Friday, February 12, 2010
The Indian Factor: Battling our demons, Raising Pride
"I didn't get a rock, me!"
There is a story from a Reserve in Ontario. The Band was doing road work and putting in an asphalt paved roadway in the community. While widening the roadway, one of the machine operators dug out a large rock. So they put it on the side of the road in front of a person's house. The rock sat practically in the yard. The owner of the house liked the aesthetics of the rock, so he asked the road crew to leave it in his yard. As it turned out as the road work continued and completed, other people complained that they didn't get a rock in their yard as well.
Here we have an example of one aspect of the Indian factor, the "I don't have one", jealousy of each other. Indians are not only jealous of what you got, but of who you know, what you are doing, what kind of job you have, what family you come from and what Spiritual path you follow. I know jealousy is common to all segments of society, not just the Indian. So jealousy alone does not make up the Indian Factor.
You know it's hard to be critical of people you love. We don't like it when other segments of society criticize us, so why would we accept it when our own people are putting us down? It's a hard thing, but that it is also another portion of the Indian factor. We seem to be most critical of our own. If there is some Indian in the news or has made something of themselves, we are quick to look for tarnish in their armour. All of us are like that. In most instances it's not automatic to say "good for them". It's work to think that way, but it is worth it to feel good for someone else, even if it is work.
A friend of mine has sure had some bad luck, mishaps in his life and it has taken a toll on his body. He has been deemed disabled and is on the Welfare roll for not being able to work. It's strange and funny what happened after he was put on permanent disability. Some young men in the Reserve said "you got it made". My friend laughed at how absurd that is and how we are oblivious to how far we have fallen. To take joy in the fact that the Welfare cheque will increase by one hundred dollars. My brother is one of those people that is disabled. He continues to try and work when there is work to be had. He doesn't like being sick but its something that he must live with. My friend expressed the same sentiment; he would rather be healthy than living on Welfare. Of course that is not the overall sentiment of the Indian population. However, with the situation on Reserves and inner-cities, the options for the poor and the uneducated are not too plentiful. We gravitate to what we know. All we know is poverty, crime, alcohol, gambling, fighting, what are we going to be pulled to or pushed to?
There have been some business ventures in our community that continue to succeed but many have not been able to survive the Indian factor. We want to support Indian's but yet we somehow end up finding reasons not to support each other. When there is a business in the Reserve some fellow Christian or Traditionalist, will come up to a cousin and say "I won't spend a penny in your place." That is the mindset of people that are hurting and need to get into a better place. Better place in terms of our thinking and of course our Spirits. It is not enough to say good things, we need to believe in good things. Like how beautiful, how resilient our people are. How generous we are and how kind our hearts are. I love that part of the Indian factor, the Spirit of our people. We know what our pains are and we are battling those pains. We continue to do right by our people. We have a lot of things to do to continue healing our Spirits but we are slowly and consistently battling. That is what I like about Indians, we love other Indians. Come to a ceremony and people will help you. Of course there are some exceptions where people want to play the role of leader and know everything, but that's okay too. People will help you. Even in your darkest hour there are people thinking of you. I remember talking to this lady in the Reserve, Lorraine. Her mother was very sick in the hospital at the same time that my Mom was in the hospital. Even though this lady Margaret was very ill and terminal, she was concerned that she was taking up a bed in the hospital that my Mom could have. My Mom had her own bed in the hospital but that is the Indian factor. My Mom was worried about her kids, her relatives while she was dying. She told her kids to not hang out in the kitchen area, while the Wake (Awake) was going on. She wanted her kids to make sure to feed people and make them feel welcome. The Indian factor. The Indian factor has elements that touch all people. All people can come together and be kind. It doesn't seem to be happening much these days with all the talk of war, bad economy, natural disasters, religious differences, global warming and all the other harsh things going on. We can only take care of our own little worlds.
It is true, Indians are the biggest bigots of our own people. We call down each other with the best of them. We are jealous of the new shirt that he is wearing. We don't like it that our friendship is not exclusive to us. We want to have the better looking toys. We are hurting so they must hurt as well.
The Indian factor has all that negative thinking and living but it also encompasses all that is good in people. The Indian factor is a contradiction; we don't like each other but we really like each other. Strange, I know.