Black Hawk Productions

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Commentary by Phillip B Gottfredson

7/08/2008

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 other.

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 each other.

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."