Rachael in GSO

Just a blog about my life, my knitting, my dogs, and my general state of confusion.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Native American History Month

Did you know that November is Native American History month? I didn't until today. I suppose - why would I? But we always seem to know when it's Hispanic History month or Women's History month or African-American History month b/c of things on the news, books that are advertised, etc - why not Native American - you know, the people who were here first? Oh, that's right - probably because they were here first.

At any rate - the place I work, a community college, had four men from the Piscataway Nation here to educate us & perform some traditional dances. It was pretty amazing. The main speaker will be the 29th chief, his last name is Tayac - maybe it was Mark? - in his family lineage, of the Piscataway Indian Nation when his father dies. 29th! That's absolutely nuts - how many of us can track our family back more than 3 or 4 generations?

I find a lot of cultural things fascinating, I think that's probably because I don't have much culture - which is not to say that I'm uncultured - just to say that I'm very waspy. I'm english and scottish and irish and maybe a tad bit german - and parts of my family have been on this continent hundreds of years - the most recent thing I remember seeing in my grandfather's documents about somebody 'coming over' from ireland was in the mid-1800's. In grad school I got into an argument with one of my instructors who insisted that we all had culture OTHER than American in our lives. I don't. I really don't. No Christmas dishes we can trace back to Ireland - no haggis served at Thanksgiving (and thank God for that), no plum pudding, no days of celebration that don't fall on the regular govermental holiday list, seriously - we are simply American. that's it. that's all. and that's enough for me. Though my Dad does have a kilt in our clan tartan, and that's pretty cool...

So anyway, we were here at the beginning, for the settling, the civil war and all that. And what I'm finding distressing today is that my ancestors probably had some level of participation in what happened to the American Indians. I have no reason to think that they actively participated in any horrible acts whatsoever, but they were here and it was happening. I'd like to think that maybe they were involved in some sort of protests, filing briefs against it or publishing books about the horrors that were being done - and I suppose that's always possible, but it seems unlikely.

Watching those dudes dancing their dances today, I can only imagine what it would have been like to see dozens or hundreds of them dancing together two or three hundred years ago. It would have amazing, magnificent, and at least a little bit terrifying.


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