Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is a book that you will never forget. The prose are terse and clear, the images startling, the narrative impossible to digest. It must be read.
“Father, your young men have devastated my country and killed my animals, the elk, the deer, the antelope, my buffalo. They do not kill them to eat them; they leave them to rot where they fall. Fathers, if I went into your country to kill your animals, what would you say? Should I not be wrong, and would you not make war on me?” (Red Cloud, Oglala leader)“It is cold and we have no blankets.The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are -perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” (Chief Joseph, Nex Perce Chief) “We tried to run, but they shot us like we were a buffalo. I know they are some good white people, but the soldiers must be mean to shoot children and women. Indian soldiers would not do that to white children.” (Louise Weasel Bear, Sioux)
If we are to have a chance of becoming anything, we must remind ourselves of who we are and where we have come from. Dee Brown’s book does exactly that.
I always find it difficult to swallow having to apologize or make amends for actions taken before my time and without my direct participation of action and by people I never knew or were ever related to. Call that a cop-out, or an excessively misdirected ego. Very Clearly, the world that I now inhabit is only due to the thanks for the many sufferings of others. So, that makes me, now, as the inheritor of past evil, complicate. Currently in Canada there is an (very under-reported) amnesty or conversation in the style of South African Apartheid. But who is it for? Hell, the records of the conversations are being erased, blacked out, not available to the press and others, so as to ‘protect’ the speakers,.. History is damned to be repeated. For not storming parliament and being shot in the back while I desperately try to change the direction of the Harper Government I am guilty.
Personally, we only have to own up to what we have done on our own – and that’s a lot. As a people, a culture, whatever, the guilt is ours. Unless we just want to forget all about it. I think we learn from our mistakes more than anything else, if we make that effort.