WHITE FRAGILITY AT MUSIC FESTIVALS: A Native American’s Experience With Hippies

Every indigenous person is on a different level of personal understanding of their culture and it’s practices. We have our own internalized struggles that are focused on decolonizing our lives and weeding out the influence of society upon our own lifestyle. Not only do we have to fight to maintain our traditional values in our own community, but those values that we do protect to are watered down in American society for the sake of our survival. They only want us if we are practicing our culture on their terms, and even then we have problems.

Here’s what I mean by that. It’s hard enough being a minority in America even when you’re trying to live is part of the system. It’s a struggle to be the white man’s Indian. It’s a struggle to get a job and be part of the system as a minority. You can only imagine how difficult it is if we did not water down our practices for the sake of survival in the system.

The sense of discomfort we have is an everyday struggle. Whether we are struggling to fit into the system, or whether we are struggling to survive outside of the system, we live with a level of discomfort that European Americans will never fully experience or understand. At least, that’s what I thought.

I was invited to a music festival buy a friend of mine. The first thing I thought of was a bunch of young white men and women dressing in suede fringe and wearing dyed turkey feather headdresses. I was assured it was not going to be like that. Trusting their word, I decided to go.

To my relief, I did not see anyone wearing anything that was inappropriate. What I would consider the hippie community seem to be very aware of the recent discussions on cultural appropriation. Everyone was very positive and I could not and could not tell if they were genuinely happy, or they we’re just really good at keeping a peaceful demeanor. We’re just really good at keeping a peaceful demeanor. Even when they got into disagreements, they formed sentences that can only be described as the most offensive positive words I have ever heard. You would think in such a positive environment, people would be open to all walks of life. I found that this was not the case and even hippies have limitations on their willingness to accept other people.

My friend who invited me to the festival who just so happens to be Apache was having a discussion with me at the dinner table. We were discussing modern social challenges involving Native American people. Things such as the very real consequences of the genocide and assimilation we still have to struggle with today. We talked about the conditions on the reservation and how it was intentionally engineered to be that way by the American Government to keep us from progress. We talked about our uncomfortable situations having to put on a mask simply to exist in society. Occasionally I would look up at the people around the table who seem like they wanted to chime in on the conversation, but their face is expressed that they felt extremely uncomfortable with the discussion between me and my friend.

One by one people’s discomfort got so bad that they started to leave. Eventually by the end of the conversation we had cleared the entire table. Why is this such a big deal? This could have been the very first time in their lives that they felt on a very basic level, what we what we feel every single day. They felt discomfort but had the privilege of simply getting up from the table and walk away. We don’t get that same privilege. Not a Native American or any other minority in this country has that privilege. We have to live with discomfort day in and day out on top of all the other social challenges we face in this country. Every single day we have to live with the discomfort that they couldn’t even handle experiencing for 10 minutes eating dinner.

If you are a European American I’m hoping that you could read the words in this article and reflect upon them. If you were sitting at the table, what would you have done? If you would not have spoken, would you have at least listened?

I would like everyone reading this article regardless of ethnicity and regardless as to whether or not there the majority or the minority in the country. Step out of your comfort zone every now and then to expand your understanding and worldview. In the same way an individual must step outside of their comfort zone to progress in life, you must also step out of the comfort zone to progress your mind.

NATIVE AMERICAN BOARDING SCHOOLS: What Can Indigenous Millennials Learn From Them?

 

As an indigenous man living in 2017, I can never understand the trauma that my grandfather’s generation suffered during the boarding school days. I can’t even pretend that the modern educational system is in any way comparable to the horror that they experienced. I can, however, apply critical thinking to the past and recognize patterns in the present. We have the opportunity to look at the past as a lesson to better navigate our future. We do not have to repeat the past! As a parent myself, I look at my two year old son and feel extremely sad knowing that one day his energetic curiosity is going to be systematically destroyed by the public educational system. School is the first step towards assimilation and I personally will not willingly subject my child to indoctrination.

There’s not many Native American families who have not been affected by the boarding school system. If you have ever had experience with Catholic School, it was kind of like that; only a lot worse. We’ve all heard about people getting their mouth’s washed out with soap or being left with cuts and bruises from the physical abuse inflicted by the nuns. If they were willing to do that too young European American students, you can only imagine the horrors that the young Native American children had to face during boarding school.

They really thought they were doing us a favor. They thought that they were going to kill the Indian inside of us and save the man. They thought they were saving us from a life of “savagery” and conditioning us to a life of civilization. We as a collective unit in the Native American culture are still feeling the consequences of the indoctrination of Western thought and philosophy to our culture.

Many families have stories of white men dressed in fancy suits coming to take away their children. The parents of the child had no say in the matter. The children would be abducted from the family because it is the law for a child to go to school. To this very day parents do not have the opportunity to withhold their child from education without consequences from the legal system.

Just for a moment, let’s pretend that boarding school was not abusive. Let’s pretend that boarding school was no different than the modern education system and the child was being brought to kindergarten. When you have a culture that is focused around family, where children were traditionally mentored by a parent or relative, the very thought of their child being taken away to participate in kindergarten would be nothing short than traumatic.

How could we as a society have gone so far from our roots to not be traumatized at our children being taken away from the home and placed in a seat where they are to sit there for multiple hours a day. If the child does not sit and listen, which seems to be against the high-energy curiosity of a child to begin with, they are diagnosed with learning disabilities. Don’t worry though, I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies will appreciate drugging your child up so they’re able to sit half comatose in their seat absorbing information.

Does this not put into perspective how indoctrinated we have become? In just a few short generations we now willingly send our children to school. Many people now take pride in their child succeeding in the educational system. In fact, the educational system to some people is the only way they think they can protect indigenous values. Some people leave to college and claim that they will come back and use their education to help their people. Some people decide that education is a waste of time and would much rather stick around to learn the ancestral lifeways because they do not teach those thing in college.

Thankfully, there are options. There are families that home school their children. This gives them the opportunity to mentor their children. Sure, you will have to teach them all of the standardized education not the law requires the child to know, but many of these families also take the child out in nature to teach them valuable life skills. These families also teach their children how to survive in society.

People say that the educational system is doing nothing more but creating a wage slave, but I don’t even believe it does that. If it was true, they would have taught you how to apply for a job. With the modern educational system if an employer asks what your qualifications are for the job, the young man or women right out of high school may respond with a blank stare followed by “Lincoln was the 16th President.” They know schooling has taught them nothing relevant to most of the jobs in the workforce.

Yes, that is what college is for. The only useful education is the one you have to pay for. The only useful education is one you don’t receive until you’re 18 years old, whereas it was common for children in indigenous cultures to be mentored by a parent or relative as early as the age of 6 to 8 years old. The best part is they didn’t have to go into debt or pay an arm and a leg for this practical education.

Hopefully by exploring alternatives to the public educational system, we can nurture a child’s natural curiosity and develop upon their passions and interests instead of systematically breaking the individuality and free will as if a cowboy was breaking a horse. I will not allow my child to become a broken human being.

THE ILLUSION OF SOVEREIGNTY: The Fight Against Native American Oppression

If you’re in a relationship that is not healthy, there is only so much you can handle before you decide that you’re done. You can’t handle it anymore. You remove yourself from the situation. That is what some of us has done to cope with surviving the oppression of a broken system. The best way to fight a broken system choosing not to feed in to it.

It’s no secret that Native Americans are treated as unfairly as any other minority in the country. Well, it may be a secret to the rest of America who thinks we’re rich with casino money, but the reality of life for an Indian is very different. Genocide started over 500 years ago and continues to this very day. Every single day is spent both suffering the consequences of what happened to our grandfathers, as well as dealing with the problems we face in the present time.

The problems we face are not the same, but are very similar to other minorities in America. We have to wear a mask for the sake of survival to function in society. We learned English. We packed away our traditional clothing to instead wear a suit and a tie. We participate in the educational system and the workforce. We’ve adopted the life of a white man. We willingly kill the Indian and save the man to the point where a modern Native American living in the city may have a life that is completely indistinguishable from everyone else, yet we are treated like we are unwanted.

Every minority has worn this mask for survival, yet society still does not accept any of us as equals. We all fight the same uphill battle to survive in society every single day. For 500 years we’ve been fighting but we have essentially gotten nowhere.

Making use of a roadkill Squirrel.
The meat was eaten and the hide was
tanned and turned in to a bag.

Where do we go from here? How can we force a system to accept us when it’s clearly not part of their agenda? If we’re going to struggle, should we not struggle to be who we are instead of what they want us to be? What if the next step of oppression is freedom and sovereignty? What If instead of trying to fight the system, we drop out of it entirely? They don’t want us anyway, but in all honesty we don’t want them either. We don’t need them. We haven’t needed them since the beginning of time and we don’t need them now. We don’t need their handouts or their system. We don’t need to have nation-to-nation relationships pretending like they care about our treaty rights. Fighting for treaty rights its like fighting for a longer chain on our shackles. We need to become self-reliant as individuals so we can be self-reliant as a nation. Yes, this does take work. As things are right now, we are dependent on the both government and capitalism. Until we break our dependency on these things and become self-reliant as individuals and as a nation, our freedom and our sovereignty will always be nothing more than an illusion.

 

What if we choose to explore alternative lifestyles outside the system where we no longer needed to hide or identity? Do we not have the ability to create communities both on and off the reservations that operate outside the structure of society so we don’t have to adapt to society?

Our ancestors fought and died so that we can continue living the life they wished us to live. That is the life we should be fighting for. We don’t need the system to live that life. We are industrious, resourceful, and resilient. We have our own way of doing things. Well, we had them. We were forced to try something new but it’s not working. Isn’t it about time we go back and do things our way? You might be thinking, “But the tribal council would never…” Stop it! You don’t need them to do anything for anyone because they won’t do anything for anyone. This change starts with the the people. It starts with organization and community building.

Harvesting Yucca root for shampoo and soap.

After losing my job I just decided not to get another one. When I couldn’t make rent on my apartment I decided not to get find another place to live. I realized that the safety of the system was nothing but an illusion that you are conditioned to believe. I got facial tattoos according to cultural traditions that I couldn’t get while in the workforce. I didn’t have to worry about what my employer thought about my piercings or my scalp lock haircut that was considered less than professional. Sure I am still “part” of the system, but my contributions to the system is nothing it could survive on because I hardly spend any money at all. I do pay a cell phone bill and insurance for my SUV, which is also my home. I do buy gas for the SUV to run. I buy and forage food. I am not involved in consumer culture and I do not make enough money to pay yearly taxes. My lifestyle demands such a little amount of money though, I have never gone without. No more rent, gas, electric, water, or Wi-Fi bills. No more living by the clock. I was free.

I started researching alternative lifestyles and found out that there are a lot of people who are already surviving outside the 9-5 wage slave trap. Off-the-grid community living, homesteading, permaculture, van life, living in an RV, even train hopping hobos. I always take the time to stop and visit with them for a conversation. It seems as if most of them are on drugs and have a drinking problems, but if they were sober, had outdoor skills, and had an arsenal of trade skills under their belt, they would make a great example of what it means to be truly unaffected by the grips of society. Part of me admires the fact that they are living the modern lifestyle that has the potential to be the closest to my hunter-gatherer ancestors way of life, and part of me is very upset at the fact that addiction and lack of responsibility sabotage what could be a very viable alternative lifestyle.

Pine resin is being collected for it’s 
antibacterial medicinal properties.
It can also be used to make 
“pine pitch”glue.

It’s not a wise idea for anyone to become completely dependent on anything. I’m not proposing everyone take it to that extreme, but I think everyone should detach according to their own level of comfort. This could mean anything from becoming a traveling hobo to working an online job so you can avoid dress codes, work on your own time, and travel the country as you please.

I began to realize that the oppressive system cannot function if we do not participate in it. All of the power that the government has over us would cease to exist once we understand that we don’t need the system to survive. The oppressors will lose control over he oppressed.

I don’t believe it would be in our best interest to get rid of the system entirely because some of the fruits of this system include health care and other benefits. The system is not inherently bad. The system is only a problem when we believe we are dependent on it. If enough people abandoned the system, it would be forced to adapt to the will of the people.