In 1516, Sir Thomas More, an English lawyer, social philosopher & author, described a society void of poverty and sickness with his book, Utopia. The word is Greek in origin and means “no place” or “nowhere.” Another way to define Utopia is that it cannot exist within a society wherein a small avaricious group controls a disproportionate share of financial, political and social power.
Modern “civilization” is such that resolving disputes peacefully or evenhandedly administering justice to all is purely utopic. In fact, this utopia is mentioned only in 19th century English literature and it embraces science fiction and fantasy and is always set in the future. We’re in the 21st century but utopia is nowhere in sight, at least in the new Euro-American world.
This is because the continent’s newcomers built a nation based on hoarding wealth via violence and telling others how they should live. This White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) ideology is self-serving, inimical and belligerent toward others. The gluttonous material possessiveness (avarice) is essential to its existence. The people believe there is nothing to gain from empathy or any other human attribute.
On the other hand, indigenous people once lived a lifestyle that was clearly mistaken by the ill-disposed newcomer as primitive and destitute. Natives were actually living a way of life founded on nature which initiated principles of equality and a significant level of morality. It was not without its shortcomings but these were diminished and controlled long before they became problems. In fact, this lifestyle was founded on indigenous thought and philosophy that was opposed to the newcomer’s. The Europeans were simply incapable of grasping the intimate workings of it as a result of the fact that they had already lost theirs by the time they arrived here.
Most captivating is the shining fact that despite the near obliteration of native languages and cultures, many today have managed to preserve their ancient ideologies. However, at the local level, natives are still coping with the newcomer’s established annoyance with immigrants and “inferior races.”
Accordingly, natives are popularly known as lazy, inept, stupid, welfare dependent, and generally incapable of western academics. We are continually portrayed in children’s books as big-nosed, ugly, savage, and sub-human. We continue to endure hateful misnomers from the racially intolerant Euro- Americans such as “prairie nigger,” “filthy,” “God-damned Indians,” “Redskins” and “scum of the earth.”
This sad situation originated from the newcomer’s acceptance of inexcusable stereotypes that are as exact as the sun orbiting the earth. Some natives say this racial intolerance is strictly European and is older than Columbus. In fact, there are major Columbus myths still floating around in these modern times that still support this perverse American ideology.
Also, there are too many deceptions within what could otherwise be a beautiful American story. For example, Columbus was Italian citizen of the Republic of Genoa as Italy did not come into existence until March 13, 1861. He was looking for his own oriental India and he certainly did not “discover” America as he never set foot on the North American continent.
Recent scholarly research has now exposed Columbus as a brutal self-proclaimed viceroy and governor of the Caribbean Islands. He committed atrocities upon the native people, such as cutting off the hands of his slaves who could not meet his quota of a “thimble of gold” every three months and raping the women at will. Having no resistance to new European diseases, the natives were decimated.
As time progressed, the newcomer to this continent concealed his atrocities and portrayed him as their national hero. Columbus Day was conceived by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic Fraternal organization, in the 1930s because they wanted a Catholic hero. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the federal holiday into law in 1937.
My ancestors know well the consequence of deceitfulness. It wasn’t that they feared eternal damnation in the Christian devil’s hell. Rather, they knew the truth would eventually rise to the surface. They knew living a lie will eat a human from the inside out and eventually cause one to lose his or her spiritual balance, like many modern Euro- Americans.
This is what our children are facing here in the Dakotas. They are growing up, like we did, into a world of racism, not to mention poverty, teenage pregnancy, single parenthood, sexual and physical assault, alcohol, drugs, and now suicide. Our youth need an appropriate curriculum on racism. A clear explanation and understanding of this abnormal racism in modern society has safe and sound benefits.
Anyway, for the benefit of young, eager, and open minds, I present here some comparisons of natural and altered world-views. I know this will not reverse those stereotypes established among the majority of modern Euro-Americans. However, there are good people in the Dakotas and elsewhere who deserve it.
These are compiled from “Indian Values as Opposed to Non-Indian Values,” Indian Teacher Aide Handbook, Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Although not a complete presentation here, they give a clear differentiation between Indigenous and European world views.
Regarding the environment, natives generally held an instinctive respect for the earth and lived in balance and harmony with it and took only what was needed. In contrast, the European is constantly searching for new ways to control the elements around him. The building of dams, cutting forests and polluting the natural elements, all disrupt the natural way.
Natives respected the knowledge and wisdom of their elders gained through their life experiences. No effort was made to conceal physical signs of aging like white hair and “wrinkles.” The Euro-Americans exert tremendous effort toward maintaining a youthful appearance by spending millions of dollars on makeup, hair dyes, and other items thought to make one look younger.
For natives, time was a relative thing. One did things as they were needed and to have patience was considered a good and desirable character trait. The Euro-Americans believe time is of utmost importance and to sit idly by and let others get ahead is undesirable. The one who is quick to get things done, often at the expense of others, is admired.
In approximately 250 years, this rapacious group nearly obliterated our ancestor’s way of life. However, this does not mean we have to take it lying down, not since we have retained it. We have to understand indigenous thought and philosophy. More importantly, we must understand this European propensity for plunder and greed so that we don’t allow it to pollute native thought and philosophy.
(Ivan F. Star Comes Out, POB 147, Oglala, SD 57764; 605-867-2448; mato_ email@example.com)