This I Believe

Jamie - Hampden, Massachusetts
Entered on May 8, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: legacy, race

Cultural Awareness

I am fifty percent Native American, a Seneca half-breed. I believe that everyone is entitled to learning about their heritage. My people and I have lost our culture, land, and dignity. Can you imagine feeling a cold empty pit in your stomach as you weep, wondering why your native father left you when you were a baby? Can you imagine growing up with derogatory holidays- celebrating the loss of your heritage in which you are forced to participate; Thanksgiving, Columbus Day? Can you imagine your father withholding your heritage for the white blood that runs in your veins?

My father left me when I was ten months old to go back to his reservation, exiled. My single mother is Irish, Italian, and a Roman Catholic who has never received child support, my father is unemployed. At sixteen he contacted me through a letter, I had seen hope then but now I see futility. He told me that I can not learn about my heritage because the Seneca believe that the lineage passes through the mother, and since my mother is white, I am unworthy. The only piece of heritage I have is my land, yet the earthly remains have become necrotic ashes of my innate country, the technologic and colonized destruction of nature. The beautiful culture of my people remains distant and far off; the archaic Great Spirit and the sacred eagle feathers unreachable, unknown.

My father lives in destitution, as many natives do. Being native caused numerous problems for him, making him barricade himself and his Longhouse beliefs from the “white man” and me. Most of the pain I’ve suffered is from the effects of loosing our land. I have witnessed my country accept anti-Native American propaganda, slanted textbooks, and a forced cultural loss. My classmates have even said to me that natives “deserve to die”, are “red-skins”, “savages”, “drunks”, “greedy casino owners”, etc. Derogatory games of cowboys and Indians and Westernized movies portray my people as savage beasts while Columbus is glorified. I feel despised even though I’m only a half-breed; imagine how the four million full bloods feel!

Nobody should be ashamed of their race or deprived of their heritage, it causes the extinction of unique cultures and generates racism. My pain is incomparable to the long list of misfortunes of my people, but my loss has caused a cruel void in my life. I have only attempted to commune with the Great Spirit through half-witted Pow Wows and by speaking with the kind stranger Little Fox who taught me how to dance. I have learned to listen to my heart as the drums beat, dancing rhythmically around a passionate fire with brown dusty moccasins. I hope to one day know the meaning of my imitative steps and to hear the whispers of nature. I still dream of the revitalization of my people’s culture, of clean open landscapes and natives dancing fervently to the beat of nature, charcoal face paint and animal hides warming my body. I dream of equality. I dream of respect. I dream of freedom.