Forgive, yes, but never should we forget
by Phillip B Gottfredson
"Personally I am horrified that our fellow
citizens living in this age are being treated with such indifference. And
that we, we who live as neighbors to indigenous people know so little of
their lives. We can say "that's all in the past and we just need to forget
about it." But it would be criminal to do so.
We assume that the Native peoples have been
given every opportunity to succeed, that "its their own damn fault." But I
have lived with the Native people, I have listened to them talk about what
it means to be Indian. I can say with certainty we are the ones who are
blind to the harsh realities that they are faced with each and every day of
their lives, and because of this there is a direct correlation to poor
health and political strife.
It is difficult for Indian people to talk about their painful past,
especially to non-Indians. And I can't blame them, they have been so
demoralized and beaten down, it is very hard for them to trust. And for
non-Indian people it is difficult to come to grips with the truth, that our
ancestors were involved in such a horrible tragedy.
So it is that there is much healing that is needed on both sides.
Healing that can only come from mutual respect, self-respect, and
understanding. Some how we need to find a common language that will bring us
together as one people, without having to compromise our individuality, our
traditions, our culture, but in a good way, where there is freedom for all
to live our lives according to the dictates of our own conscience. Without
forcing our individual beliefs upon one another. That we may walk our paths
together with integrity, honesty, respecting each other, being kind to each
Instead of arrogance there should be humility, and instead of hate,
there should be love. Both Indian and non-Indian should realize that we all
are suffering from the evils of the past in ways we all need to understand.
We need to talk, but we also need to stop talking, and listen. From
our hearts we should talk, and listen.
We need to learn from each other. Who is more qualified to teach us
about human equality than those who are the victims of the American
holocaust? While our ancestors came to America for various reasons, some
sought religious freedom, some wealth, and others for political reasons. But
unlike our ancestors, the American Indian were not then fighting for
independence, or wealth, or religious freedoms, but ironically would find
themselves victims of the very injustices that our forefathers died
defending for themselves. It is very difficult to explain why our people who
advocated human equality, and rebelled against aristocracy and religious
dictatorship would come to America and dispossess the Native people of their
unalienable rights as human beings. 300 years have gone by and still, to
this day, the American Indian continue to struggle for equality as American
citizens. It is a disturbing reality that so many cling to the old ways of
thinking that one is inferior, and others are superior.
The Black Hawk War was not about race, it was not about religion,
race and religion later became the excuse to justify greed, and superiority.
It was a human condition where each were putting their lives on the line to
defend their freedoms and culture according to the dictates of their own
individual beliefs, beliefs that had evolved long before they encountered
It is time that we stop blaming each other. It is time we stop
viewing these injustices as simply white or Indian processes, and begin
viewing them as human processes.
It is time that our schools adhere to federal mandates and teach the
truth about our history in the spirit of equality, and explain
compassionately the dynamics of the time that led to such a horrific human
tragedy, that we may avoid repeating those mistakes again and again.
Explanations give us the tools to bring change. We need to recognize that
there is still much work to be done before we can say with a clear
conscience that we live in a country that guarantees liberty and justice for
all, and not just for some.
It is time that we forgive, and reconcile the past with the present.
Forgive, yes, but never should we forget."