Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Morning Thanks--Many Moccasins

Okay, I admit it--a part of me wants to chuckle a bit, just as I laugh at Dutch klompen dancers who perform their ethnic thing hither and yon, as if they themselves are standing guard over my own ethnic heritage. What's more, while some of my ancestors might have scrubbed streets, I'm quite sure most of them would have drawn down a Calvinist eyebrow on street dancing.

Part of me wants to chuckle at the excess, the wild ornamentation, the dramatics; but part of me is thrilled by Native fancy dancers such as we watched last night, these from the Winnebago Reservation of Nebraska, perhaps our own closest Native neighbors.

And I suppose my admiration rises from 1973, the Red Power movement, which seems to have affected every last reservation in this country, infusing a people with a new respect for who they were, for their history and their traditions. A Winnebago woman told me once upon a time how 1973 changed her forever--"here I was, 17 years old, in Washington D. C., working for Native rights." It seems to me that similar stories abound on almost every reservation. Dances, like the one we watched last night, are a part of the story of a people bound and determined not to abandon their heritage.

We are who we are because we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us; we are--all of us--characters in a story; to attempt to erase the earlier chapters as if they didn't exist is to cut us off from who we are and what we've become.

Once upon a time this place where I live was really Sioux county because it was all Sioux country.

I've been reading Geraldine Brook's new novel Caleb's Crossing, the diary-like meditation of a 17th-century Puritan girl named Bethia, whose lot it is to determine right and wrong, as Huck had to, when the tight Calvinist system she is by birthright a part of comes into inevitable conflict with the island's aboriginals, the Wampanoag. Early in the novel, Bethia sneaks away and watches the Wampanoag dance, then notes how the Native women especially show no signs of the sinful wantonness she'd been warned was associated with dancing. Instead, they looked dignified, respected.

I thought of Bethia last night when, early in the performance, three women danced together so reservedly that one began to wonder when the real steps would begin. Not for a moment did those women drop their dignity.

Okay, there's some showmanship in the fancy dancers, some excess maybe; but there's also great dignity, the acceptance of a history, a heritage. For that--and for them--I give my morning thanks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, my friend, for those kind words of understanding. Doesn't God,in Rev. 7:9. speak of every "nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne and in front of the lamb"? The only assimilation I see is that of a spiritual nature. Being transformed by the renewing of the mind. Thanks.