I Finally Understand My People

Marcie Rendon, the International Liberation Reference Person for Native Americans, came to Ireland to do a workshop. It was one of three such workshops held in Europe. I believe the intention was to identify Indigenous communities beyond those already recognised in our International RC Community.

I had experienced Marcie’s leadership and heard her thinking at an Indigenous people’s gathering at the 2009 World Conference of the RC Communities. I had felt at home in that gathering in a way that made me keen to learn more about the Indigenous identity.

At the workshop Marcie’s approach was quiet, low-key, and packed with knowledge of the Indigenous experience. As she rolled out her observations, my feeling was “I know what you are talking about.” It lifted my spirits to have my experiences recognised.

It was interesting to hear how other Indigenous peoples have been demeaned for their culture and trampled over by colonisation, land grabbing, and genocide. I recognised how our quiet ways, our language, our inclination toward cooperative living, our love and respect for the environment, our open-mindedness about spirituality have all been swept aside, mostly by English colonisers. A capitalist society on the move has made our lives as Indigenous Irish people difficult to conduct with confidence.

We have been bewildered by what has happened to us, to the point where we cannot accurately describe it. We have kept re-reading the history books but have often given up on understanding them. Largely we have blamed ourselves.

At worst, we have internalised the blame heaped on us. At best, we quietly go off on our own to figure it all out.

I breathed a sigh of relief to hear an outside voice say, “You are a Native people. You had this land. You had your own language. Your very lifestyle of cooperation and low environmental impact made you easily conquerable. You were targeted. It did happen.”

I thought, “Now I finally understand Ireland; understand my own people, going back so many generations; understand what happened, why it happened, and what it did to us.” And to pull from beneath the rubble that we have been fine all along—what a relief! And to dare to think that our way of living is not just fine but admirable and useful for world change—that is discovering a bottom layer of understanding.

I have taken what I want from my Catholic experience, chosen the benign parts of it to underpin my life. But the information Marcie shared has given me an understanding of me and my people that has given me a deeper understanding of my world.

I have been telling people that I understand myself better than I ever have before! I guess it is time to start discharging with that confident knowledge in my keeping.

At the end of the workshop Marcie pointed out that we still have our land, our ancient sites, and a good deal of our language—richness indeed, and ground to stand on.

Thanks Marcie, and thanks to the Republic of Ireland Community for hosting and doing such a good job of organising this workshop!

Sheila Fairon

Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

(Present Time 186, January 2017)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00