Thursday, February 10, 2011

Preface: Nastolgia. Where do I go?

Growing up, I loved visiting the museum. Especially the Native American I was fascinated by the embroidered cloth that draped the great warrior. His sculpted face drew me into his powerful warrior eyes. But I could never find his flesh twin. Where are the Indians? I could never find these 'noble savages' walking among us. I connected the dots while reading about the genocide that occured 100-200 years ago. The fact we do not use this terminology illustrates that people do not really understand what has happened. They just... dissapeared. Convinient for history. Why are they featured in the NATURAL history museum. It gives me the impression that Native nations were once a part of the flora and fauna of the land. As is they are as fascinating and curious as the very buffolo the Sioux hunted. Also, if we are talking about this history of a people, why then aren't there exhibitions about German Americans who came to this country due to diaspora and their integration? Why not the farming techniques of the Dutch who tilled American land? Why not the history of people who have made America? Why the savage in the headress in every museum?

The Native communities today do not have members strutting around in headresses all day. There are Native Americans. They are not the the romantic images of our past. I wonder if they really were. In a book I am reading called EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT THE INDIAN IS WRONG by Paul Chaat Smith, Smith comes to this conclusion:

Indians have been erased from the master of narrative and repleaced by the cartoon images that all of us know and most of believe. At different times the narrative has said we didn't exist and the land was empty; then it was mostely empty and populated by fearsome savages; then populated by noble savages who couldn't get with the progra; and on and on. Today the equation is Indian = spiritualism and environmentalism. In 20 years it will be something else. It is everything but it does not make us fully human (20).

This quote confuses me because I sometimes romantically describe Chiapas, full of nastolgia. I hope more than anything that I describe them with respect. I want more than anything to connect with a displaced people because it must be done. Why? We are human. This is our story. All I know is that I am frustrated with the constant cheating and lying from the administration of Indian Affairs and the history of theft. Justice must be served. I do not know how. Tribes desire sovereignty. Can the United States provide the Lakota sovereignty over the area of Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming? Probably not. But something must come. There must be change. Why? Because what is happening not just. I am frustrated about the situation and I want to come to more closure about the issue. How? Well, I think like this: the more we study the symbols in our daily rituals, the more we dig into anthropology. The more we dig into anthropology, the more we can understand humanity. The more we understand humanity, the more we can understand the relations that build this world, tame this world, and set fire to this world. Maybe. That is why I study. To understand. This is the beginning. I hope. Maybe I am being to Panglossian: thinking that I can come to terms with this struggle. But how would I know if I do not try. And so I begin this journey to come to terms with what it means to be marginalized and the allegory of the 'noble savage'.

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