Saturday, April 5, 2008
A Cherokee is not a vehicle
My heart broke when I heard it. "When did you know you were native?" My heart broke again when my sister was assaulted and blamed for the ignorant of some one else. We are Cherokee or Tsa-la-gi and we are fiercely proud of who we are and of our people. We have dedicated our lives and livelihoods to the uplifting of Indigenous people and the social ills that befall us more than any other minority in this country. We are both matriarchal and matrilineal as a tribe, we are proud daughters of a fiercely proud Cherokee mother and ignorance is no excuse for making assumptions about anyone. My family has suffered from all the social and physical afflictions that have plagued our people. And we have committed ourselves to be strong advocates. It is most appalling when ignorance rears its head among the educated and the warriors for social justice. But it is never surprising - it happens all the time.
I learned a long time ago that there were many things and people I would never understand. The world is too vast and cultures and situations too complex. But I also learned, when faced with my own ignorance, that I could ask someone to explain something to me, acknowledging my own ignorance, and offering to let them correct me and help me. My Cherokee mother taught me humility and it has helped me to be a good student of others. I am grateful to her for many things, especially her patient training and rock solid faith.
I write this today to remind myself and others that we live in a very complicated day and time. People who are of mixed race are not half anything - they are whole human beings, raised in the culture, language and manner of their people. Their names and cultures aren't to be stripped of them by people who would have us be museum pieces and nothing more. God created this diversity and blessed us with so many rich cultures and tradition. I pray that today, I can remember the many gifts, and ignore the hurt that so often comes our way. The Creator is the giver of all good gifts, and I am called to share those gifts, even with ignorant and hurtful people. I pray for the strength, and pray for all those today who are judged and misunderstood by others - and whose heartbreak is a routine occurrence.