3/6/09

Subsistence

This is from my friend Candyce Childers from Eagle River, Alaska. She's one of my closest correspondents and has this to share about subsistence. Her comments remind me that the system of the "over-culture", or, commodity-culture is torqued by selfishness. It is coming undone.

" I went to a public forum at the university discussing the future of subsistence. It was interesting to hear people's perspective on subsistence as a concept. One panelist (Yupik) commented that subsistence and the myriad ways it is regulated is insensitive and bizarre. He drew a comparison between the land as our Native grocery and the grocery stores in the city. He asked the audience to imagine that in order to get food from the grocery in the city we all had to apply for permission. And imagine that we were told we could only go grocery shopping two weeks out of the year during which you must get everything your family of 6 will need for the next winter. On top of that, you could not use a car, bus or other mechanical transport to go to the grocery but must walk. It was powerful and moving.

Another interesting point that a panelist made was how our ancestors handled individuals who were selfish. Even if a man was a good hunter it wasn't a guarantee that he could remain a community member. The community survived by living communally. Everyone had to share their resources and when an individual failed to do so they would banish or kill him. The reasoning was that he would eventually cause the death of the entire village either literally from starvation or from division. Imagine how disruptive it was to have missionaries and teachers move in with their values of individualism and competition."

Thanks Candyce.

2 comments:

butch said...

Joy:

What an insightful posting. Thanks to Canyce too for her brave and righteous indignation. We are ten generations deep in this Commodity/Welfare culture. Where do we start to overhaul it? The Government created Rez's first to corral and control the Indians, and of course drilled for oil, cut down their timber, put in uranium mines, when it suited them, forcing tribal members to work toward their own destruction in some cases. But perhaps living on a Rez as a young person can be a trap, the wrong kind of socialization, the death of native spirit, the demise of ambition. In the big cities, kids are having sex and creating children at 13 years old in order to perpetuate the third and fourth generation of Welfare families; 8 kids and no husband, please.

So let's send our Indian poets to Washington for some kind of Pow Wow with the Big Chief Obama. Let's send Joy Harjo, Sherman Alexie, Linda Hogan, Simon Ortiz, LeAnne Howe, Linda Erdlich and her two sisters. Let's get CNN to cover some "good news", Indian Pride Day, and All Tribes Coalition of Concerned Native Americans, and add the liberals, the greenies, the vegens. Let the poets read their work all day and all night, while the fancy dancers stomp and prance, with canoe races, and hawking of all things authentically Indian, no Asian knock off crap. This might be a first step, albeit long overdue; tee shirts with I AM AN AMERICAN INDIAN: I AM NOT A SLUMDOG on them. Joy, you take your band, or put on your one-woman show at the Smithsonian, set up and participate in the paddling; write new poems, beautiful angry darts and arrows thrust into the ignorance of our Congress, or our population. I can see it clearly.

Glenn

Raqqash said...

By th way, sometimes good news come by...
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7954121.stm