Today is World Social Justice Day.
Friday was a quickly planned (and mostly thought only) day without an immigrant.
Though, technically, unless you live in a tiny undeveloped, unclarified village in Africa, you are an immigrant.
Even the Native Americans are immigrants, though they have first rights. They lived here for tens of thousands of years before the waves of Europeans tried to wipe them from the maps.
Native Americans adapted to their lands. They became naturalized. A part of the land. The land was a piece of heart and soul they carried with them throughout the ages. Even when they traveled, they often returned to the places they were part of.
Native Americans view land in a special way. They don’t own it. The land owns them. They must live where the land says they belong. They do outside chores, like hunting and fishing, when the weather is correct, not based on a clock. They listen to the wind, can read the rock, feel the heartbeat of the very Earth itself. They are as much a part of their own lands as a fingernail is of your finger.
When the Europeans arrived in the 1500’s, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of individual countries in what is now the US. Until we develop time travel, there is no accurate way to know how many hundreds of cultures and languages were wiped out by the Europeans. Many never even saw their conquerors. They were felled by the infectious diseases that traveled along the ancient trade routes between the communities. The communities here had no immunity to those diseases.
The Europeans brought death, devastation, and their own belief systems. In most places, they would have died the very first winter they landed on the shores.
Instead, the Native Americans reached out their hands to help these unknown conquerors. They helped them build places for the more bitter winters, made even more bitter by the volcanic winter. They fed them, and taught them how to grow the crops that thrived in their individual environments. They knew the land, and tried to impart that knowledge to those who came to join them on this continent of cultures. They were welcomed with open arms.
The Europeans didn’t repay in as kind a way. Even more cultures were wiped away. Reservations were created, where Native Americans were forced to live, and forced to own land, rather than be part of the land. Even now, many never feel at home. They are stuck far from the land they, and their ancestors knew.
A true immigrant will feel no connection to the land. They will not care if the waters are polluted. They do not care if the fish die for lack of oxygen. They do not care if the blue skies turn grey, and stay that way. They do not care if the animals die. If the crops don’t grow. They don’t care, because it isn’t their home. They are not connected to the land, air, water, plants, and food animals.
They must search for the place they feel at home. Where they feel a connection.
Today, the Native Americans are waiting. Will our politicians continue to act as immigrants, and refuse to abide by the treaties?
Or, will they decide that they need to treat the Native Americans, and all Americans as the ancestors of today’s Native Americans treated the incoming ships of Europeans? Will the politicians reach out their hands to feed the hungry? To clothe the cold? To house the homeless? To provide fresh water where there is none? To provide opportunities to live an grown their own food and culture?
Will they welcome the cultures older than time? The ones that have been squashed, squelched, and mangled by Hollywood, until no one truly knows what is real, what belongs to which culture anymore.
On this World Social Justice Day, let’s reach out a hand. Learn a little about another culture. Their language, their custom, their dress. Treat them as an equal. The Native Americans did not force their cultures on the Europeans. We should treat them equally, and not force ours on them.
Also, many millions of people in the US have Native American ancestors, though many have been forgotten, as people were ashamed to admit their family ties. Those ties can make us stronger. Bring us together.
Today is World Social Justice Day.