Thursday, January 27, 2011

Time Changes All Things

I just finished reading "Bead on an Anthill, A Lakota Childhood" by Delphine Red Shirt. My dad recommended this one to me, being a fan of anything Native American.  This one was especially interesting since she is a Nebraska author, living here the greater share of her life so far. 

I enjoy reading stories about real life, most especially the kind of real life where it is just a simple story about the way people live their lives, especially when they are children. 

The theme of the story is the loss of the Lakota way of life, the loss of traditions, songs, language, and the way of life, interwoven in between how she lived as a girl.  What I found most disturbing is the role of the government in this loss in the 1960s and 1970s.  It isn't mentioned very much, but you can get the idea very clearly.  It seems rather too close to modern times for that kind of control to be allowed. 

My overall impression of the idea of the loss of "the old ways", is that it happens all the time.  The way we are living now isn't anything like living two generations ago, and very, very different from the way we lived 150 years ago, even to several hundred years ago.  This subject could be very well worked up into a medium sized paper, or even a book. 

In thinking about the topic of losing what we know of the old ways, I was thinking especially about the pioneers, since just off the top of my head they are the group of people I know most about.  This piece isn't intended to be a well documented piece of work, but a work on a few of my impressions.

We no longer get around using horses or other animals.  Most of us don't know anything about horse and wagon lore, care and keeping.  We don't know how to cook on the ground with wood or whatever fuel was available.  We don't know how to kill and clean meat.  We don't know how to make soap, render lard, identify edible plants growing wild, or make cloth.  Many of us don't have any idea how to make do with what we have. We don't know how to build oruselves a house or furniture.  Many of us, would think even making clothes an extreme hardship.  We don't know how to manage our money; we think using something that someone else has used is unthinkable. 

And sure, we don't HAVE to do any of those things.  Some people do know how to, and sell their knowlege and ability to the rest of us.  I for one, though, am sad that many of these skills are gone.  There are a few people who care enough about these skills, that they want to learn and pass them on.  There are people who make soap, bread, meals from scratch, spin, weave, sew, knit, crochet, build, plant, grow, harvest, preserve, and more.  They are teaching others because they don't want these old skills to die out. 

It works the same way with any set of skills for any people.  Every kind of people has special foods, skills, traditions, language, clothing.  When many people come to the United States, they are eager to lose their traditions and embrace new ones.  Then a couple of generations go by, and they are disappionted those tradtions are being lost.  Many people blame the culture of the United States itself for their loss.  It is the responsibility of each individual to decide what is important to remember and what isn't, and then take the time and the effort for those things to be remmebered. 

The sad thing about the Native American loss, is that the government thought of them as a people that needed to be "managed."  I believe, that if the reservation system had not been instituted, that after assimilating into the popular culture, like any other group of peoples have done, they would have had the resources to revive old traditions.  Some of that is happening now, but I believe it would have happened a lot sooner, and with less bitterness.

I don't know how far out into the world of cyber space, this little piece will go, but I am reminding those that read it, that this is an undoeumented opinion piece, and I am not inviting rude comments. 

One last comment about the reseveration system, if it is beneficial in perserving some native lands and special areas, that is a good thing, Perhaps some of those lands could have been made into National Parks and designated as such.


Laura Ingalls Wilder said...

I have really been enjoying your blog . . . it means more to me than some other blogs simply because we share a love for the same eternal things. Feel like we are similar, about the same age, we have girl, boy, girl, a bit older than yours, and have had similar experiences in life. Thanks for sharing.

The J's said...

I can still remember when we studied some about the NE Indians in 4th grade. It was some of my favorite Social studies classes. Mom would never read about the Indians, she found it too upsetting. It is such a huge part of our history of this country, and one that I feel like is kind of skimmed over now days.
I've never heard of this author--the book sounds interesting. I've done very little reading this last year!