There is no Indian alive who dares to think too much on the past. If
we looked too long at the past, we would be too angry to live. You try
to make it up to us by making us into heroes and wise people in all
your movies and books. That's fine for you. But I can still go to a
museum, see my grandmother’s skull in a case, and hear someone
talk about it as an artifact.
And sometimes I think about all the wars between my people and your
people. Those white men that fought us were men without families, lots
of them. They weren't your best people. Many of them were brutal and
stupid. They did terrible things because it was fun.
My people never had a chance. We were families. We were in our homes,
with our old people and our babies. And the soldiers attacked us. They
attacked our homes and killed our elders and our children. Then your
people have the nerve to talk about massacres by the Indians.
We did kill innocent people. I know that. It happened when our young
men got angry at what was happening to the old people and the children,
when they were starving or being killed. The young men would get so
angry they wouldn't listen to the old men. The old men knew we couldn't
win and that more white people would come and there would just be more
killing. But the young men were so angry that they attacked anyone.
If you saw your father lying on his bed too weak to stand up because
he was starving, or you saw your baby crying all the time because she
was hungry, and you knew it was because someone took their food away
from them, wouldn't you be angry?
What if some men came through, killed your grandmother, and didn't have
a reason? They just did it, and then they laughed and rode away. And
you stood there and looked at her cut up or shot. Can you tell me you
wouldn't be angry?
I don't blame my people who ambushed the white soldiers or even raided
the homes of the settlers. I don't say it was right. I just say I understand.
We lost everything. Your government sent heartless, greedy men to keep
us under control, and they lied, raped, and stole from us, and they
could kill us for any reason and it was okay. What if someone raped
your little sister? That happened all the time. What if someone took
your wife, slit open her belly, and pulled out your unborn child, then
laid it on the ground like a trophy, still attached to her dead mother?
That happened, too.
See, we weren't even people. Did you know that? The Catholic Church
even held a conference to determine if we were people or not. In their
great wise religion, they thought they should decide if we were people
or animals. That's the way we were thought of and treated. It was okay
to do anything to us.
We were taught that the old people and the babies were the closest to
God, and it was for them that we lived. And your people came in and
killed them. We had to do what we could to protect our old people and
our families, and we couldn't because your soldiers broke into our houses
and killed them when they couldn't get away.
It wasn't the same when we fought the other tribes. They respected the
old people and the children, too. When we fought each other, there were
some things more important than the fight. The greatest act of bravery
was to touch your enemy —to 'count coup' upon him— not to
kill him. But not for your soldiers. They just wanted to kill us.
Now there are skulls of my grandparents in museums, and sacred blankets
and drums on walls of museums for rich people to look at. You go there
and talk about how sacred it is. You call it sacred because you don't
have anything of your own that's sacred. But it's not sacred, because
you took the sacred out of it, just like you take the sacred out of
everything, and now we can hardly feel it ourselves anymore. You killed
our people and you took what was sacred to us, and then you told us
that's what proved you were better than we were.
There is no more time for fighting. Our anger must be buried. If I cannot
bury mine, it will be for my children to bury theirs. And if they cannot
bury theirs, it will be for their children, or their children's children.
We are prisoners of our hearts, and only time will free us.
Your people must learn to give up their arrogance. They are not the
only ones placed on this earth. Theirs is not the only way. People have
worshipped the Creator and loved their families in many ways in all
places. Your people must learn to honor this.
It is your gift to have material power. You have much strength not given
to other people. Can you share it, or can you use it only to get more?
That is your challenge —to find the way to share your gift, because
it is a strong and dangerous one.
It is my people who must stand as the shadow that reminds you of your
failures. It is our memory that must keep you on the good road. It does
you no good to pretend that we did not exist, and that you did not destroy
us. This was our land. We will always be here. You can no more remove
our memory than you can hide the sun by putting your hand over your