While speaking at the San Francisco Public Library, Tommy Pico reads a poem commissioned by his father. He recites from the poem “I See the Fire that Burns Within You”: “[A]ll [Native Americans] ever are a metaphor, or a cautionary tale, or a spirit guide. Nothing contemporary. Nothing breathing. Nothing alive” speaks to the idea known all-too-well to Native Americans reading stories about their history by others. The only Native American history Blake has taught us prior to this year was all pre-1776 and how they were all decimated. This is incredibly important information, but the way in which it is presented implies that there aren’t still millions of Native Americans today who are still being discriminated against and still have history and stories that should be taught. If I didn’t go to numerous pow wows a year and be involved in Native American traditions due to my heritage, I too would believe that the cultures and traditions of Native Americans were completely wiped out.
Ignorance of the younger generations is not their fault, but the fault of the Euro-centric history that is taught. Living in a state and a country where the majority of people are descendants of European people and living in a country where the majority of our beliefs and practices coming from Europe means that European history is very important to Americans. There is nothing wrong with wanting to learn about where you come from and understand why you are here. These are both amazing things to delve into. But people have to recognize that where they are now is on the land of Indigenous peoples which means they should be obligated to learn about their history and where they are now. Learning Native American history is very important to understanding our country, but equally important is learning about the discrimination and troubles Native Americans are expiriencing today and how to combat those problems.
If you like poetry, I recommend Tommy Pico and Sherman Alexie. If you’d rather fully delve into an Indigenous culture find a pow wow near you. They are incredibly fun-filled with fry bread, art, and amazing song and dance. Here is a link to one of my favorite pow wows I attend annually: LCO Honor the Earth Pow Wow.