A couple of months back my “Book of the Month” slot took a back seat and became “Book of the Quarter”. LOL
I’d picked Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions not really knowing what to expect. There are some great reviews on Amazon – so I was looking forward to an enjoyable read. I found the book uplifting, informative, funny but profoundly sad as well.
Lame Deer was many things in his life including a Lakota holy man.
His colourful life took many twists and turns as he tried to make his way as best he could.
Reading this book really highlights the plight of the indigenous people in the US and Canada over the last couple of centuries.
The deliberate extinguishment of whole cultures and the tremendous difficulties faced by all the children who were forcibly indoctrinated into another life through the education system is tragic.
For these children the consequences of being taken away from their families, their roots cut away in government schools, forbidden to speak their own language, adrift in a hostile world, would colour their whole lives. They were no longer part of the old world, couldn’t speak the language, had lost the traditional beliefs and life framework and yet were not to be accepted in the new world either.
Restricted on reservations, impoverished – as traditional ways withered with each passing generation.
You can’t stand in the way of progress – some would say.
And to some extent that’s true. Probably most of these settlers were driven by desperation as well, having left famine and injustice in their old homelands , trying to carve out a life for their own families, willing to brave all the dangers to try for a new start.
It’s difficult to see how the overall result of this clash of cultures could have turned out differently given the settler’s drive for land, gold and “green frog skins”.
But the ongoing policy which treated these peoples as sub-human and allowed the state to remove the children from their families was totally wrong.
This same attitude to the weak, powerless or different can be seen throughout the world. Here are a few examples of the disregard and contempt for others which is all too common throughout history:-
As early as 1618 children were being forcibly migrated from Scotland to the Americas to work only ending in 1757. From 1762 onwards – landowners in Scotland evicted thousands from their homes so that they could profit from raising sheep instead. Many of these people would have travelled to the Americas in desperation. In the first half of the 20th century forced sterilisations as part of eugenics policy were carried out on 65000 people in 33 states in the US Lobotomies were performed on thousands of unsuspecting mental patients in both the US and the UK from the 1930’s onward.
You’ve got to wonder how these people justified their actions to themselves.
When we look at our lifestyle today and compare this to our great grandfather’s time there have been great changes throughout the world. Family life has changed out of all recognition. Old certainties have dissolved. It seems that money rules in our consumer led society. When you see where this love of those “green frog skins” took the American Continent and consider the banking crisis we’re going through it’s obvious Lame Deer wasn’t far off the mark.
But things never stay the same for long – there are lots of positives as well.
The love of money which is personified by the grasping banks and company directors with their excessive bonuses is no longer acceptable to most people. Social Media, Twitter, Facebook, the internet mean that it’s easier for people to see other people’s point of view, to find out about their lives and beliefs.
Lame Deer came from a culture where at every family celebration there would be a “give-away”, it was felt to be shameful to have more than your friends and family. In his disdain for those “green frog skin” dollars he was right on the money.
We all need to earn a crust to keep the wolf from the door but the most important things in life are the ones money can’t buy – belonging, community, kindness and compassion.