To all that are reading this…I have been planning on writing what is often called a “blog” for a long while, and this will be the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series. I don’t like the word blog, so we’ll just say Stick Speaks instead. If you don’t wish to receive these, just hit the unsubscribe tag, and you won’t see them anymore. I thank you in advance for your time.
Following my words here, you will see an email from my longtime compadre Martha Yordy. Martha is a keyboard player, a musical director for plays, and is one of the best musicians I’ve known in my career. We started working together at the Arvada Center in the early 1990’s, doing plays, and we always had a hoot. We’ve kept in touch over the years, and this letter follows a recent phone call from Martha. She read this to me over the phone, and it touched me deeply. I told her I wish I had written it, and I am glad she did write it. She was hoping to get it to Al Sharpton’s organization, as he’s very involved in the current BLM situation. She couldn’t reach him through email, so we’ll see if that happens. As I thought about it the last week, I decided I’d finally start my Stick Speaks series with her letter, as well as my own feelings about the Native American situation in the US. Martha and I feel the same about this. I’ll let her letter speak for itself. Here’s some of my thoughts.
I knew since I was a kid that I had an Indian great grandma; my mom mentioned her many times. Her name was Sabra, and she was Choctaw. The Choctaw lived in Mississippi, and were one of the tribes that walked the legendary Trail Of Tears, when Andrew Jackson (and the US govt) took their ancestral lands illegally. I only saw my grandpa once, when I was about 10. He came by our tenement to borrow some money; my mom slammed the door in his face, as she hated him. Before the door closed, I saw him, and thought “wowie, he’s Indian.” Which he was. She didn’t speak much of her dad, but I know he was a mean man, and treated his kids badly. Sabra was his mom of course, but I never knew much about my great grandpa, who’s last name was Penly (John Bell Penly), my mom’s maiden name. Throughout most of my life, I thought he may have been white…maybe he was. But, fast forward to a few years ago. My late cousin Ron, got in touch, and it turns out he was also very interested in his Indian background, and had done a great deal of research. It’s very difficult to get accurate info from tribes 150 years ago, but he did his best. My thoughts on this now are that John Penly was also Choctaw, making my grandpa a fullblood. It’s well known that the US govt forced the Choctaw to use white names for a while. And Ron told me he know of a Bell clan in the Choctaw. My grandpa’s death certificate also says Indian for race, so I’m going to go with that, unless new info appears. I also don’t know if my grandpa’s wife, Estelle, was Indian or white. So my mom was half tribal, possibly all. She never talked about that with me. I wish we had.
I know there is Choctaw DNA in my system. Perhaps that’s why I’ve grown up to be very interested, and deeply concerned, about what has happened to the 500 or so Indigenous tribal nations since 1492, when Columbus arrived in the Western Hemisphere. I read “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee,” by Dee Brown, in 1976. I was enraged for months after. This book looks at the takeover, and colonization, of what is now called America, by the Europeans. It is a very difficult book to read. It is very well researched and annotated, and is essential reading for anyone that wishes to know how we got where we are today in relation to Indian issues. It’s actually really simple; this continent is Tribal land, all of it. There are over 400 treaties that the US govt has largely ignored, not enforced, or just blown off. Treaties are legally binding on a government; so America is basically breaking 400 of it’s own laws, to this day.
As far as racism, here’s a quote from “Book Of The Hopi,” the masterpiece by Frank Waters: “The deeply rooted racial prejudice of the Anglo-white Americans against the Red Indians, virtually a national psychosis, is one of the strangest and most terrifying phenomena in all history. It has no parallel throughout the Western Hemisphere.” What has happened to black folks, since they were brought here against their will as slaves, is a tragedy of untold proportions, and it’s about time that ends. What Martha is saying, and I agree with, is that the Indians need to be included in this process as well. They have had all of their ancestral lands taken, and have been forced to live on what we know as “reservations,” which can also be called concentration camps. Conditions on reservations are usually very bad. They are often very poor lands that the white people didn’t want, because they thought they were useless. Of course, later on when uranium, coal, and other resources were discovered on these lands, the story changed. That’s the subject of another article. Indians are, as Martha says, the forgotten people, overall. Most Americans know virtually nothing about them; most of their impressions of Indians were formed by Hollywood movies, which were rather biased towards the white man, to say the least.
But, they are a helluva resilient race of folks, and are still here, right now. I watch the FNX TV channel a lot (First Nations Experience), and around the country, many tribes are rediscovering their ancient traditions, and passing them onto their young people. This gives me great hope for the future. But, a lot more needs to be done. Namely, their cause needs to be as widely recognized as that of black people, and Americans need to realize that we indeed live on their lands; every one of us, black and white alike. We also need to realize that the racism against Indians is as bad, or worse, than towards blacks. They were thought of as subhuman by many whites through the years, and if you’re interested, there are many many books available on this subject. What to do? Well, we all do what we can. I am writing this to get things started for myself, and Martha. Feel free to forward this, or just Martha’s letter, to anyone you think might be interested. Will people ever march in protests in support of Indians, as they are doing now for black people? I would like to see that day happen, hopefully very soon. Just to get folks to be aware of the problem is a great start. The Hopi, and other tribes, have numerous prophecies. One of deep significance is referred to as the Great Purification. The Hopis (and others) speak of previous civilizations on this Earth that became very corrupted, and were destroyed by Creator to start over. The Hopi say this is the 4th world, and that there is the possibility that this world, too, may need to be cleansed as well. I personally believe that is not out of the question. I’ve also considered that the Covid pandemic may be the door opening towards this. I hope not. Perhaps if we realize our responsibility towards the original inhabitants of this continent, and take the proper action, things could change much for the better. I also include tribal people all over the world in this prayer, from the jungles of S. America to the Aborigines in Australia. Thnx for your time in reading this. Perhaps it can interest you in starting to think of what we are saying; maybe there’s a way to move forward in the race discussion, including the Indigenous people around the world as well…go safe and wise with Creator…N. Haverstick
My name is Martha Yordy, and I reside in Littleton CO. I grew up in Espanola NM as a white minority. My father was a doctor, and my mother an artist. When I was three years old, my parents adopted a newborn Navajo. We were good friends growing up, then during the teenage years we rebelled, and during our adult lives, we grew apart. In 2003 when our mother died we reconnected, and sadly he
died of acute alcoholism in 2005.
In these “dark night of the soul” times, we have been forced to review our relationships with humans of a different skin color. We have also had to review how we as white people have always felt superior to those humans. Speaking for myself, there have been many times in reviewing our history that I have to say I’m ashamed to be a member of the white race.
There is thankfully a new world on the horizon with (hopefully) true equality among whites and African Americans. This nation will accomplish unheard of things in all areas when this is achieved, and the fear on both sides will slowly turn to trust. I am grateful to be a part of this change in history.
However, we have forgotten a whole race of people that need acceptance, and compassion. White man hasn’t just mistreated them, he has killed, maimed, raped, and displaced the indigenous people of this country. We continue our cruel acts by ignoring them during this pandemic. Yes slavery is completely unjust,
but taking a whole population (if they survived) and transplanting them where we don’t have to deal with them is a continuing atrocity. We put them on land where there is no running water, or fertile soil, and we perceive of that as fair?!
It is my feeling that we need to make extreme reparations to our native Americans. Our speeches across this country need to include them.I would hope that the changes coming to our country will help them, but it looks to me that we are ashamed of our conduct, and trying to forget our injustices to them.
In closing, the new world needs to include us all. We need to ask these people what would fix what we’ve done to them. Whether it be monetary compensation, relocation, or both, we need to fix this in order to be on a true loving path that includes us all as equals.