The Triumph of the Tribe: A Manifesto

Bullets trumped arrows. We lost.

Colonial imperialist, clearing out the tall timber, could no longer dwell near existing villages—eventually one had to die a deliberate death, not the pilgrim nor the puritan. Many native to the land had to learn a new prayer, cut the hair or remain lost in a new world.

European immigrants, pressured westward, found the frontier inhospitable, fearing the native “savage”—one had to die a deliberate death, not the military nor the mountaineer, not the public nor the pioneer. Long knives grinned sharper, pierced deeper than tomahawks.

Manifest Destiny proved a more lethal doctrine than aboriginal rights, sacrosanct land and inherent sovereignty. Gifts of gin and imbibes of brandy, along with the white forked tongue, proved a more seductive taste than maze and peaceful pipes of tobacco.

Racist pale faces and their uninked policy of genocide rolled with many white wagons across rolling prairies. Bison, and those depended upon the buffalo were targeted for extinction. Bleached bones of beasts and man strewed the land.

Parchments, inked of broken treaties, were bartered for pressured concessions, quick-fix assurances, and enforced acculturation.

Lives and land were lost, lessons learned, dreams dashed, memories memorialized, all and more, remnants of a past, a place—ours.

But they are a past, not to be forgotten, but a past and a place no longer suitable or salutary to dwell on and certainly not a past or place to wallow.

Character trumped contempt. We won.

Because we survive, actually thrive and labor for a lustrous future, because we reinvigorate a vibrant culture and revitalized an old tongue out of desolation, because we constituted elective government out of disorder and despair, because we forged a practical sovereignty out of paternalistic dependence, and because we built a superior nation out of an inferior allotment—we won.

Officially, you called me to be a nation builder, yet you too, my native brothers and sisters, are nation builders. We all must be nation builders, creating a nationhood that is both sovereignly separate from, and peacefully part of the host nation.

We must actually rebuild a nation from a catastrophic loss of natural resources into a perpetual state of prosperity. We rebuild for a family, our children, and for our children’s children. We rebuild upon the scattered aches and aspirations of an indigenous nation and for the triumph of a tribe.

Our skin is dark, light or white, our eyes brown, green or blue. We are Indian. We are the native Americans.

So: Stand straight. Be brave. Preach pride. We are tribe. We are Native Americans.

 

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About Wesselhoft, Paul

Retired U.S. Army (Airborne Ranger) Chaplain; State Representative, Oklahoma House of Representatives; Representative, Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
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