A Helping Hand?

Well, this could be uncomfortable

Map of L.A., tribal overlay

On Columbus Day (2015) a social justice committee at a church invited me to talk about the day, due to my previous work with the Tataviam people.  As you might figure out, the local tribe views that holiday just a wee bit differently.

I laid out the foundation of a conversation for the attendees: that the U.S., by its own admission, is in active occupation of 500 – 1000 sovereign nations in the continental U.S. and that the Los Angeles tribes (who are very much alive and still culturally active and yes, there’s even a tribal government) never had a ratified treaty.  If you live in L.A., you’re squatting on tribal land.

I also pointed out that the act of genocide, specifically attempting to annihilate the “Indian problem”, is still in full swing; it’s just out of the full-on murder phase and into the abusive plundering of tribe resources to make them into trinkets and historical items and fictions.

We had some very animated dialogue back and forth. One participant asked what the ideal solution would be and I honestly answered that I wouldn’t invent one.

The affected tribes could provide that answer far better than me and the answer would probably be complex and uncomfortable and angering and frustrating. But it’s a hell of a lot better than not having the conversation.

In the course of this same discussion, several people offered up that they felt the real solution was to offer up education and opportunity. With apologies, but it’s not their place to make the offer. That’s the province of the tribes.

When you’ve (that is to say ‘us’ the settlers on this land) oppressed people for so long, you have to recognize the very real fact that the tribes may NOT want to play with you anymore and would like to take some time to repair all the damage you’ve done.

A Small Parable

A guy comes across a hole; it’s deep, it’s obviously artificial–maybe a well or a disposal site.  Someone is crying for help from the hole.  About halfway down, somebody is trapped. The smell from the hole is terrible.

“I need help” a voice from the well calls out.

“Give me your hand.” the person outside responds.

“Get me a board!” the voice replies.

The person’s just within reach. “You don’t need a board. Give me your hand.”

“Get me a board!”

“Just give me your hand!!!”

“I need a board!!!”

The guy’s upset. This person in the hole sounds unreasonable, right? The guy’s just trying to help, after all and in disgust, he turns to walk away. But he can’t resist one last biting question: “Why the hell do you need a board?!?!”

“I’m trying to save the kid beneath me.”

A Little Note on Importance

Here’s the point. No matter the good intentions of the folks living now, they can, in no way shape or form, relate to the struggles the tribes face. They can’t anticipate or intellectualize what the tribes need.

The people can listen. They can understand if the tribe says “we want a spot over here and we don’t want to deal with you.” They can supply what’s requested.

Because maybe the next generation of the tribe really needs help. Maybe it’s relatives. Or the landbase or the culture or generational damage.  Maybe the tribal authority requesting the help gets it wrong in the details. Hell, we’re only human! It doesn’t matter. We can’t see what’s going on nor are we required to.

Is it so hard to admit our shame and start acting like adults? We have the money, the will and the land to truly alter the future.

I harp on this because Los Angeles has an unprecedented opportunity to work on this and make a meaningful change. We need to restore history all the way back to its pre-European roots and admit that horrible mistakes were made.

I ask again, wouldn’t that be amazing?

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