Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Ugly" Native Prayers?

--- by Writing Raven

I must admit, I'm still not used to the amount of ignorance people can come up with when talking about Native people and issues.

I read this excellent article from Indian Country Today about a blessing Dr. Carlos Gonzales, Pascua Yaqui, gave for Rep. Giffords.

At first I was wondering if there was really such a wide negative reaction to a simple Native prayer given. But even Googling the blessing and the video above, I came across some truly ignorant and hateful people talking about his pagan, wierd, ugly prayer (namely conservative bloggers and Fox.)

Hearing Fox News analyst Brit Hume dismiss the blessing as, “most peculiar” was disturbing, but not surprising for anyone who monitors how Indians have been treated in mainstream media coverage. Syndicated columnist and ever-present TV commentator Michelle Malkin live-blogging, “Mercy,” and complaining that Gonzales was “[babbling] about two-legged and four-legged creatures” was rude, but it was far from unfamiliar. Several conservative websites, including Power Line, which described the prayer as “ugly,” were outraged. CNSNews.com, another right-wing news site, interviewed Gonzales, and in its write-up, offered a snide report that listed the word “blessing” in quotes and made mention of the fact that Gonzales had used the word “creator” but not God—an apparently unforgivable offense.

Seriously? Yeah... Listen to the prayer. I gaurantee it's nothing shocking.

I was honored to spend the last week in the company of a variety of Native people from all over the country. Daily, usually two or three times daily, the groups would offer prayers, smudging, and traditional ceremony. I participated in most, not totally understanding most ceremonies. They weren't my tradition. There were others who opted out entirely of participating in the ceremonies, as they didn't believe in them, or didn't want to participate in a spiritual activity they didn't understand.

But guess what? They were able to do it respectfully. They didn't believe those who had different beliefs, and different customs, were inferior, or ignorant.

It's amazing to me that in 2011, this issue of respecting beliefs still comes up. I have a faith that no one can take from me, and I'm not threatened by those who don't share it. Learning about others' beliefs ad traditions doesn't threaten or take away from my own - it enriches it.

I know I should be immune to the many, many times I've heard Native ways and traditions, even art, described as crude or backwards. But I'm not. I don't believe the Catholic across from me, though I don't share most traditions, is of a rudimentary mind. I don't believe the Muslim beside me has a lower I.Q. I'm not sure why it's so acceptable to think the same of my culture's traditions, but it is.

In the meantime, I'm encouraged by the time I spent with so many of my Native brothers and sisters down south. Learning about them changed me, spending time with them was a humbling experience.

Haa Shagéinyaa x’atuwóos' haa shagóoni has du latséeni haa too yei anga.oo.


Anonymous said...

Do you suppose there are any locals that might want to cover Alaska issues?

Our legislature is meeting right now, the Resource co-chair just told the Fish and Game commissioner that he 'expected' the Dept. of Fish and Game to become 'pro-active' in their support for the boosterism of a Susitna Dam Project.

Here we have the co-chair directing Fish and Game to support a project that Fish and Game should be expected to evaluate as to the risks or negative impacts of this dam project. That evaluation shouldn't come from a position that is directed by the Legislature to result in support of a project that will certainly have effects on renewable resource habitat and the very survivability of bio-diversity.

While this co-chair was wrapping up his directive to Fish and Game to support the dam, he also slipped in a few remarks about his denial of climate change inferring that Fish and Game shouldn't be wasting time trying to get out ahead of the damaging effects of ocean acidification, or species fragility due to rising temperatures.

I know national issues are easy write about, it's easy to echo some pre-packaged outrage someone else does the leg work on.

Who is watching right here at home?

Anonymous said...

"...Common sense should have at least beckoned and prevented him, and other columnists, from insulting a prayer, especially in a time of so much hurt and healing."

Philip Munger said...

anon @ 3:17 am - Nobody's stopping you from creating your own blog. If you want to write cogent articles on your favorite Alaska issues, you can send them to me to publish here also.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that people still are like that today (well, actually, I can... especially after seeing Palin come onto the national scene in 2008...)

I am a native from Europe, and my chosen country of residence is here in the States.
For the last several years, we have been very privileged to attend several PowWows - both local ones as well as the *big* one, Gathering Of Nations, in Albuquerque, NM.
I do not partake in the ceremonies, because I feel like I would be intruding, but I must say I cherish them very, very much. I also have had the privilege of attending many, many other nations' ceremonies, and feel awed and touched for having that privilege each and every time.
I just, for the life of me, cannot fathom someone so uncivilized and ignorant as those TV personalities! They should all be booted off the public airways!