What Are the Challenges of Walking in Two Worlds?
It is the realization that, at one time, this was only one world, and that it belonged to our people. That having been said, today we find ourselves in a complicated position. The full cost of mainstream assimilation for the American Indian has yet to be determined. Today, five hundred years later, we are still in the process of assessing what has been lost.
Collectively, we have paid a very dear price. Ours has been a culture that has relied on the oral transmission of our history and values. Our languages and have suffered tremendously, and therefore our cultures have suffered tremendously, and we find ourselves struggling to hold on to as much of both of them as possible. Obviously, we have lost almost all of our lands—what is less obvious is the lingering cost of the occupation and holocaust we have experienced remain to this very day. These haunt us in a more subtle, even subliminal, way.
Yet we have evolved and are dealing with the hand we have been dealt, so to speak. We are and remain a viable, vibrant and proud people, with the same dreams and aspirations as anyone else. Today, having retained our values and beliefs, we are doctors, lawyers and every other profession that is found in mainstream society, and we are moving ahead in many constructive ways.
We are distinctly unique from other ethnicities, simply because we are the original land holders, and because of lands ceded to the present government through sovereign recognized treaties. We are proud Americans, and have shed our blood to prove and defend this land. We continue to walk in both worlds with pride, determination and hope—hope that our future generations appreciate the price that has been paid and value what has been achieved. It has been a difficult path, no doubt, but one that we walk with the belief that we can co-exist. I truly believe that our ancestors would be proud of our ability to sustain ourselves through the challenges of change we have had to undergo in the last five hundred years.
(Special thanks to Nadya Kwandibens for the image above; to see more from her Concrete Indians series, visit Redworks.ca.)