Sunday, 12 October 2014

Going Native... Thankfully


I am lost, I am lost
Has anybody seen me? I am lost
Oh, nothing is forgotten, Only left behind
Wherever I am, She leads me down, Unbound
No borders, No fences, No walls,
No borders, No fences, Unbound
Oh, listen for the night chant
Oh, listen for the night chant

Robbie Robertson... Unbound

For what have we to be thankful?

It's easy to be grateful for stuff and people and lifestyle and healthcare and the nation we are fortunate to inhabit. Those are the things we see every day.

When I was young, I used to hear the expression, “gone native” when referring to a transplanted European who began to live their life akin to Indigenous folks. Going Native was never used as a compliment. It was always derogatory. It was as if living a life different from what the Europeans thought were some form of sin against the chosen deity of the day... whichever convenient one that happened to be. 

I took offence to “gone native” then though I had no idea why and I certainly didn't have a strong enough voice to speak my mind at the time.

To Europeans, natives were backward... dirty.... heathens. Natives had little issue with nudity while the Puritans who landed at Plymouth rock were... well... Puritans. The Puritans viewed the nudity of Native North Americans as heathenism. The Puritans were Christian and the Natives were not and therefore the natives needed to be "saved". The Indigenous folks were mobile in their lifestyle. Europeans didn't understand it and tried to nail natives to one spot... thus the creation of reserves

Going Native was viewed by my forefathers as a large step backward and the lifestyle was seen as something to be repaired... and feared... and admonished. It was negative in the truest sense.

There is a world of difference in intent.

I now view Going Native as an appealing destination. To me, it is a way of being; a way of viewing the world at a global, societal, spiritual and personal level. While I wouldn't wish to give up the entirety of technological advances or some of the creature comforts that come with those, I believe there is a certain blending of modern technology and ancient ideology that can create a Utopia, if not in society then in a personal view.

Going Native to me is a blending of ancient ways with modernist tendencies.

Today is Thanksgiving.

Just over five hundred years ago, Europeans landed at Plymouth rock and nothing has been the same on this continent since. The natives greeted the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. The Europeans saw wide open, exploitable resources. After the first settlers landed from the Mayflower, there were offerings by the Indigenous peoples and a feast of the year's crops were enjoyed by all. It was called Thanksgiving.

Who was doing the giving and who was doing the thanking?

If you need to think about that answer, you're missing the point and the true spirit of Thanksgiving. As much as we like to (and should) celebrate the day, I believe it's important to remember those first thankful days of giving by those who had the most to lose. This day isn't about football games or watching uncle Harry drink himself silly or whether the gravy is lumpy or having naps after eating too much or being grateful for all the new crap you managed to gather this past year.

This day is about remembering to whom we should really be thankful. I can't help but wonder what Native North Americans have to be thankful for.

Am I thankful for the things I have? Of course. I am also thankful to those who gave so much and who received so little in return. The European way was to change what didn't fit their way and to destroy what they didn't understand. Fortunately, the societal climate has been changing in the fifty odd years I've been inhabiting this body. Fortunately, we haven't lost the wisdom of the Ancients. Fortunately, for those who are willing, they are willing to teach.

Today, I am thankful… to those who gave without seeking anything in return. I'm am thankful for being a student of ancient ways, not only here in North America, but also throughout the world. I am thankful for finding a way to weave those idioms into my life. I am thankful for those who take the journey with me. I am thankful for the wizardry of life which allows me to create myself with a balance of new and old.

Of course I think we should be grateful for what we have and for those in our lives that lift us. We should be grateful for having the things we need to live full lives. We should be happy for a roof and four walls. We should be grateful for those who join us on our journey. These are all important things.

For myself, I am also grateful knowing I have Gone Native.

Miigwechiwendan