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Commentary by Phillip B Gottfredson

 

The Silent Victims

11/02/2006

by Phillip B Gottfredson

Recently I have had the honor of being contacted by the decedents of those whose relatives led out in some of the massacres, murders, and injustices I have been writing about over the past four years in this website. Over nearly five years I have devoted to researching the American Timpanogos Indian history in Utah, and the agony they have suffered by the hands of the Mormons Church leaders; and I have had the honor of meeting the decedents of the victims and learned of their on going anger and resentment, many was the time I sat in tears, overwhelmed by their grief. And I admit I spent little time wondering about those whose ancestors were the ones that committed these human injustices against the American Indian. Over the past month I have met some of those people, and what they have to say has opened my eyes to a whole new reality I wish to share.

This is a whole new realm of human suffering I have yet to learn much more about, a quiet kind of suffering. For while those whose ancestors were victims of human crimes can and are very vocal about such matters, there are those who live their lives in shame, who have no voice or ears to hear their agony of knowing it was their ancestors who were to blame. What each have in common Indian and non-Indian is that they are both victims of the same crime.

I again reflect on the words of George E. Tinker. Tinker said, "It is time we stop viewing these injustices as simply white processes and begin viewing them as human processes. Its is time we apply the same yardstick to both groups--compassionately seeking to understand human actions in the past without flailing old wounds by "unabashedly" taking sides. Without confronting and owning our past, as white Americans, as Europeans, as American Indians, as African Americans, we cannot hope to overcome the past and generate a constructive, healing process, leading to a world of genuine, mutual respect among peoples, communities, and nations." But that "mutual respect" must begin by seeking to understand the history and human motivations of all these "peoples and communities, and nations" with a spirit of equity, balance, and compassion. 

Healing does not come by simply the whites acknowledging the wrongs of the past. What about those silent victims? For as I have listened to what they have to say, there is no doubt they would like to express their regret for the past. They have told me that. They explain how their family has been, and continue to be out casts and so are often forced to lie to their children about their relatives to spare their children from being castigated out of society for the sins of their ancestors, only to find out later from other sources what their ancestors did.

I have often said who is there that is can teach us about human injustices better than those who are victims of the American Holocaust?  To build a bridge between our cultures there needs to be those who understand most how destructive racism and discrimination are to all. They can design the bridge to be strong to withstand the worst kind of bigotry. Learning from the mistakes that our ancestors made, and using that knowledge to help others, in every way possible will go along way bring about world peace. I truly believe that the silent victims need to have a voice that they can share their wisdom without fear, or censorship, the same as our Indian brothers, and all Americans have fought and died for. "It is said we promise according to our desires, and fulfill according to our fear. Would assumptions aligned with the heart bring America closer to living out her promises?"