Engaging with Native People

A question has been raised, on the discussion list for RC Community members and in Present Time, about how members of the RC Communities can engage with the epidemic of suicides among Native peoples, particularly in the United States and Canada.

A challenge for many of us European Americans in addressing the issues facing Native peoples, and our historical role in them, is our complete lack of contact with Native people. Following the advice of Marcie Rendon (the International Liberation Reference Person for Native Americans), I’ve taken some time to find out about the Native people from my area. There are no reservations here, but there is a low-profile Native community in the adjacent state. It’s been quite helpful to learn more about them, and I have a plan to talk with a friend who knows someone personally. Still, it seems hard to find ways to build a closer connection.

I keep thinking of what Harvey Jackins said about refusing to live a segregated life: “If, in the course of your daily routine, you don’t come across people of color, then you need to change that routine.” With Harvey’s and Marcie’s advice in mind, I accepted an invitation from my sister and her partner to join a Native solidarity river journey this summer to honor the treaties and protect the earth.

This experience gave me five days of intimate connection with Native people from a reserve in southeastern Canada, a seven- or eight-hour drive from my home. As a result, I now have personal connections with people who are dealing with the epidemic of suicides in their community. I can discharge more deeply and easily, because the issue is real to me on a much more immediate level. I am motivated to learn more, and I feel more connected to other Native struggles. And, of course, my world has been widened in ways I could not have imagined.

I encourage others to keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities to put themselves in similar situations. And I’d like to thank the Native people and allies I know for all the work they have done to help the rest of us grapple with these hard issues.

Pamela Haines

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Reprinted from the e-mail discussion list for RC Community members

(Present Time 187, April 2017)

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