In Shakespeare's play "Hamlet" there is a scene in his room where his mother and his uncle (who married his sister-in-law to become king instead of it passing to Hamlet, the rightful heir) and his mom has her new husband leave so she can talk privately with him. Putting it into an Indigenous Alaskan perspective, imagine his mom saying to him "American Indians have been oppressed for hundreds of years. Their parents and their parents before them, this is our way. Why does it seem so particular to thee?" And imagine my response being "Seems? I know not seems! There are things within me that I could show... Seems? Nah, Madam, it is!"
For hundreds of years the Indigenous Americans have lived with oppression of their peoples. Westerners do not like to hear such things because the stark reality is so harsh and so brutal that it hurts to even think about it. Now imagine being forced to live this day in and day out. It is brutal and harsh and that is kind of why we would like it to change. There is so much talk of things being different now and how that would never happen again. Such a beautiful thought, no? Too bad it is not true since history repeated itself in Alaska. We are not talking about ancestors hundreds of years ago but my own mother and her generation. So, pretty words aside, what, exactly, has changed for the American Indian /Alaskan Native populations?
In that scene where Hamlet meets the ghost of his father, instead picture me meeting the ghost of my mother. Her saying how terribly wronged they were, how they evacuated the white woman and children and left the natives to fend for themselves as only one example. And me saying "The villains! What should I do, mother?" Her talking of treatment most foul and her parting words being "Adieu, adieu, remember me."
Westerners always say how you can catch more flies with honey or how using a gentle cooing tone of voice will attract them better. Well, know that the Indigenous Americans have been doing this for hundreds of years to no avail. A couple of hundred years is a mighty long time by any standards, right? And are we any closer to getting Justice by our own gentleness and patience? No.
Gather around, my friends, and I shall tell of the most foul deeds committed and our new course of action. Obviously this idea of using honey is meant to keep the westerners from facing the harsh realities that are imposed on us. So, now my friends, swear, swear upon my pen, that you will give no indication that you are aware of this truth and no matter how rude or weird I may seem, you will not tell the truth of the matter. That I am about to embark upon a course to make westerners confront the truth and my actions may seem rude or odd but do not doubt that I know which way the wind blows and am only rude when it blows south by southwesterly...
What is truly inspiring is the way the stereotypes about Indigenous Americans are being seen for what they are and a real system of equality is taking it's place. By highlighting the beauty of our indigenous cultures, our wisdom, our natural way of life and our belief systems that we can bring understanding to the rest of America and show that the time for real action has come. By honest discussions of these matters we can begin to bring about the real changes we want. I may seem to be very anti-American but that is not true, I actually love my country very much. But I am not blind to it's many, many faults. And I hope to highlight these so others can see them since I believe that recognition of what needs to change and how it needs to change will be the first important step to equality and Justice for the Indigenous Americans.
Adieu, adieu, remember me...
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This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.