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Gilded Cages

It sometimes seems strange the things your mind can think, I can remember back when I was in my abusive marriage and the girls were still very young how much easier it would be if I was getting hit instead of emotionally abused. With woman who are getting hit there are bruises to measure, broken bones to mend, etc. but with emotional abuse you get instead the same symptoms as with depression or anxiety or those types. I can remember one time when reading of a woman who got helped when she was in a relationship where he was physically hurting her and thinking how lucky she was. Then being shocked at myself and thinking to myself maybe my husband is right and I am worthless since look at what I am thinking!

It strikes me again when thinking of the situation of the indigenous Americans, especially those in Alaska. I was thinking to myself when reading the news that 'wouldn't it be great if we were getting bombed too so people would care about us more' then had to stop short again. Where on earth do such thoughts come from I wondered since I would never wish tragedy on anyone and do pray for Peace in other places. I know how devastating it is to those living there under those conditions so why did that ugly thought spring into my mind like that?

It got me to thinking of cages and how it can seem where I am in some sort of gilded one where it is not so bad compared to others around. And that is true, we do not have it as bad as even the indigenous Americans in the lower 48, where we supposedly live in a free country. But the fact that I am not free is what should be remembered and not that I live in a gilded one. I am racking my brain trying to remember where I heard that one poem 'Why does the cage bird sing" and can't think of it right now.

I would love to sing the songs my ancestors knew, I would love to live as they would live, I would love to speak in my ancestors language and most of all, I would love to be free to choose whether I lived there or lived in Anchorage. Those choices were taken from me by the Americans when they 'relocated' my mom and other Aleuts from their traditional homes. They took the young and moved them into isolated boarding schools away from their roots and culture and families. Why do you think they did this?

I know why, Alaska is very rich in resources that they are hungry for. It is like Cortes and his insatiable lusts for gold and wealth and had no problem with destroying anyone to get it. In a small scale everyone can agree how wrong this is, like hearing of a bank robbery and wanting them caught and tried and punished for their crimes. But on a huge scale everyone seems able to turn a blind eye to it. It always makes me wonder about them and what they are truly thinking. Do they, perhaps, believe we asked for it? That we did not kill them when they first came (Russians by the way for my people), so now believe it is our own fault? I think it is a good thing that my people are not murderers actually, something I can take pride in and my daughters can take pride in.

I just Googled it and it is a poem by Maya Angelou and called "I know why the caged bird sings" and is about the caged bird singing of Freedom and Hope. I think it has been awhile since I read her and will need to go find it again since I must have been remembering parts of it lately in my thoughts.

I also found a discussion group questions page that might be fun to discuss too.



"Do they, perhaps, believe we asked for it? That we did not kill them when they first came (Russians by the way for my people), so now believe it is our own fault?"

Such important questions. And you know I believe everyone in the world knows its wrong and wishes so very much to be able to turn back the clock and do it differently or find a way to help. At least those of us who are not in power, greedy and lustful for resources think that. Most of us do not believe we should put our own nation's interests before others anymore, or at least unfairly and unjustly at the expense of others anymore. I strongly believe the world ( and America very recently) has begun to open its eyes and its doors wide enough to see the necessity of each other's equality. If its not there yet, I hope enough of us will get there soon to start making a real difference.

The problem for those of us who do believe in equality and fair justice is how CAN we help? What CAN we do? Is it up to us? Or can we partner with you and others to start rebuilding what was once lost. How can we help you get back to your land? Get back on your feet, reconnect with your heritage?

"I would love to sing the songs my ancestors knew, I would love to live as they would live, I would love to speak in my ancestors language and most of all, I would love to be free to choose whether I lived there or lived in Anchorage. Those choices were taken from me by the Americans."

Perhaps there are others in your community who know your language and still speak it., who know your songs and still sing them, who know your heart and can help find its way home.

Perhaps you could contact the thirteen indigenous grandmothers for assistance. They may have a wealth of advice for you....
Tina x

Maria de Chirikof's picture

Hi again

I always love when you comment since you always show how things are changing even though it seems to come too slowly. It is what is great about this site since anyone can have their own areas they want to help the woman in and with so many of us from all over we get that 'global' feeling.

This was going to be part of a group I wrote the other night, along with Gilded cages and bitter aftertaste, trying to express things. But it took longer then I thought to write that one poem since I tried writing it in a haiku-ish style. I almost didn't post it at all since I wanted each verse to be a complete haiku and sort of build but am not talented enough. Maybe someday I can figure out how to write it more elegantly! It is sort of an 'Ode to a Japanese Goddess" who gives me such joy when we dance together in my dreams.

But I was going to write of the one idea in that poem "I know why the caged bird sings" and that one verse about not being able to see beyond the bars of rage. How it is so strange to think and believe we are changing things and then have it slam you in the face again. I was telling the girls how it can seem like you are skipping along merrily that things have changed then 'bam', you know, and it can seem like all of it is just some sort of shared naive dream and you get that bitter aftertaste left even when you continue to work toward true equality.

It seems you can't escape from it sometimes. Even here at home! The guys upstairs were having a party on Friday and about 1am I went out to smoke on the balcony since I couldn't sleep and got treated to hearing them talk. I mean, I know they were drunk but still, when will this go away? I mean, can you convince them to leave if they truly feel this way about "us". Maybe explain how extremely rude it is? The actual words was one was talking about earlier times and sort of wishing they could throw "us" into those concentration camps and asking his friends if they liked this idea too. I mean, no one is forcing them to be here, and we sure did not invite them! But we have to be the bigger people and "overlook" this and it just makes me mad.

I really would like to someday walk outside my door and never have this happen again. It always makes me smile though sometimes, when I remember that line from 'A Knights tale' well a couple of them actually, the first being that one where the Chaucer guy is talking to the bookies or whoever they were and said he is going to immortalize them in his story where every pimple every wart will the exposed. I am trying to get a good feel for the characters that represent this idea to me so in my novels there will be them... But my favorite line is that one when they are writing that letter to the girl together and the lady says something like 'Love should always end in Hope' and do believe that.

And a sidetrack, my youngest after watching that movie and that one line where their knight is dead and one says 'his soul is gone yet the stench remains' and how she used that when we first got our house. It was a foreclosure and I had told their father I did not mind a 'fixer-upper' since I would enjoy that actually but it had to have a huge yard. The first time we saw it, it was scary! It looked like a ton of teens went wild for a week or something with beer bottles and that smell, phew! And when we went back to check on the progress they were making and noted they had cleaned up a bit she said 'the beer bottles are gone, yet the stench remains' as we looked around. I adore my girls!

Forgot what I was saying now, I think how I had planned to write another one that same night but got caught up trying to write that poem. But the rage one would also end with the idea that this bitter aftertaste is what we are left with if we leave our dreams when we awake. So it was also going to end with Hope since love always should.

I love that you comment and hope you never stop reminding me of how many good people are around who do truly care since it does seem like not many at times! Where it can seem like that line from Titanic where she feels she is standing in the middle of the room screaming and no one notices, no one even looks up. So, thanks for looking up my friend!



JaniceW's picture

Rabbit-Proof Fence

Maria, your comments reminded me of a very dark period in recent Australian history when children of Aboriginal descent were removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments. The removals occurred between approximately 1869 and 1969, although in some places children were still being taken in the 1970s!! Yes, that recently.

The reasons behind the Stolen Generations (as they were called) being removed range from providing protection for neglected, abused or abandoned mixed-descent children; beliefs that Aborigines would "die out", given their catastrophic population decline after white contact; fears of miscegenation and a desire to attain white racial purity.

The child removal legislation resulted in widespread removal of children from their parents and exercise of sundry guardianship powers by Aboriginal protectors over Aborigines up to the age of 16 or 21. A national report concluded that between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities in the period from approximately 1910 until 1970, and that in a large number of cases, children were brutally and forcibly removed from their parent or parents, possibly even from the hospital shortly after their birth. Removed children were, in most cases, placed into institutional facilities operated by religious or charitable organisations, although a significant number, particularly females, were "fostered" out. Children taken to such places were frequently punished if caught speaking local indigenous languages, and the intention was specifically to prevent them being socialised in Aboriginal cultures.

The social impacts of forced removal have been measured and found to be quite severe. Although the stated aim of the "resocialisation" programme was to improve the integration of Aboriginal people into modern society, a study found that there was no tangible improvement in the social position of "removed" Aborigines as compared to "non-removed", particularly in the areas of employment and post-secondary education. Most notably, the study indicated that removed Aboriginal people were actually less likely to have completed a secondary education, three times as likely to have acquired a police record and were twice as likely to use illicit drugs.
[excerpted from wikipedia,]

The movie Rabbit-Proof Fence retells the true story (based on the book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington Garimara) concerning the author's mother, as well as two other young mixed-race Aboriginal girls, who ran away from the Moore River Native Settlement, north of Perth, in order to return to their Aboriginal families, after having been placed there in 1931. The film follows the girls as they trek/walk for nine weeks along 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of the Australian rabbit-proof fence to return to their community at Jigalong, while being tracked by a white authority figure and an Aboriginal tracker.

It is an inspiring story of courage but is also disturbing for the theme of the movie. As a neighbour of Australia, and being from a country where there is a large Indigenous population, I cannot help but compare the way Maoris and Aborigines have been treated. New Zealand is not without its faults when it comes to the British Empire's interactions with Maoris but there was never the arrogance of "we know better what's best for your children, than you do". If you have a chance, rent the movie as I'd love to hear your opinion of it.

Maria de Chirikof's picture

I will look for it

I checked at the little bookstore we stopped by today but didn't have it there so I will check Barnes and Noble tomorrow when we go out.

In browsing around I found an interesting article:


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