Thursday, July 21, 2005

Seven Generations

I'm a very fortunate man in many ways. I have a good wife, a good kid, good health, and an interesting past. Believe me, I do count my blessings and take nothing for granted.

I used to tutor Native American children with learning disabilities. It actually was all right. The Indian parents let me do my job. I think anyone else would have driven me nuts. I like parents who are concerned with their children's work, but if they interfere with what I'm doing, I'll stop tutoring their children. I don't want to be lectured by stupid parents who blame me for their parental shortcomings. That's reason #1472 that I'm not a teacher.

Since I supposebly did a fine job tutoring, I got invited to their ceremonies, everything from Pow Wows to Native American drummings. They taught me more than their culture. I learned outdoor survival skills as well as better hunting and tracking techniques. I feel very fortunate to have had these experiences.

Unfortunately, much of Native American culture has been lost over the years. In the 1930s, schools would beat Native American kids who spoke their own languages so we ended up with a generation of kids who spoke only English. The backbone of a culture is its language and with only two Native American languages going strong (Navajo and some language in Alaska, forgot which one), Natives have lost way too much.

So they started adopting a sort of Pan-Indian thing. For example, the Ojibway invented the dreamcatcher, but now practically every tribe now makes them. They've melded a lot of their belief systems as well, like the Seven Generations concept.

The Seven Generations concept is a wonderful philosophy. It simply states that when you do something, think in terms of how it will affect folks seven generations down the line. Like, do you really think putting a strip mall over that excellent farmland will be a good idea seven generations from now? Or, do you really think it's a good idea to let millions of illegals flood into this country? Or, should you really be buying gasoline with MTBE in it? Also, since we're supposebly supposed to be helping the Iraqi people, don't you think it's a bad idea to be using DU (depleted uranium) in our weapons? These questions need to be answered in terms of how it will affect the good people seven generations from now.

I've adopted this principle into my belief system and I think it's a wonderful concept. The concept is so simple, yet so perfect. It's right up there with the Golden Rule in my book.

And to my Native American friends past and present, thanks. Thanks for all you've taught me, and I'm looking forward to learning more. If I ever become a Congressman, I'll be all ears with your concerns.


Blogger savage said...

I've noticed the melding. The most weird is that my brother, half-indian that he is, doesn't know his own tribe.
On another front, though, is all the apologizing we do for supposedly evil past deeds. Apologize for slavery. Apologize for Japanese internment camps after Pearl Harbor. Apologize for taking Cali from Mexico after we squashed them in an unfair war (shouldn't war ALWAYS be unfair? Why would you want to fight anyone if you didn't know you can win? Unless you have a major axe to grind -- think American Revolutionaries against the British.)

What I'm trying to say is: People always attack their weaker neighbors, etc. I'm surprised we haven't simply annexed Mexico, come to think of it. I think it'd be better for the people there. The division of money and property vs labor is really awful in Mexico (something like 99% of the wealth is owned by 1% of the people who aren't in the mood to share).

...anyway... Eventually we'll all look like The Zombieslayer -- an attractive mix of colors but we don't easily sunburn. Sunburn sucks. You have to wonder why your ancestors ever came back to the mid latitudes after turning pale. Morons: You'll burn and die. You'll get cancer. Maybe you can make yourself feel better by taking over the world?

Wow. I can't even remember what the point was. Oh yeah: Apologizing for the past is weird and misguided. It is the history of everyone that a) they attacked their neighbors and b) wrote histories about it which painted them in a good light.

So is it such a bad thing that Clint (that's my brother) doesn't know which tribe he belongs to? I still don't know which (European) "tribe" I belong to. British (says Mom), Irish (says Dad), and Scottish (says Dad's Mom). WTF am I? (Thought Mom was German -- geez!)

7/21/2005 1:13 PM  
Blogger Slade said...

Savage, you bring up a good point...the only thing that worries me about the idea of not apologizing is that we may forget that we were in the wrong, or may think that concepts such as slavery and genocide, ect are ok. I don't think it is the apology that is necessarily the important thing, but admitting that we were wrong in these actions. (and by "we" I certainly don't me to insinuate you and I had anything to do with these things...but you get the idea)

ZS, you may be interested in this website: You can buy fantastic Native american shirts...warning there are a few liberal things on know me!

7/21/2005 1:26 PM  
Anonymous Michele said...

I really like your 7th generation philosophy.
Don't take this wrong, ZS, but I think I can say this, since my Great-grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee, but Native Americans sort of need to get over it. They tend to be very bitter about the past. They need to get off the reservations, get out of the casinos, give up alchohol and start working hard. Every American has been wronged, been beaten, been enslaved. We need to keep looking ahead.
I don't like how sensitive everyone is about their nation's pasts. Even by saying "We're Native-Americans" like they were here first sounds pre-angry. ANYONE born here is a native American.
Yes, their culture was sort of cool, so were a lot of cultures, and they should remember it, honor it like we would any heritage, but don't be so bummed it's gone. Most are gone.
You know, I know Native Americans aren't the only ones who have a hard time forgetting. There's a cool verse in Revelation that talks about a tree in the Great City in heaven, and it says "the leaves of that tree are for the healing of the nations."

7/21/2005 1:30 PM  
Blogger tshsmom said...

The Golden Rule is the #1 guideline in our household. It's how we've raised our kids. The simplicity is beautiful.
I've always been a 10 yr person, myself. I've always asked myself; how will this affect us 10 yrs from now. I like the idea of the 7 Generation thing, thanks.

Michele-I agree with you about "getting over it". Each of us has been part of a conquered culture at some point in our personal history. We may not like it, but it's part of humanity.

7/21/2005 2:29 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Tough call because not only were Indians (the ones I've known don't say "Native American," and I'm 1/8 Cherokee) conquered, they were sort of forcibly assimilated at the same time as being ghettoized. Of course in California you have the whole crazy casino thing. At some point we all need to work together, and if some sort of apology would actually help that, I have no problem with it.

7/21/2005 2:40 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Yeah, I agree that apologies are necessary for the purposes of recognizing mistakes, and more importantly, teaching future generations WHY it was a mistake.

I believe a couple of the Sioux languages are going strong still as well.

Americans have become very short-sighted and impatient in almost all our endeavors. Not sure what to do about that - but our culture of immediate gratification has to go. Stop and think about the implications of what you do - whether it's driving 2 blocks to the store because you're tired or voting for that immediate tax-break or invading another country...

7/21/2005 3:27 PM  
Blogger Sadie Lou said...

Great post ZS and good comments everyone.
I agree with Michele about "getting over" past injustices. What race, creed, ethnicity, heritage hasn't been persecuted?

7/21/2005 3:47 PM  
Blogger Bridget Jones said...

I hope you DO become a congressman, but you're way too good for that to happen.

Took a lot of NAtive American stuff in elementary school and at home. Never forgot any of it. KNow quite a few and love the guys. There's a shop here where they smudge me every time I visit (but I"m still evil lol).

There is a program up here called Model Forest, where Canadian indian (oops here it's aboriginals/First Nations) kids are documenting their history via videos and mixed media. It's a great idea and seems to be catching on.


p.s. You're a teacher, ZS, you just really do the work instead of going for the label.

7/21/2005 7:50 PM  
Blogger Bridget Jones said...

p.s. love the 7 generations idea and will use it.

7/21/2005 7:51 PM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Savage - I still burn though. I guess too much white blood. ;)
In fact, I think I got burned today hacking away at the mess we call our back yard. It finally looks decent, but it's too late to have another bar-be-que. Oh, keep spoken word funny for me. Too many people talking about drugs, depression, and suicide. Me thinks those people need a good kick in the pants. Too much time spent analysing life and not enough time spent living it.

By the way, wasn't intending an apology for what we've done. More along the lines of we still have much to learn from them.

Slade - Thanks for the link. I usually buy American Indian clothes from Pow Wows and we try to buy jewelry from the artists themselves. They really put a lot of pride into their work.

Michele - No, I totally agree with you. I'm sick of hearing about the past. Every culture has been screwed over by someone else in the past, and almost every culture has screwed over someone else unless they were not very good at it. As for casinos though, I'm in favor of it because I've personally met people in college because of casino money. Of course, they're not proud of it, but you got to do what you got to do sometimes.

Tshsmom - The Golden Rule still applies to this day. It's an excellent rule, and one I try to live by.

Jason - so you're aware of the whole assimulation/ghetto thing. Yeah, not a bright spot in American history.

Laura - our shortsightedness is getting us into serious trouble. I could go on and on about that, but I'll have to save that for another topic. It's not just us though, I think it's a human race thing.

Sadie - I was about to say the Narnians were never persecuted, but I forgot about the White Witch. Historically, everyone has been stomped on. Even the conquerors get conquered eventually. I've always said crying about the past is a waste of time. Learning from it however is one of the most important things in the world.

Bridget - Thanks. You're too kind (blushing). If I'm not mistaken, Ojibway tribe is more in Canada than the U.S., right? I've never heard of Model Forest though. I'll have to research that a little.

7/21/2005 8:22 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

The native Americans I saw back in South Dakota back in 1997 were very cool. I was an inquisitive 11 year old boy and they seemed to understand that very well. My dad was very hesitant and I remeber to this day when he said "Ben, stop asking so many questions." The native American gentleman said, "Sir it's ok, let him ask" They are very facinating and intelligent people. They know how to live off the land without any help from modern technology. They could be a very helpful tool if we are ever crippled by a terrorist attack and need to go back to those methods. There is so much that they can teach us.

7/21/2005 9:03 PM  
Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

I have had very limited experiences with American Indians. The most I saw was when my grandparents used to take us to Omak for the stampede and suicide race. We always camped close to the Indian village and I remember walking through and looking at different things they were selling - mostly jewelry.

I like the "seven generations" concept - I think that not enough people think that way. It's very in-line with the later stages of life (I think it's called self-actualization) where people reflect more on what they've done and what kind of impact they've had on those around them.

7/23/2005 8:31 AM  
Blogger savage said...

Jen, one word for you: legacy.
No, I didn't think so, either, ZS. I was just trying to squeeze some George Carlin/Jim Goad/Dennis Leary in there. Gotta remember my own (redneck/whitetrash/eurosumpthin) roots. ya know?

7/24/2005 4:34 AM  
Blogger savage said...

My group is either drunk and fighting, just plain fighting, or fighting to take over the world.)
It would be so nice if people thought about the consequences of their actions when they made them. It's what angel dreams are made of.

7/24/2005 4:36 AM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Ben - you think so much like I do. I wanted to learn NA techniques just in case the s*** hit the fan and we had to go back to hunter/gathering for awhile. They still know quite a lot more than I do. Their tracking skills are top notch too. May they never lose those abilities. Oh, and I love how they never rush anyone's speech. They take time with words.

Jen - you'll have to do me a favor some day. I'd love to see a post on what those races are. Never heard of them.

Savage - unfortunately for the white trash, they've been hired to fight other people's wars for centuries. Still are. Those are your roots and you're still being exploited. I think Jim Goad is right on for the history of white trash (and how the rich scapegoat them). One of my favorite lines is how who's really racist, the dumb redneck who makes a racial comment, or the rich guy who sends ten thousand black men (and ten thousand poor whites as well) to some foreign country to get killed so his stock can go up a few bucks? And that is why I hate political correctness so much. Words are nothing compared to actions.

7/24/2005 9:04 AM  

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