Aug 21 2018

A Concealed Beginning Makes a Lifetime of Emerging #birthday

blog about it challenge
Blog All About It Challenge prompt: Beginning

In the beginning, the Lenni-Lenape tribe, the Grandfathers, the original people, were one nation. A people who valued wisdom above all else. They believed, according to the knowledge passed down to me, in multiple genders, equality, and a wide range of family “structures.” Like the three sisters of corn, beans, and squash, we thrive best together, though are capable of living apart.

Then invaders came and destroyed all that. They brought new words, ones they didn’t use correctly. A savage is someone accepting of the equal rights and beliefs of others so long as those are not repressive. To be primitive is to be one with nature and able to survive without destroying. An uncivilized is a diplomatic individual or group who will be betrayed. Homo sapiens are only people if granted the right to not be the property of others. These definitions are accurate because those who came were not accepting, did not believe in equality of rights or beliefs, were unable to be one with nature, betrayed diplomatic compromises, and decided that some of their own species weren’t in the species no matter science proves.

Not much has changed. Sometimes the history is covered up. Other times, the history is written so that those words sound like their antonyms.

The Lenni-Lenape were forced to convert to a religion counter to their own beliefs. Incorporation of the two religions was difficult and quickly became legally forbidden. For example, it’s hard to justify Adam and Eve being from the east side of the Atlantic Ocean, and there being no continental drift, but humans existing in North America. (It works out easier if you toss out the science that provides evidence of Native Americans, Africans, Aboriginals, Torres Strait Islander people, etc, are indeed of the human species. The invaders didn’t believe in that science. They barely even seemed to believe their own females and some of their males were part of their own species. I have no idea what that suggests about their deep desires, fascination, and constant drive to have sexual relations with those they claimed to not share a species with, especially since the religion they converted my people to was opposed to such an action. But I don’t understand a great deal about such matters, and am glad to not be of the mind.) It wasn’t until 1978 that tribes were allowed to practice their own religions again. Consider that by 1750, almost 90% of the Lenni-Lenape population had been murdered in the genocide or died as slaves exported to Europe. The remaining TEN PERCENT of the POPULATION was not allowed to practice or discuss the religion for over TWO HUNDRED YEARS.

Try to imagine how much of your own culture and religion would survive if only 10% of your people were alive, and 9.8% of those people were killed if they discussed it for two-hundred years. And yes, any record of that religion or culture would be destroyed. The books, the buildings, the graves, … anything and everything that could be found.

Most of the remaining ten percent of the Lenni-Lenape were forced off their original lands. (And then forced from where they were moved to. And then forced to move again. Then restricted to a place where they were supposed to be less and less of themselves. Like using gesso to cover the Mona Lisa and then sketching a stick figure of a dog in its place.) A few stayed behind to try to protect as much as they could, often at the cost of becoming slaves. Some will say that those who stayed are no longer “true Lenape,” because they had a different struggle or aren’t on the designated reservation. But what else would we be?

Living off the reservation has several difficulties. For one, it wasn’t until 1924 that Native Americans could become citizens (again) of the land they’ve lived on for thousands of years. The right to vote and the ABILITY to vote is still being debated to this day. (“Over the past five years, Native American voters and groups representing them have brought at least seven lawsuits in six states, accusing state and local governments of discriminating against Native American voters.” — Source) It wasn’t until 1962 that Native Americans had voting rights in all states. But in 2013, Alaska, Arizona, and parts of South Dakota were granted the ability to deny or infringe upon the voting rights of Native Americans living there.

There was an act in 1978 to make removing children from Native Americans a crime. (It was not only acceptable before then, but often encouraged.) Apparently, that same act needs to be updated or copy/pasted and have some words replaced today. #KeepFamiliesTogether

I was born a year later, assumably. (Though some tests have since put me at a year or two older.) My biological parents didn’t use calendars. And that act in 1978? Some people could have cared less about it. (If I am two years older than the age guessed, that means my kidnapping was legal, as was everything I survived during the time that followed. This is why I feel laws in America lack mortality and integrity. My recent guest post hints heavily at that.)

happy birthday Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash - A Concealed Beginning Makes a Lifetime of Emerging #birthday blog post

Last year I wrote a flash fiction piece about a boy who called himself Stew. It wasn’t nearly as fictional as I’d have you believe.

Today is my birthday. August 21. That’s the date on the official forms. It has nothing to do with the day I left my mother’s womb and took my first independent breath. It’s just what the frustrated woman wrote down because I couldn’t give her an answer to the question that I didn’t understand.

But people like birthdays. People celebrate staying alive for the amount of time it takes for the Earth to revolve all the way around the Sun.

I’ve spent my lifetime emerging from the shadows I’ve been pushed into. The greatest skill I’ve aquired is literacy — the ability to read and write. That is why I created this fundraiser for my birthday. (That, and Facebook offered to donate $5 if I made it. May as well raise money for a charity I believe in!)

Beginnings: My own, and that of my people.

4 comments

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  1. Happy Birthday-ish. I am sending you good wishes and a reminder about how strong you are. You have overcome so much in your life. I can only imagine that it would be hard to not know your actual birthday or age. Being taken from family is even harder. It sounds like you have gone through a lot. Thanks for enlightening us about laws and some of the things that still need to be done.
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    1. Thanks!
      It wasn’t hard for me to not know (didn’t even know that I would want to know), until it became something that others demanded I know. Which is why I keep using this date. Time measurement is VERY important to some people. (Not me, so much, but people.)
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  2. Happy imaginary birthday. I think I”m going to imagine that I’m getting younger and let you have the rest of my birthdays from now on. Your post provides a lot to think about. When I was visiting my daughters in NJ I thought about you several times–whenever I passed a place called the Lenape Motel. I don’t know exactly why it had that name, but that’s what they called it.
    Arlee Bird has this post to share I’ve Got the Music in Me (#BOTB Results)My Profile
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    1. There are a lot of places around here named for words of my people. All of New Jersey was part of our territory.
      Thanks for reading and commenting! Hope you had a fun time traveling around. I just got back from another excursion into the woods. As anyone near my area can tell you, it rained hard enough to cause a flood watch more than once. My other half is not amused.
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