i started this post right before General Council (GC) but had not yet made it up and decided to wait and postponed blog post.
i thought it would be best to be among the people and listen in. the following has been adapted to post GC and confirmed my intuitions about how we are failing our future.
as Nimiipuu, it’s taken me a long time to understand how deeply we, (Nuun) Nimiipuu himyuuma, have been colonized.
the reality is it’s going to take the same amount of years it has been among our people to undo everything that has occurred. and in order to reclaim what has been lost and erased from our cellular memories, we need to work collectively. at this time, we may not be able to reclaim all of what has been lost, however, we can reclaim and collaborate with others with clear understandings voiced through effective communication.
in terms of cultural knowledge, it’s important and vital that we work with area tribal nations to help retain and relearn certain aspects of our culture. the cultural knowledge that is still among us is vital, but so is the stories that go along with them to help our kids. this is not just for the adults, especially those 62 and older.
what we are still experiencing and witnessing is the unfortunate and sad reality of colonization. the socio behaviors of unresolved historical grief that is layered upon intergenerational trauma is evident. and its not just one family, but all of our families. not one was immune to the settler colonial project.
what some of us witness and observe at GC can be found among many of us. certain behaviors are a direct result of and prime examples of childhood trauma. for whatever has happened, we also got to remember to pray for our people.
this next part is about supporting someone i know personally. i don’t agree, support, or condone violence. granted there was a period in my life when i thought it would solve an issue. today, no. not so much. especially with regard to women on women violence. as it is already, people witnessed a domestically violent tribal member. the behavior displayed is the kind that should have been apprehended or diffused not only by our tribal police, but also our leadership and the individuals family.
as i listened (and from what i can gather) i wondered if there was anyone the hyper violent individuals would even listen to. which leads me to my next subject of a resolution to adopt for a tribal court peacemaker.
as i read through the resolution, i believe the key point in hiring someone is to make sure they are someone who is neutral. an ideal candidate or person would be someone who does not know any of the families and does not come from the area because affiliations can muddy decisions. an ideal candidate would be someone from another tribal nation preferably a Sahaptian speaker who would help and assist as best as they could. i have my comments, but we need to consider this and make sure the individual is culturally knowledgeable.
here’s a couple more thoughts i had related to why i think it’s gonna take more than hiring a peacemaker.
first of all, let me just put this out there again… one word, colonization. it is a deeply rooted construct that began with the Roman Empire. its been around for thousands of years in parts of Europe since before the crusades. to truly understand how long it has been in tact we have to search its roots as well.
as i put my teacher hat on, i need to share there are also two other important vocabulary words we also need to familiarize ourselves with when it comes to understanding what has happened to our people. over a series of the last two hundred years we have been colonized beyond our own recognition. so much we now look at others in terms of blood quantum and skin color which is the antithesis of collective thinking and ancestral ways of knowing and being.
as it stands these two words plague our communities.
collectively, the more we understand and learn about these two words is a start. it’s not the solution, but it is a start because, for those practitioners who want to see our community healed, these two words have a bigger message and healing that comes along with them. it begins with understanding how the settler colonial project was successful on our Rez and among our nation.
i included the links as resources to help begin talking about how we might even begin addressing internalized racism. not only that but also talking about the deep and layered historical work of decolonization.
based on a recent post i saw on our public Nez Perce Tribe admin page, i am disheartened and disappointed. sadly, after a while it becomes evident some people are just filled with hate. if calling fellow tribal members names and put downs are a part of your vernacular, believe me, you’re not providing a solution.
this particular behavior continues to perpetuate the very thing that has kept us divided. there was a method to what settler colonialism as a project has brought into our villages and communities in the 18th and 19th Centuries, it is commonly known as divide and conquer.
so when i see the internalized racism and oppression still occurring, that is where i see our greatest failure and lacking. especially as it relates to our future and upcoming youth leaders who are affected and influenced by the same poison. sadly, some youth have begun to normalize and perpetuate the same exact behaviors.
it appears to be a moot point to even try to talk to some people. see where i’m going with this? it’s a continued, perpetual and vicious cycle that must be broken and healed. *my next blog post includes more on healing
secondly, as i read through peoples “ideas” which end up sounding like a rant, i am saddened by the fact that some peoples kids are unwilling to look at themselves as the problem. their very solution(s) still perpetuate a deep systemic issue that can not AND will not be resolved through the election of one individual. not to mention in three years!
the insanity of what tribal elections actually means for the people is lost with the poisoning of our Ni’mii’puu value systems. today, leadership is not a part of our values systems and most of it appears to have been lost through the sands of times. as i look around today, and as a direct descendant of hereditary chiefs, i know i’m not the only one.
there are quite a few of us who are direct descendants and we watch this broken down train try to keep running. we sit on the sidelines watching as the next line of leaders run this system further into the ground feigning change.
it’s unfortunate too because the nay’sayers continue with the divisiveness by virtue of their own victimhood and self-victimization. and i’m just pointing out what many of us from the outside can see happening. believe me there are more of us than there are you all and this circus won’t be able to go on forever, especially as more Nimiipuu get woke.
thirdly, the majority of our tribal membership is vastly unaware and naively ignorant of the deep and grave systemic issues that our tribal leadership and administration have to work through. electing one individual into a leadership position who has not dealt with their own internalized oppression and racism further complicates progress. it fails to get to the much larger systemic state and federal issues, and resolving an issue in three years is unlikely because that’s about how long policies can take. sometimes even longer.
and this does not include the gobament administration changes, which is beyond our nation’s control. it’s how the system is set up and there is no way around that. so if one person is “supposed” to create change in three years, please note, it will most likely happen because they hopped on a sub-committee that has already been pushing the issue through the channels. things take time. so when i see individuals thinking it’s going to change with this one election, it’s a hopeless and helpless feeling.
lastly, with the genocidal violence that we have endured due to settler colonialism, for our nation, the erasure and assimilation began when the very first soyapo’s came through. Lewis and Clark in 1804-05 and subsequent settler immigrants who followed them during the fur trade, and by 1830, the missionaries. i lament about that time in our history, and mourn the historical grief and trauma associated with the loss of land, language, and culture. all of our Nimiipuu himyuuma ancestors experienced that and we have carried it around for too long.
i have shed many tears over the years and sometimes cursed the ancestors for allowing this to happen. i was reminded by one of the students on our teacher education project who stated clearly in one of our training workshops,
“we can not take agency away from our ancestors. they did what they thought was best because they believed what the settlers said they would do.”
her words resonated with me. and since then, i asked the ancestors if they would understand my anger. as of yet, this journey of decolonization has never been pretty, nor has it been easy. it’s hell on earth at times, especially as a Native woman from two nations.
in my lamenting, i sometimes wish i could go back in time. back to tell the ancestors what’s going to happen if they accept and follow the ways of the settler colonial soyapo religion (and politics).
both have split our nation.
as i listen to some folx, there appears to be no remorse or reclamation of tribal members to rebuke settler forms of religion or politics to reclaim our old ways, thus making it appear that it’s lost forever.
if that is indeed happening, it appears we also have no hope to bring back ancestral teachings which can bring balance and restorative justice. not to mention peaceful coexistence, safety, and values systems back among our villages, communities, and families.
as i think on it more, i wish Weet’kuwiis did not speak up to “save” them, and that our ancestral warriors would have killed the corps. i know it sounds harsh to some of you all, but hear me out. i think as Nimiipuu we are supposed to practice compassion as ordained in our big law. and that is protection of our lifeways. there were times when a clear and eminent threat posed itself. today, thats exactly how i view bringing back some of our old ways, for the safety and protection of all the people, especially women, girls and boys, and elders.
sadly, there are those tribal members who like to see our community fighting and working against each other. thats how they also stay in power and learn who they will vote for and keep in office. see how this predictable and outdated system works? some of our ancestors adopted it and we, the living, inherited it. i have lost countless hours of sleep thinking about this and learned i can only help myself and my children.
still, i cant help but to think about how much more order and protection some of the old ways provided. looking at it deeper, there was good to leadership virtues. as a descendant of warriors, and chiefs from the Weippe Prairie, we have lineage to Chief Twisted Hair. i want to believe in the good about the humanity our ancestors had toward these strangers. however, i will never stop to think “if they only knew” what they were bringing with them.
but i digress and as it is, the Clearwater national forest is some of the most precious lands for our people. our jobs is to continue to protect those homelands too.
thinking reflectively, its where some of my ancestral bloodlines come from. iinim Qa’laaca was the late Lewis B. Holt who was a hereditary chief and the son of Lucy Corbett and Irvin Holt. my papa, rest in power, was one of the first few leaders who was called to lead during the post-Indian Reorganization Act era. today, his style of leadership is a forgotten way.
when i read through historical archives and documents, he spoke up for every Nimiipuu and the right to education. he thought about us, those of us who were unborn. for that, i am always grateful. my gramps was a part of leadership when the Army Corps of Engineers aka gobament worked to build dams along these pristine waters. according to documents, leadership were not given a choice and Nimiipuu were to be paid, as if the money owed was some sort of consolation. what we have learned since that time is our salmon runs declined, natural habitats have been altered, and we no longer have Celilo Falls.
(photos belong to Oregon Historical Society)
granted, we can no longer live in that past. and we can’t go back in time. however, we can look back and towards the future in order to co-create additional spaces of change for young ones and those yet to come.
reading through more FB posts, i look back on and read the Treaty of 1855. its a bummer to learn that a lot of Nimiipuu believe that a tribal member must live on the Rez within in the 1863 boundary in order to be Nimiipuu. not only is that ludicrous it is a prime example of how successful divide and conquer tactics work.
looking at our tribal leadership and tribal administration, that perspective is exactly why we fail and it is lamatic.
the power of a collective community is further diminished when people who live in this boundary zone believe those of us who don’t live on the Rez have a right to speak up or vote or elect. my question then becomes, who do we think would best serve everyone collectively then? newsflash… this is not just about your family, its about all himyuuma.
basically, what these people, including a tribal council member who i voted for has the nerve to say that because i live 30 miles away and a 45 min drive that i don’t have a right to speak up or work to see a better future for my children who are also enrolled is incredulous. somedays i work with tribal members and see how ignorance can blind those i voted for. it is most definitely a head shakable moment.
not to mention, missing in this picture, is the teachings behind leadership and what that used to mean collectively. many of us who live off the Rez understand our culture esp because we have to in order to survive, but mostly because we are the outliers.
we can see the very value systems we were taught and that are no longer intact since we have moved away for college. as things used to be, there are ancient practices of k’é and himyuuma that have been disrupted by settler colonialism which seem to have been lost.
as someone who was born in a city, i was also raised on the Rez. and it dont matter what Rez when it comes to Rez life. i know the life and lived enough racists and socio economic oppressive conditions too. whats different for me, is i come from two nations so i see this from a culturally rooted and generational experience.
i was raised among as we named in academia, “culturally [insert word]’ elders. elders who didn’t speak English nor did they have or get much if any of a Western education, more importantly, they were not Christians, their children were. these are elders who encouraged us to get educated and go away to learn as much as you can and bring it back to the people. instead we have people blocking others, sometimes their own, due to job scarcity, lack of housing, and economic hardships.
what a majority of our people are missing is that teaching. what is simple about it is the remedy. you teach it. currently, the Lapwai PSD operates under a Daniel system of test measurements for teaching and learning. its outdated and does not do our children just. in a socially just and restorative system it ought to be challenged through our culture to reestablish our education sovereignty.
in hindsight, the elders i was raised by practiced ceremony and to this day, im thankful my mother knew it was the best place for me.
with the violent disruption of our ancestral ways, the basic values systems of k’é and himyuuma and our ancestral communities is lacking. today we can still see the divisive and insidious nature of settler colonialism. it continues to perpetuate and uphold oppression, and further creates frustrating and problematic behaviors.
after hosting a candidates forum during the primary election, i learned then and heard how current and prospective leadership think. i also wondered where in this picture did the younger generation fit in? i learned firsthand who i would be voting for and recognized that not one individual is going to create change, but a collective group effort just might.
i also learned a little bit more this past GC. i learned we still have a long ways to go and some of you continue to uphold the powers that destroy any attempt to bring back the much needed balance. social restorative justice that brings back some of the cultural teachings and knowledge they can bring to us.
i look forward to the next GC and hope we can see some progress. i also hope more tribal members find peace and stop warring with our own people. the war is with them, not each other. Yox kalo