We are beginning the season of transformation. It is the time to bring in the harvest. The squirrels in my mother’s neighborhood in Tulsa are putting away for winter. We are all reaping what we have sown. This is happening at many levels of our existence.
I remember our beloved Mvskoke person Phillip Deere ’s words as many of us stood together at America’s Capitol at the end point of The Longest Walk the summer of 1978. This time marked the end of a long walk of a protest of indigenous peoples to the Capitol, to make our presence known, to once again come to the face of colonized power to address them, one human being to another.
Following is an excerpted version of Deere’s words to remind and inspire us. They are prophetic and remain pertinent and living for us. Mvto. Mvto.
We are part of nature. Our pipes are red. Our faces, many times, we paint red. But we represent the Creation. We hear about Red Power. There are many definitions to Red Power.
Sometimes we refer to Red as the blood. But all colors of Man have the same color of blood. The fish life, they have blood also. The animals, too, have red blood. Everyone has red blood. But everyone was not made out of the red clay of America.
Only the Indian people are the original people of America. Our roots are buried deep in the soils of America. We are the only people who have continued with the oldest religion in this country. We are the people who still yet speak the languages given to us by the Creator. Our religion has survived; our languages have survived.
Long before this building (the Capital) was built, my ancestors talked the language that I talk today…I see, in the future, perhaps this civilization is coming near to the end. For that reason, we have continued with the instructions of our ancestors. We are the only people who know how to survive in this country. We have existed here for thousands and thousands of years. The smartest man in America does not know and cannot date the time that we originated.
This is our homeland. We came from no other country. Regardless of how many millions and millions of dollars are spent on an Indian, to make him someone else, all these millions have failed to make a White Man out of the Indian. We are the evidence of the Western Hemisphere!
…I feel sorry for the non-Indian. I can see the confusion among them. This society is confused. I can see that as a bystander…If I were with the society, I too would be confused. In the beginning of time, when everything was created, our ancestors also came about in this part of the world. There is no Indian here, on these grounds that will say that we came across the Bering Straits. There is no Indian standing among us who will say that we descended from apes and monkeys.
We have always looked at ourselves as human beings…
We are the original people here…We have forgotten in a short time what when the first people landed on our shores, they could not survive. Even the pilgrims could not survive. The Indians showed them the way of survival. We taught them how to live.
We taught them how to plant corn. That corn was a Tree of Life for us. We showed them that this is life here in America. And they survived.
Not too many years afterwards, foreign agents came to our house and tried to tell us how to farm. Not too many years afterwards, they began to tell us how to live. They began to tell us that our religion was wrong; our way of life was no good. This is not the agreement that we made. This is not the treaty that we made with the U.S. government, or any other country….We had an unchanging government. The law of love, peace, and respect, no man-made laws will ever take the place of it! And this is the law that we have always lived by.
Because we understood this law, every Indian door was open. Through these doors walked Christopher Columbus. Through these doors walked the Pilgrims, because of that law of love and respect that we had for all human beings.
But time changed. After entering our door, they took advantage of the Native people here. Their greed -- we have seen it. Many of our people have died. Many of our people were massacred because they wanted more land. We gave them land through treaties. We gave and we gave, and we have no more to give today!
Not only land was taken, even the culture, even the religion, under man-made laws, were taken away from the Native people. But we managed to survive. We continued with our way of life.
The jailhouses, the prisons in this country, are no more than four hundred years old. Prior to the coming of Columbus, more than four hundred tribes, speaking different languages, having different ways, having different religions, lived here. None of these tribes had jailhouses. They had no prison walls. They had no insane asylums. No country today can exist without them! Why did we not have any prisons? Why did we not have jailhouses or insane asylums? Because we lived by an understood law.
We understood what life is all about. To this day, we are not confused. My elders, spiritual leaders, medicine men, clan mothers, have no disagreements. We are not that confused. We come to you with one mind. We do not disagree on our religion. I have never tried to convert the Lakota people into Muskogee ways.
On every corner there is a church, each of them trying to convert the other one. We did not come here with that kind of confusion. We respect one another's religion. We respect one another's visions. That is our only way of existing in this country here -- that is our survival. This is our strength. Even though we are greatly outnumbered, our ideas will overcome those numbers!
People in this society have been driven away, and have been taken away so far from reality that they will not sit down under a tree and talk to us. They won't even sit down in their office to listen to the Indian. We have experienced this all this time, even in the local offices at home. Those who are holding positions through the government refuse to listen to the grassroots Indians because they have been so far away from that natural way of thinking. They have to look at a piece of paper and get directions from the higher-ups. Even their minds are controlled. They can't make decisions for themselves.
…Every tribe has a trail of tears. We wonder when it is going to end. I would like to see the time come when we can act like human beings and be able to sit around and iron our problems out.
…Your life is at stake. Your survival depends on this…
Phillip Deere 1929 to 1985