The thing is, a dirty past does no good just left there, unexamined. We have to honestly assess the damage and then make the very best possible causes for righting all that's gone wrong. Having recently watched this haunting TEDX talk by our good friend Aaron Huey, and then last week heard this heartbreaking, infuriating story on NPR's All Thing's Considered, our country's collective hypocrisy has been on my mind more than usual this year.
The good news is that Huey's work has attracted national attention, and since evolved into a collaborative billboard campaign for Pine Ridge, enlisting the artistic talents of Shepard Fairey, Ernesto Yerena and Huey himself. And the NPR reporting in South Dakota has sparked a congressional investigation, as well as efforts by the Lakota People's Law Project to amend the Indian Child Welfare Act. Americans-- native and otherwise-- do care about this history, and this present, we all share. People can work together to create positive change.
And meanwhile, here in Texas, The Austin Powwow and American Indian Heritage Festival celebrated its 20th year bringing the diverse cultures, traditions, heritage and foods of this country's original residents to the general public (for free) in an enormous, impressive event just five minutes from our new home. So, naturally, we went to check it out.
Given the history referenced at top, I had to hand it to everyone involved in this thing for making a point of providing access to the event to the greater community. In fact, the event's website states up-front that:
The mission of Great Promise is to preserve the traditions, heritage and culture of American Indians, and to support the educational and health needs of their youth and families. We do this to honor the past, and to ensure the future. We work to dispel myths about American Indians, and to educate the public about their many nations and cultures.
I think they've done a phenomenal job in realizing this mission. And I think it's important to note that these efforts-- to preserve, to support, to honor and to educate-- are coming from within the Native American community. From the outside, we sometimes only see the images of poverty on reservations, hear the stories of the broken treaties and learn about ongoing and outrageous injustices like those in South Dakota. And while these are incredibly relevant aspects of the history and present situation for American Indian people, so are the rich cultural traditions and open-hearted, self-empowered activities like those taking place at the Austin Powwow. Struggle and subjugation are not the whole story here. It's crucial that we recognize history's whole truth-- that we do, in fact, acknowledge the elephant in the room on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving (and any day, really)-- but recognize also that the story is complex, with many layers. It is also still being written. Or told aloud, created now. And the story told today was one of celebration, for a past and a future, of expanded communities, and appreciation across cultural lines. I felt invited warmly into its depths, into its telling.
Btw, I'm interviewing the above-mentioned NPR story's reporter early next week, and will blog up the Q&A next weekend on Parenting.com. Let me know if there are any specific questions you'd like passed on.
And now for more Austin Powwow awesomeness:
Here's Kaspar getting a handle on the dancing from our seats (plus our friends, with their sweet baby Hudson, who we went with):