Thursday, June 26, 2008

Native patriotism

An interesting article from the Los Angeles Times (reprinted in the Juneau Empire).

On the anniversary of the Battle of Little Big Horn, it is discussion on patriotism and the seeming "strangeness" of the American Indian tendency to both fight for the U.S. and (some tribes) assert the right to be completely free of the U.S.

"...American patriotism is not something that you simply have or do not. What that flag means to you will depend heavily on how you regard the history behind it...
...genuine patriotism can still take place amid divided loyalties... Non-Indians who attend celebrations like the Little Bighorn anniversary are often surprised by the exhibitions of U.S. patriotism. But for more than a century, American Indians on the Plains have understood that their love of country can contain both their struggles to achieve tribal autonomy and their deeply felt attachments to the United States."


The idea that Alaska Natives and American Indians would be unpatriotic actually surprised me a bit. I'm often caught unawares (naively, I think) when a certain way of thinking is put out as "what everyone thinks" or "many people think" about certain aspects of Native culture and issues.

In the Native culture I grew up in, if there is any group that is upheld with as much respect as Elders, it is veterans. Rare is a large ceremony or big event in which veterans are not honored.

I was honored enough to be able to attend an honor ceremony for Diane Benson's son after he was injured in Iraq. Still, when I think about the war, my "emotional brain" remembers both the great honor and great sadness of being able to shake his hand and try to impart the true meaning of the word, "Thank you" in as few words.

I have discussed, in earlier posts, the Native ambiguity of being "both proud and not proud" of the state, the country. Maybe this is not so rare for Americans - I can really only speak from a perspective I am familiar with.

But I don't know that it should be so surprising that the Native people would proudly bear arms across the world in defense of this land. Native ancestors were doing it long before it was called the United States.

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