Immigration From Day One
Lee Ann Leach (Galisiha Agasga)
Will Rogers is the one man I love to quote. One quote in particular that came from this Cherokee brother’s mouth is one that I would love to have made into a bumper sticker for my falling apart “Rez Mobile,” and goes like this… “My ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower… but they DID meet the boat!” I would put it right along side the bumper stickers that say… “Cherokee and PROUD of it!” and “FREE LEONARD PELTIER!”
As you can probably imagine, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving OR Columbus Day at our house. As the rest of “America” scurries about buying their turkeys and cranberries… we go about our daily chores of simply surviving. I don’t send my kids to public schools where the history books begin with the “discovery” of America by Columbus or Amerigo Vespucci… (their story changes often on this subject)… I choose rather to teach my children the three “R’s” along with a history that goes back way beyond Columbus and the Pilgrims.
This oral history, although not recorded in history books that are taught in our schools, is rich and colorful and full of the truth that modern day education chooses to blatantly ignore. People run around this country hailing the heroism of Columbus and all the “brave” Pilgrims that came to this land seeking “religious freedom and escape from the horrors of taxation” when it couldn’t be further from the truth. The Pilgrims screeched and bemoaned their pain and suffering at the hands of the British when they were forced to practice religion at the choice of the government, yet when they came upon the “original people” of America, they labeled my ancestors as “heathens” and “savages” when practicing their spiritual beliefs. Seems a little like the pot calling the kettle black in my opinion, but who am I to talk? I am just another descendant of those “savages” and “heathens” that didn’t know of Jesus Christ!
I have to laugh at this notion. Several years ago, in wanting to learn pride in myself and where I came from, I decided that the way to bring about attention to the indigenous peoples of this land was to help bring back the languages that my ancestors were forced to give up in favor of English. I began to study the language of my ancestors… Tsalagi… or Cherokee. One of the first things I noticed was that there were 3 different words for what we all call “God”… one word “galunlati” closely resembles what Christians call “The Father” … the second word… tsgili… is close to “spirit” or “ghost,” and the third but most interesting word… “Yahwa.”
In studying the Bible, I know that the Hebrew or Aramaic word for Jesus Christ is “Yahwe”… hmmmmmm, looks too darn close for comfort to me that Yahwa and Yahwe are so very much alike and have virtually the same meaning! The Cherokee KNEW of Jesus Christ LONG before any Pilgrim ever set foot on the soil of this land! Now I ask you after hearing of this… just who were the “heathens” in that time?
The Europeans came to this land and enforced their language, religion, culture, and rules of government on a very spiritual, peaceful, and very organized people. They forcibly removed the indigenous people off their own lands and gave them land that they themselves thought was useless. They took the children from their families and sent them away to “Indian Schools” where the young ones suffered all forms of inhuman treatment. They cut their hair and took away their religious items, punished them harshly if they spoke their own language, and put them in hard-soled shoes so they could not feel the ground that they were so attached to under their own feet. All in the name of “giving them the peace of Jesus Christ.”
Yet, here is the majority of Americans thinking how cruel and heartless this man Adolf Hitler was to the Jews when their own ancestors practiced the very same “extermination process” on the indigenous people of this land! I would have to bow my head in shame every time someone in power speaks of the horrors that tyrant leaders inflict on innocent people when that is exactly how this very country came to be in the first place! There is nothing more sickening than hypocrisy, yet when all Americans gather round their Thanksgiving tables to give thanks to God for all He has done to give them this land of “freedom,” that is what they are practicing… hypocrisy is it’s finest form.
The indigenous people of America are living on reservations now that these “immigrants” that are running the government gave to them in treaties that are as worthless as the paper they are written on. In recent times, it has been discovered that the “useless land” given to the different tribes across America is rich in oil and gas and mother lodes of uranium. Now the powers that be want this land back, and are going about taking it with the same deceptive and downright murderous practices of the leaders that came before them. They are submitting bills to Congress to eliminate tribal sovereignty and to turn the “Third World Nations” within the borders of US territory into just another part of “this great nation.” People do not realize that every one of these nations is quite literally “other countries” within the United States borders! They send in government officials that meddle in the tribal government business and even try to enforce US laws within these nations. The US government wants all mining, fishing, and hunting rights within the tribal lands given back because large corporations want to use the land for their own gain. They raid the casinos on Indian land with the notion that the gambling is illegal in the US unless otherwise specified when the truth of the matter is that they are AFRAID because the native peoples have found a way to empower themselves and to build their nations back after hundreds of years of degradation at the hands of a European based government.
This is what the original “immigration” into this place we call America is to me. It was a farce to begin with, and it continues to be a farce. People can wave their flags and shoot off the fireworks and give thanks all they want during these holidays, but I, for one, have seen what a great lie people continue to live. As the archeologists dig up the bones and burial items of all the indigenous peoples’ ancestors and auction them off as pieces of history, build shopping malls and airports on the burial grounds, legislate laws that take away tribal sovereignty and the rights of native peoples, rape the land that the indigenous people hold sacred and honor in their own quiet spiritual lives, take our sacred ceremonies and make tourist jaunts, and even broadcast their very spiritual nature over the lines of the Internet… we do not celebrate. We stand tall and silent, and pray to the Creator that His will be done and accept what is shoveled to us by those in power. We know that in the end, He will set everything straight.
So, go ahead and eat your turkey, give your thanks, and enjoy what the holiday brings you in your bounty, but remember those that gave to you so that your ancestors did not starve their first horrendous winter on this land. Think on what the immigration of the Europeans that originally came to this land has done to the indigenous people that are still here and attempting to survive despite what is handed them. And, think also, how you would feel if you were walking in the moccasins of my ancestors and exactly why my family and I… do not celebrate.