“Let all that is Indian in you die! You cannot become truly American Citizens – industrious, intelligent, cultured, civilized until the INDIAN within you is DEAD.” These are the words of Rev J.A. Lippincott who, in 1898, gave the commencement speech to
graduates. I’ve heard this and other similar statements before, but for some reason when I recently read this, it hit me very differently. I have been reading materials on boarding schools lately and reviewed a book written by Michael C. Coleman titled, American Indians, the Irish, and Government Schooling: A Comparative Study. Carlisle Indian School
About the same time as the
US government was setting up Indian boarding school policies, the British government was also developing policies to educate their own “savages” over in ! Coleman does a good job remaining emotionally detached as he lays out the evolution of these similar policies. While I’m reading Coleman’s text, it just so happened that the shooting in Ireland consumed all of the news on TV. If you have not heard about this story it is here. Although there were six people killed, the majority of the news topic was and has been on the Arizona congress person who survived being shot in the head. Reading this book and watching the news caused me to think more deeply about what it might take to alter someone’s “being.” US
It seems we know the familiar story of someone getting killed. What we are waiting for and watching is to see if the congress person who was shot in the head will survive and if so, will she remain who she was. She was a certain type person with specific characteristics that made her who she was. Now that her brain has been damaged, what will she become? Is who she was -- DEAD?
Thinking of Parables
I heard my Grandma speak many times about a great teacher who traveled around talking to folks about the ways of a certain religion. He had a teaching technique where he would make a strong point by telling stories in a way that made sense to the person being taught. This technique is considered teaching in parables. For instance, if this man was talking with…say…a fisherman, he would talk about fishing. He would say something like, ‘Come, I will make you fishers of men.” If he was speaking with builders, he would make a statement like, “build your house upon a sound foundation.” And when he would meet with academic professors, he would say, “Those who can’t do, teach.” Well... not so much that last one!
Anyway, I like this style of teaching. I can always get more out of a common sense story related to a topic I know something about. When I thought about the boarding school policies of the
and their intended goals, I see them as being more horrific than a policy of straight out genocide. When a person is killed, they remain who they are/were. When we speak about some of the great Indian leaders who were killed throughout our history, although they are not physically present – the INDIAN in them is not DEAD. Killing does not alter or remove the INDIAN from within the Indian. Removing the INIDIAN from an Indian is impossible – at least this is what I hope we have all learned. US
The WOLF Is DEAD in You
What is the story (parable) of another living being that experienced similar events from a policy intended to remove it or its “being?” It seems it could be the story of the Wolf. There was a time when the Wolf was viewed as being a ruthless killer. It had the reputation as being an animal that solely could destroy the way of life for new settlers – The Lone Wolf! Because of this label, Wolves could be killed without any regard – which they were.
As it turns out, the Wolf is a magnificent creature. There is no such thing as a lone Wolf. They live within a structured community and select a mate for life. They speak to each other, have rules, systems, and can survive without any human's help! When the Wolf was finally eradicated from certain parts of the
US, like , it resulted in that entire ecological system being severely disrupted and out of balance. Yellowstone Park
There was no way to kill the WOLF in the Wolf. Left alone, Wolves will carry out their purpose as they have ever since there were Wolves. Now, we could kill every Wolf but that would not alter the idea of the WOLF -- it would only devastate the ecological environment. A person cannot kill the WOLF within the Wolf, even if they cut its hair, remove it from its territory, remove its pups, train it to sit and roll over, or force it to graduate from obedience school. Humans will never be able to alter the “being” of another living creature through policy development. When you see a Wolf, what you are really seeing is the WOLF. Those two items are one-in-the-same. They are inseparable. Just like when you see a cake, you are not viewing each individual ingredients making up the cake, nor can you remove those individual ingredients like the eggs, flour or milk. The same is true when you see an Indian. The ingredients making up the INDIAN once born into the Indian is inseparable!
The best statement during a commencement speech would be…“Let all that is INDIAN in you flourish! You cannot become truly HUMAN – until the INDIAN within you is ALIVE.”Peace, DAP