November has several names, Indigenous heritage month, American Indian and Native Alaskan heritage Month, and American Indian Heritage month. Regardless of title the goal is to help non-native peoples recognize and learn about an often hidden or forgotten history. Learn that Native peoples couldn’t vote until 1924 or that religious freedom wasn’t granted for native peoples until 1978. This month I have spent time reflecting on my role. My ancestor fought to give me the right to vote as a native person and practice our religious beliefs. I take my heritage and civic duty seriously because the path was cleared for me through my ancestors sacrifice. As I pondered all these items I remembered something I read once.
One difference between colonizers and native peoples is in how they view their role in the community. Colonized people view themselves as individuals born with individual rights that need to be protected from the community. Whereas native peoples are born with obligations to serve and care for the community as a whole and will be cared for by the community. The idea of obligation to the community as our birthright has sat with me ever since.
What is my obligation to the community?
I hope that you will take some time to consider this question as well. As this month passes I will research and continue to learn about and honor my heritage and the sacrifices of my fore bearers. But with the election taking place this month I will also consider my place in the community and my obligation to it.
What do I owe my fellow citizens?
And how can I create a community that cares for one another?
Did I vote in a way to fulfill my obligations?
Did I vote at all?
I hope these questions stir your spirit as they have stirred mine.
I leave my fellow natives with these words:
“You are the dreams of a 1000 ancestors
Pride is the only response
Action the only obligation
Vote. For one day you will dream as an ancestor”