Alex Shantz simplifies this controversy in concern of removing Native American symbols and language from our educational institutions and other institutions (“Remove the mascot,” May 13).
His movement is a national movement known as Decolonization, supported by a small minority of individuals from what is known as Dominant Culture. The greater culture and society of today is the dominant culture. The Decolonization movement takes the past and un-recoupable encroachments by aggressive cultures of history to genetically link a responsibility to modern society for those transgressions. When in point decolonization is just another non-repairable belief system that is presented from the dominant culture perspective and view.
Before the theory of decolonization in the mid-1990s surfaced the positive theory of Cultural Regeneration for Tribal people became a key element in the movement and ability of tribes to adapt, change and meet the needs of the people for the tribe. Understanding this tribal perspective gives us another view in concern for which Shantz fails to speak too.
From 1899, the tribal people were banned from their system of following traditional, spiritual and sacred ways that guided the people in their community system and belief system. In 1970 to 1972 Richard M. Nixon returned to the tribal people the sacred right to practice their religion. With that movement cultural regeneration brought the sacred drum, the sweat, the dance and the traditional spiritual beliefs back into the lives of many tribal people in modern culture.
Yet, for Native Americans to be able to return from the brink of extinction in their own way, in their own system of belief and self–determination, our dominant culture must always make the educated choice. The greater enemy today of native people is the “final promise of assimilation.” And everything we do in regard of tribal people has a positive or negative response, because we are the dominant culture, we are the greater element which at times has its eyes closed to the struggle of tribal people in this land.
Shantz colors his diatribe with the “genocide, poisoned and mass killings of indigenous people.” What with his predisposed perspective and view from dominant culture it is the truth of “mankind” historically. Undeniable and indefensible.
Yet, how far in the history of “mankind” do we go back? Shall we talk and discuss the wars between indigenous tribes that in most cases terminated one tribe for the needs of another tribe? As I was once told about European encroachment and oppression of native people, blame the Romans, blame mankind it is in “his” nature, it is the way of the world.
Shantz declaring his ally to decolonization is mandating this system offered by this organization. “As stated in decolonization: While decolonization can be an act of cultural revitalization, it also requires the dismantling of the colonial government and the entire social system upon which control and exploitation are based. This is a struggle that has historically involved peaceful negotiations and/or violent revolt and armed struggle by the native population.” Further, “We are committed to dismantling all systems of oppression, whether they are found in institutional power structures, interpersonal relationships, or within ourselves.”
Again from 1899 to 1972, Native Americans were obscured from the view of dominant culture. The acts of assimilation obscured them. In Vaudeville we could see Hiawatha, hear “Drums Along the Mohawk” and the woo woos from Pocahontas. Redmann appeared and wooden Indians were everywhere. It was the belief that tribal children were getting church educated to become citizens and Americans. We can “save the indians … we can help the noble savage” was the motto. From this time to now Native American images and symbols have entered into dominant culture in positive form or negative form.
I am a representative for the Native American Guardian Association, and we believe in the protection of Native American symbols and language. Eradication of Native symbols and language viewed by dominant society is an act of assimilation. We believe that education is the greater value to being a part of Native American tribal cultural regeneration.
The greater majority of tribal people in this nation are our members. For the Napa High Indians, it is not a difficult reach to establish integrity. To establish traditions that are sensitive to Native Americans and to bring indigenous studies into the classroom.
I look at the local decolonize group as many other groups past and present that believe they can “save the Indian.” In some way, this is always the way of dominant culture view and perspective, they can somehow repay the debt to Native Americans. Yet not. However in their process they claim disrespect, but they in turn disrespect the true indigenous people of Napa. By obscuring the tribes’ sovereignty. And that is assimilation.
Dalton J. Piercey
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