Giving It Back

When my mother died, in 1991, I inherited some money. It wasn’t enough to buy a condominium or house in Boston (Massachusetts, USA), but I found a small two-bedroom cottage on Cape Cod (in Massachusetts) and bought it. I never thought I would own my own house. I never thought much about it.

My parents were working-class people trying to move into the middle class. After living in a second-floor apartment, our family moved when I was about six into a two-story house in a New Jersey (USA) working-class suburb. From when I was old enough to work, I always had lower-wage jobs—working in a garment factory, paving driveways, doing day labor, dishwashing, driving a taxi, being a peace activist, and finally spending forty-five years as a preschool teacher. A house wasn’t on my agenda, but I must have had a dream of settling down with a partner and family in a house near an ocean.

The first years after I bought the cottage, I spent time there. I had summers off, without pay, from my preschool job and stayed on the Cape for weeks at a time. I found there a vibrant Wampanoag Community and attended powwows and demonstrations. I also helped develop a Wampanoag anti-bias curriculum for preschool classrooms. Increasingly, though, I didn’t go to the Cape. I gave up the car for environmental and economic reasons and thus had more difficulty getting to the cottage.

During one RC class the teacher gave me a direction: “Give up the house.” “What? Give up the house? That’s ridiculous,” I cliented. “I never owned a house. I deserve this. You give up your house!” It upset me. The teacher stayed steadfast.

For many sessions after that, I counseled on it. I was also discharging on class and getting lots of sessions on racism. I had been involved in a movement of Native people in New Mexico (USA) and was well aware of the history of oppression of Wampanoag people on the Cape. I participated in many Day of Mourning rallies in Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA, that exposed the real Thanksgiving Day. All this went on for several years. Then a few years ago I attended a powwow in Mashpee, Cape Cod, and met some people from the Native Conservancy—a Wampanoag organization that was accepting land gifts. I was excited and moved.

My sessions centered on my need for money as I got older. I am seventy-two. People would ask, “What if you get sick? What if you are scammed by someone and they take all your money? What if the politicians take away Social Security? What if? What if?” Then I attended Marcie Rendon’s Allies to Native People Workshop. (Marcie Rendon is the International Liberation Reference Person for Native Americans.) She gave us the direction, “Give up fifty percent.” Another direction was “Go back to where your homeland is.” I’m not ready to move to Ireland or Sweden or wherever my people came from, but why did I need land and a house? And why was I always worried about a “what if” situation? Poor people don’t have a choice on “what if.” It is already happening. It was clear to me that I had to give up the property and give it back.

A few weeks ago I started the process of giving my Cape property to the Native Conservancy. Everything seems right about this. It took me a long time to get here, and I got a lot of help. My Co-Counselors, RC teachers, and Marcie gently pushed me forward. Thank you all. I will need your help in the future.

Craig Simpson

Dorchester, Massachusetts, USA

(Present Time 192, July 2018)

Last modified: 2018-07-29 12:16:14+00