Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Voyage of Skullduggery

Commemorations like the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial are opportunities to discover as a people who we really are. They allow us to confront our national mythology with the benefit of temporal perspective. They bolster our capacity to renew ourselves in a more honest, reconciliatory fashion. They also expose the unhealed wounds between our indigenous and settler societies.

Through the creative participation of many tribes, some of these wounds were addressed in positive, educational ways. The Wisdom of the Elders radio series comes to mind, as does the site consecration process on the Columbia River with the renowned commemoration architect Maya Lin.

Still, to others, it was simply a chance to display pride in ignorance, asserting dominance as virtue. Our president's inviting the Chinook tribe to join in the ceremony at the White House, only to remove their federal recognition shortly after, reminded us that commemorations can bring out both the best and the worst in humanity.

Yet much has changed since the first centennial. Native Americans are now US citizens, their children are no longer kidnapped by missionaries, and many tribes are beginning to recover from the trauma and treacheries perpetrated against them over four centuries. Self-governance, education, and economic development hold promise that the tricentennial might see an America renewed and reinvigorated through their endurance, an America where respect and coexistence are honored and celebrated, an America where we no longer need mythologies of discovery and destiny to sustain our identity and sense of self-esteem--an America where cooperation and reciprocity are valued more than domination and larceny.

Maybe we won't have to wait another hundred years.


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?