At The Tin Shed last month, local resident Laurie Monti brought together a group of Native American activists from several Southwestern tribes to show a short movie and discuss “Healing the Border.”
Not surprisingly, these folks were resentful of the U.S. government’s hostile treatment of their people over two centuries – including outright extermination policies – and of the current, demented wall project which has defiled some of their sacred sites, noteworthily Quitobaquito Springs, in Organ Pipe National Monument. I’m pretty sure the Trump administration would have kept a more respectful distance from an evangelical megachurch with 45,000 conservative parishioners/voters, but that’s just a paranoid hunch.
The actual wall is an abomination, of course, but even more obscene is the notion of WALL as an appropriate solution to differences between neighbors. What more primitive, unfriendly solution could one imagine? It thumbs its nose at Brotherhood and Christian Charity…not to mention the ecological disaster. The only good thing one can say about Trump’s famous wall is that it’s less ugly than the grotesque concrete monolith Israel built to keep it’s dark-skinned neighbors in their place.
The tribal speakers had come to talk mostly about current border problems. This engendered interest and empathy among the audience, but, by keeping the topic local, failed to address the larger, seemingly universal patterns of racism.
One truly admirable aspect of indigenous culture, repeatedly cited that evening, is its general, humble sense of mutuality; awareness that we are all creatures of the same creation/creator; that plants and other animals are equal to and no less important than we are. (Their conduct is often less nasty than ours.)
Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan, the Yaqui shaman, explains that indigenous people often become custodians of spiritual wisdom by default, since mainstream (colonialist/conquistador) culture generally focuses on wealth and power, becoming blind to natural and spiritual law. (N.B.: current Climate Crisis, species extinctions, etc.) The sacred sites and practices of Native people, in fact, almost everything about Native people, is seen as primitive and, at best, quaint, not taken seriously by the affluent, tech-savvy conqueror. In modern society, those who express respect for the welfare of plants and animals, especially if suggesting that they are our equals, are thought to be soft in the head.
To some minds, powerlessness “proves” inferiority. In a kind of unconscious, self-serving Social Darwinism, the empowered majority can’t take those “beneath them” – i.e., less rich and powerful – very seriously. Indigenous people, of course, like other minorities, are routinely barred from acquiring wealth and power, good jobs or housing, none of which can be found on the remote, infertile wastelands called reservations.
Both comfort and unconsciousness are really forms of sleep. It’s normal to dislike that which disturbs our sleep. Let’s thank Allah that there are always just a few who, out of decency or rage, will not turn a blind eye. Like prophets in the Bible, they campaign to make us see, and are, thus, both reviled and disliked, and, for the most part, simply seen as pests, like mosquitoes or flies.