This morning — I woke up early before the sun rose to take a walk. I followed my favorite path towards this creek, where there was a childhood bridge that had washed away. As I was walking back, I passed a farm that my father and I used to walk to all the time.
In the distance, there was Timber, a beautiful white horse that I had not seen in ages. I walked along this wet grass path along an electrical fence. As I got closer, Timber raised his head and starred at me.
I looked at him. He looked at me. I felt anger and fear within…whether it was the horses projection or mine from seeing him in this electrical fence — I am not sure. He continued to stare me — breathing hard and forcing air out of his nostrils with a loud noise; his right leg shaking and his other legs flexed.
I said, “It’s okay, boy. Everything will be okay.” I put my hand on my heart, bowed and continued to walk. He put his head down and continued grazing.
At dawn, as the 38 walked to the hanging site — shackled and chained together with hoods on their heads. The women begin weeping. One of the prisoners in a loud voice said:
Hear me my people. Today is not a day of defeat. It is a day of retreat. For we have made our peace with our creator and now go to be with him forever.
Remember this day to tell our children, so they can tell their children, so they can tell our people, we are a people who died a noble death. Do not mourn for us, rejoice for us — it’s a a good day to die.
Then he raised his voice and begin singing in the language of the Dakota’s “Great spirit, great spirit. The things which are thine, are powerful and numerous.”
~ Dakota 38, The Documentary
(You can see the whole movie here.)
Late last night I watched the documentary Dakota 38. Nearly 150 years ago, 38 Native Americans were ordered to be hung in the largest mass execution in the United States. Jim Miller, a Native American elder, a human who had been emotionally, sexually and spiritually abused, a man who fought in the Vietnam War and killed 38 Vietnamese, had a dream. He dreamt of the 38 Dakotas in the moment before they were hung — holding each others hands before the lever was pulled.
Jim Miller and many others organized a 330 mile ride from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota with the intent of healing and reconciliation. As Jim Miller is speaking of the journey, he says, “We can’t blame the wasichus anymore. We’re doing it to ourselves. We’re selling drugs. We’re killing our own people. That’s what this ride is about, is healing.”
Their story is one of suffering, reconciliation and healing. Throughout this story, we are given a glimpse into the suffering of a people. A peaceful people that lived in harmony with the earth and have been struggling for nearly the past couple centuries to heal from the genocide, the let go of the fears of their ancestors, and release their anger from the past.
Hundreds of years ago, there were nearly 16,000,000 Native Americans in the United States. Today, there are less than 300,000 struggling to maintain their dignity in a world that does not support their culture or way of being. In the 1800’s there were bounties for the skin of Native American’s head: $200 per a skinned head. There were treaties that were signed to force them to stay in specific areas and if they attempted to leave without permission they would be killed.
I have been completely ignorant to the suffering and pain of our fellow humans until my travels through British Columbia, Canada where I saw Native American reservations and watching this film. The reservations are communities that are living in poverty, healing from the massive amounts of depression and suicide of a generation who lost their children from reintegration camps (i.e. schools where children were forced to renounce their culture and religious beliefs), and struggling to invite a new future that supports their culture while being a part of this world.
Early this morning when I saw Timber — I saw fear and anger. I felt suffering. I felt oppression.
To be confined and have fear of exiting a physical space — I have not had the wisdom of experience of such. But, I could not help but think about the oppression of the Native Americans over so many generations; the mental, physical or emotional prisons and shackles that our parents and previous generations had to endure; and, the self-imposed limiting beliefs and shackles we place on ourselves; and, the importance of healing and reconciliation that is necessary and important to heal the suffering past, current and future generations.