I don’t know very many Nez Perce words, and will never be a speaker, but it I love the sound of the language and hope to learn a few more. For now, Good Morning and Thank You are enough.
Tac meeywi to all, and qe’ci’yew’yew’ to the many who responded to my blog post about whites writing about Indians. A few things stand out: people are interested in learning the history of Indian peoples—and all American history—that is true and real. They are tired of the omissions and outright lies taught for years in our school textbooks, dismayed by what most of us learned as children. They are very upset about the current boarding school revelations, and wonder how this could have gone on and not be known about in our own times.
They want to know about books by white authors digging up records of lies, abuses, and omissions. And they want to know about Indian writers, like Indian Horse from Canadian Ojibwa writer Richard Wagamese, which alerted us to Canadian boarding school abuses years ago—on our side of the border we must be reminded that tribes and fish knew no international boundaries before colonization, and fish still swim at will when allowed
Many know Louise Erdrich’s work, and follow her, but not the forgotten Indian writers of the past like D’Arcy McNickle and John Joseph Mathews. I try to find and pass on the fine Indian writers of the past and of today: Phil Deloria, the first Indian in Harvard’s history department; David Treuer, a Minnesota Native who teaches at USC and recently suggested, in Atlantic Magazine, that the National Parks all be turned over to a consortium of Indian tribes—a real reversal of 400 years of stealing land from Indians. And Beth Piatote, who writes for the academy and for you and me about impacts of colonialism and Indian resistance.
Jack Loeffler, friend of Alvin Josephy and Ed Abbey and biographer of Abbey, wrote to talk about a lifetime of books and radio programs in which he has tried to give Indians voice—There have been criticisms, but he carries on, now 85, knowing that Indians know that the problem is bigger than tribes, that it involves human survival.
A Nez Perce elder wrote to say that “I think it’s ok to write about Indians… your info of documents of what you’ve gathered, & maybe insert native input from individuals from Nez Perce Reservation, Colville (Chief Joseph Band) Reservation, & CTUIR-Nixyaawi.”
I try to do that. I’m sure that I make mistakes, but the stakes are high. Not only are their historical inaccuracies and omissions to deal with, but in this incredible time of pandemic disease and climate change, there are lessons to learn from Indians, who have experienced and survived it all, who have long memories and remedies for some of our many colonial wrongs and mismanagements of the earth we share.
qe’ci’yew’yew’ to them, for resilience, and for enriching my life.
p.s. photo is Celilo Falls before the dam; what we want to see again