Native Revival

Yesterday I wrote about the land we live on and with, about a recent journey to Portland from home, and the home-ground itself. I used “spectacular” and might have used “stunning” to describe the Nez Perce Homeland I am privileged to live on. Today it’s a gray sky, and yesterday’s skiff of new snow is evaporating and freezing, as snow does. But the mountains are still there, beyond the gray, wispy with their white snow and yellow-orange larch trees hidden—but there nonetheless.

I was talking with a friend about the many ways that Native American ideas, history, and people are emerging across the country, about President Biden and Secretary Haaland meeting with hundreds of Tribal leaders from across the land. My friend—who applauds this Native Revival, said that he detected some pushback now. I brushed it off then, but with gray weather today think about it.

Yes, there was another Presidential-Native summit—the Native summit idea began with Obama, was abandoned by Trump, and is now reignited by Biden. And yes, over 100 million dollars are going to Tribes in climate trouble for help in moving to higher ground. And Umatilla enrollee Chuck Sams at National Parks says that there are negotiations with Tribes across the country for joint management of parks and monuments. Renaming of all of the s—w creeks in America is well underway, and my remarks on the possibility of renaming of Mount Howard have been greeted with acceptance.

There are so many good Indian stories out there—the Yuroks in California alone are a book length story of renewal and reinstatement of Native land management—that I have a slight fear. Will we—majority white Protestant America—continue to work on reparations, treaty fulfillment, and setting decades of abuse aside as we learn from the original peoples? Or will we get our backs up and insist on mining on tribal lands and building pipelines across them? Will we put the economics of today ahead of Indians—and the land?

Personally, I think that the train of Native revival is on the rails, and although there might be momentary setbacks, the words in treaties and founding documents—and the past mistakes of the White majority that now seem so obvious—will outweigh past attitudes of racial superiority and White entitlement.

I’m reminded of a Tribal leader years ago at President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Summit. He said something to the effect that “we lived on and with this land for thousands of years, thinking always with the generations behind us and in front of us in mind. And you White people have completely messed things up in fewer than seven generations.” And, as I recall, he thought that in another six or seven generations the land and people would bring things back into the harmony that pleases the creator.

# # #

Photo from YES Magazine: Nick Folkins, a Yurok citizen and a Yurok Fisheries Department technician, captures juvenile salmon for a long-term study on McGarvey Creek, a Klamath River tributary.

Leave a Reply