by Valerie Taliman

How else can we explain the white-washed versions of what passes as truth in this country? From the historical lies taught to school children to the false images projected by mainstream media to the tomahawk-chopping stereotypes absorbed and perpetuated by the masses, the truth about Native peoples and our history has been colorblind and culture-blind for far too long.

After years of repressive struggles, we are finally seeing the voices of Native peoples emerge to shed much-needed light on the dark past of America's history.

The journeys of Native people through the last 500 years have been painful and much has been lost since the invasions. Whole nations of our relations were wiped out in the holocaust with no survivors to carry on their distinct cultures. The list of nations lost that appears in this issue was researched by the Morning Star Foundation with the acknowledgement that it is only a partial list of those no longer with us, except in spirit. We remember and mourn for them in 1992, and we learn from them as well. A memory cannot hold her child or protect his family.

The price of survival was and continues to be very high for Native Nations. Many of us are descendants of prisoners of war, living on small islands of what was once our homelands. We must continually fight for water and land rights, for religious freedom, for equitable treatment in the courts, and for dignity as a people. In our homeland, we now have the highest rate of infant mortality, the highest rates of teen suicide, of alcoholism, of unemployment, and poverty. These conditions were caused by the unjust and inhumane treatment Native people have had to endure for 500 years. If anything, we are survivors. Our spiritual ties to our Mother, the Earth, have kept us strong in times of great hardship. The words of our grandmothers and grandfathers have taught us respect for the web of life and the interdependence of all things in the universe.

The stories passed down through the oral tradition remind us that we are all connected. At this turning point in history, the elders remind us that the paths we choose today are critical to sustaining the Native Nations of tomorrow. We all bear the responsibility of making choices that will affect the generations to come.

As we look toward the next 500 years, we can be encouraged by the increasing number of strong Native voices that are surfacing from the pervasive oppression of the past to help enlighten our journeys.

...it is long past time for Native people to hold the pen.

First Nations Issues

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