traditions, with the goal of having them adopt mainstream America’s beliefs and value systems.
The children were beaten for speaking their own tribal languages and forced to speak English. They were not allowed to worship the way they were raised, they were forced to practice Christianity and attend church. Their own clothes were taken away and they were either forced into military style uniforms or western style clothing.
The first federally run Indian boarding school was the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, in operation from 1879 to 1918. Army officer Richard Henry Pratt founded the school, which became the template for instituting a system of forced “Americanization,” using strict militaristic discipline to sever Native American children from their native heritage. It was Pratt who coined the phrase “kill the Indian, save the man”. This horrific philosophy permeated Indian schools for generations. There were over 357 documented boarding schools across the US alone, not counting those in Canada for the First Nations people.
We now know that often these children were used as slave labour. They were required to spend half the day working to ‘teach them responsibility’. They were sent out to do manual work for the wealthier people near the schools, work in the fields or kitchens of the schools or do other menial tasks. The schools benefited from this child labour / slavery both in the case of the sale of student-produced food, livestock, clothing, and other articles of manufacture, and in terms of cost savings where student labour produced the food, sewed the clothing, and mended the buildings that formed the schools’ campuses, or where students were sent out via the “Outing System” to work for local farmers or families who would then be responsible for keeping the students fed and sheltered.
In 1900, the Indian Affairs Annual Reports for that year outlined the laborious domestic work, framed as education, expected from girls attending the school. “The girls are well instructed in all branches of plain sewing, as making new clothes, repairing the old ones, darning and knitting,” wrote the school’s principal, J.B. Dorais. “All their clothes are made by their own hands, and also most of those worn by the boys. They are also taught household work, scrubbing, dusting and general cleaning, cooking, baking, dairy and laundry work.”
In addition to the crimes against our children there were so many of our lands that were stolen. There were 500 treaties made between the United States and the Indian tribes and 500 treaties were broken. Promises have been notoriously broken, time after time after time and each time the Native people lost land and a piece of their identity.
The Indian Removal Act, signed by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, was an unprecedented legal maneuver that gave the president the power to make treaties with every tribe east of the Mississippi, ultimately forcing them to surrender their lands in exchange for territory in the West.
A few tribes went peacefully, but many resisted the relocation policy. During the fall and winter of 1838 and 1839, the Cherokees were forcibly moved west by the United States government. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died on this forced march, which became known as the “Trail of Tears.” In my past life regression I saw that I was on the Trail of Tears with my husband and infant son.
Traditionally, Native Americans lived communally and could rely on one another for support during hard times. That changed after 1887 when the U.S. government carved up reservations into small allotments and parceled them out to individuals and families registered on federal rolls.
The US Government parceled out bits of land for the natives but they then sold off the remaining 40.5 million hectares mostly to non-Natives. The result was that reservations ended up in a “checkerboard” of ownership that left tribes divided and families torn apart.
In 1891, the government authorized reservation agents to withhold benefits from families who refused to send their children to school; some agents resorted to force, abducting children from their homes at gunpoint.
Many parents hid their children or found other ways to resist federal authorities. In 1894, for example, 19 Hopi “hostiles” refused to give up their children and were imprisoned for a year on Alcatraz Island off the coast of California.
In 1928, the government commissioned a study of conditions on Indian reservations. The so-called “Meriam Report” concluded that reservation Indians had not assimilated into the “dominant economic and social system” and were living in a state of extreme poverty on mostly unfarmable land.
The loss of their culture and the horrid ‘reservations’ where the Natives were forced to live has led to so much generational damage and trauma, resulting in high levels of addiction and alcoholism which of course then cycles down to the next generation and the next unless there is someone who breaks that cycle.
Today, there are nearly 6.79 million Native Americans. This in itself is cause to celebrate. Because of the resilience of many strong individuals, tribes have survived. Language and cultural revitalization efforts are growing, and voices are uniting. The resurrection of so many of the Native American cultures, dances, traditions and songs has energised so many of the tribes. There are chefs who are trying to resurrect many of the old foods, there are spiritual teachers trying to resurrect many of the old ways. This is my hope for my brothers and sisters, that they find that hope and light to connect to the old ways.
I myself am trying to connect to these old ways. I am trying to be open to what my creator wants me to do to honour my heritage. Grandmother Robin is the leader whose teachings I am following for learning more about my heritage. Robin has written several books and my Mom has ordered two of them for me.
Robin’s own descriptions of the books is that the first book, “Path of the White Wolf: An Introduction to the Shaman’s Way” is about personal transformation. Only the people who have trained with Robin are authorized to teach that course.
The second book, “Journey of the White Bear: Path to the Center of Your Shaman’s Heart”, is cogent, timely, and is about co-creating ~ exploring your passions and purpose, and learning to weave with family, friends, co-workers and community to serve All Our Relatives in Right Relationship to All Life, including and especially, Mother Earth.
Today I attended our Women’s Soul Circle group. We all set our intentions for the coming year for what we would like to manifest. One of the things I have set an intention for is to study the course with a teacher. I am trying not to be too directive about how I will receive the teachings or from who, I am letting the universe decide that path and I am trusting that it will happen.
The other intention is to become a grandmother. Hopefully that will happen next year if the universe decides it is time.
One thing I am learning is that if something is meant for you, it will happen, whether you want it or not! This was proven to me recently where spirit was calling me in response to a post asking for volunteers for the Church of the Earth, a church founded by Robin. I thought I was not worthy to volunteer, what do I have to offer to such a prestigious learned group of people?
Then when I met with Tass for my ancestor ceremony the subject of the Church came up again.
Then finally Robin messaged me directly and said ‘Come join us!’. The Power of 3. I had tried to ignore the call I had felt because of my own insecurities, but it sought me out. It is obviously meant for me. So I have volunteered and offered to do the social media or writing of articles or whatever they need. Now I am quite excited about what may come from it all.
I am receiving so many messages it is a challenge to keep track of them all much less to interpret them. I woke on Wednesday night and looked at my phone and it was 3:33.
The next day I had to go to the airport to collect Lily very early.
While I was gone Michelle stayed with the dogs as Norm was away and she had been staying over to help me. Finn discovered a rat which Michelle had to wrest away from him. Then when Lily and I got back I discovered that Finn had also found a baby rat. Then a bit later Lily and I heard a noise upstairs and Lily discovered a pigeon in my bedroom. Mr Pigeon pooped on my bed. Lily managed to catch him and release him. We also spotted a lizard living chilling on the wall in the house.
I checked to see what these all mean.
Rats are symbolic of being asked to assert yourself in new areas that you have not yet explored. Furthermore, to challenge yourself by learning something new or taking the uncertain first steps towards your dreams. Thus this spirit animal is letting you know it’s time for “new beginnings” and change. It can also represent clearing away your past emotional issues to make space for a fresh start.
Pigeons are symbolic of fertility and prosperity, fortune, luck, and transformation. Obviously my own fertility functions have long been closed up, but I am hoping it refers to my daughters and that when they are ready they will be able to fall pregnant easily.
Lizards are also a symbol of transformation. They are associated with change and growth.
All of these point towards the desire to explore and learn more about my own heritage and to nurture my healing abilities. I feel that the creator was sending me confirmation that I am on the right path.
I am having such a wonderful weekend. I mentioned the women’s soul circle group that I attended early this morning. We all sat around the fire and chatted and shared and it is always so interesting to hear things from other women’s perspectives. I told them I manifested all of them as this year I asked the universe to bring more women into my life. The universe brought some very kind and empathetic women into my life and I am so grateful for this group.
I mentioned that in this month’s circle we set our intentions, we then all chose a stone and walked down to the nearby waterfall and threw our stones into the water in a wishing well type fashion. There is the most beautiful stone carving of an African woman lying by the waterfall. She is carved out of a single piece of stone. There is no information posted by the piece about the origin of the carving and I could find nothing online. She is a beautiful mystery.
Norm has been away all week and he flew back this morning, it was lovely to see him after so long. I realise how much I rely on him when he is not here especially with the dogs having so many medications to take. Josh drove down last night and his friend Mike is here visiting today as is Caitlin so we have a house full and it is fabulous to hear laughter and frivolity. Our friend Mark has broken his foot and we have his boy Hunter here to give Mark a bit of a break (no pun intended).
Josh and Lily will drive back tomorrow and we will be back to normal next week, just me, Norm and the entourage of beasties.
I am counting my many blessings.
Until next time, Kisses from the Kitten xoxoxoxox