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Guest Column | Tell the Truth

By Kenneth G. White Jr.

Tell the truth.

The true history of Indigenous genocide has been exposed again by the murder of hundreds of children at identified residential schools. Innocent children. Racist people. Murder. Genocide. Hidden in “history.”

It is beyond comprehension that innocent children were killed by church and government sponsored residential schools.

Taken from home. Go to residential school. Get killed.

Parents and family never told the truth about their child’s murder.

Yes, intentional racist genocide is true. Past and present. True and disgusting.

Definition of genocide – “The deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.”

This member of the church defined intentional genocide and the real intent of their residential school – “We instill in them a pronounced distaste for the Native life so that they will be humiliated when reminded of their origin. When they graduate from our institutions, the children have lost everything Native except their blood.” (Bishop Vital Grandin, 1875).

As an Indigenous person, intentional genocide makes me have many thoughts and emotions. I cannot understand it. But understand it. It makes me angry, sad, and hurts.

It makes me prayerful, and wonder about people, history, the real agenda and what can be done for hope, healing, truth, and justice.

Can you imagine the day-to-day life of our innocent children being taught by church leaders, teachers, and staff to have a “distaste for Native life, be humiliated and lose everything.” Or be murdered.

Genocide is intentionally hidden in history. “History” is a faint image of the real truth in our society. Let me tell you what I want you to know. Let me put my version of “history” in your schoolbooks, curriculum, and all other material. Oh, and by the way, my version of “history” and what is “true” is your only choice.

As a kid on the rez in the 1960’s, I believed it. It was all around me. This only version of “history” made me learn it and respect objects, dates, and people. The flag. The Fourth of July. The president. Even the “national anthem.” There was no other “truth.” (Note – The real national anthem is “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry)
A whole beautiful universe of Indigenous history, knowledge, survival, identity, awareness and everyday life were never acknowledged or taught in school. In reality, Indigenous history was dismissed. Erased. Through daily regimen, we were force fed the following topics and “truths.”

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George Washington yes. Sitting Bull no.

The Civil War yes. Wounded Knee no.

The flag yes. Sacred eagle feather no.

The Constitution yes. Sacred Indian treaties no

The Declaration of Independence yes. Indian nations pre-dating this “declaration” no American history yes. Diné history no.

Hidden genocide yes. Love for humanity and innocent children no.

The sad part is that I did not even know I was victimized by a tainted, enforced, warped version of “history” as an elementary school student. There was no alternative source of information, just one rigid fairy tale of “history.” Mission accomplished. Brainwash the school kid. Me.

Both my dad and wife experienced it. Dad was taken from home and placed in the first grade when he was 13 years old. He could not speak English and had his mouth washed out with soap. He was locked in a metal shed for three days and only given water for speaking his language because he never was exposed to a word of English. I remember he said “Son, that was not a school, it was a prison.” Once he was freed from the shed, he ran for the mountains and never looked back.

My wife had her hair cut, mouth washed out with soap, and hands slapped with a ruler when she spoke Diné. This goal is still the intent of society and institutions today. We can’t tell you the real history of genocide and how we want to extinguish you from the human race. It is estimated there were over 11 to 12 million Native people of this land before we were invaded. In 2021 it is estimated there are less than 1 to 1.2 million Native people and that is very concerning. Slow motion genocide with newer techniques?

The teaching, the Indigenous Wisdom if you will, is always go back to family. I remember my grandma and gramps sitting on the front porch of their home relaxing in the evening at their quiet beautiful land on the rez. Gramps would be kicking back enjoying his rolled tobacco smoke, and Grandma would be quiet and calm, gazing at the beautiful sunset in the sky. Every now and then she would give Gramps the look, obviously not liking him smoking a rolled one. Gramps never noticed, taking in his smoke like a fine cigar. A peaceful time. A quiet powerful time of my grandparent’s presence. I would sit at their feet, observe, listen to them, and take it all in.

Grandma often reminisced during these quiet times in the evening. Patiently telling a story about family history, clanship, relatives, elders in our family, culture, the land. I absorbed every word. True history.

My wife’s grandmother was also incredibly special. When we were with her at her home, she would calmly say, “let’s pray.” Any time of day or night it was “let’s pray.”

Grandma would then get out her mountain smoke and Native pipe and say a beautiful prayer in the Diné language, talking directly to Creator. She then would lovingly and gracefully pass the pipe to me and kindly say – “Here my son, pray.” True spirituality.

My dad and mom taught me many Diné values, ethics, history, identity and spirituality, among many other beautiful things. They taught me the essence and foundation of the Diné. Dad said, “The greatest gift you can give yourself is a personal relationship with God.” Mom says, “Everything goes with a prayer first.” Priceless Indigenous wisdom personified and communicated directly with love.

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Real Indigenous history is right in front of us through our family, clan, communities, and Tribe. See that history book over there. No, not a real book. The history book is grandma or grandpa, mom and dad, or uncle or auntie sitting right in front of you. Open the book only they can write and turn the page by listening to them.

They lived their book.

Mother Nature is a history teacher to Indigenous people. The air, the water, the animals, the plants, the universe. Open Mother Nature’s book and absorb her teachings and blessings.

Ancestors and elders are history teachers. Our ancestors are there in the spirit world with their true untainted history, which is forever a part of us now. The elders are the source of Indigenous wisdom, truth, and healing. Open the book of your glorious ancestry and bloodline and read it. It will empower you to realize yourself.

We must recognize our own history both within and outside ourselves for our survival, well-being, self-concept, and Creator’s blessings. Realize and recognize the intent of genocide; but let it empower you to self-identity, wellness, and spirituality as an Indigenous person. Why spirituality? Because Indigenous origin, life, values, culture, and history are built upon Creator and spirituality. Always have been, always will be.

Of course, there are some people who do not have family in their daily life because of various circumstances. Recognize that one is not alone from an Indigenous perspective. Spiritual deities are with you every day – Mother Earth, Father Sun, Creator, and our guardian angels. Absorb your spiritual essence and foundation as an Indigenous person with your unique family composition and be thankful for it.

Likewise, realize real history demands justice. Whether it be a person, a group, a church, or a government. Each must be held accountable for their actions of genocide. It is a duty and responsibility of authorities to bring all perpetrators to justice. Or are the perpetrators the authorities? Whatever justice they will receive, in memory of an innocent child who was murdered, it will never be enough.

As for Indigenous people’s safety and future, there are many considerations too numerous to name. However, it is important to correct, connect and empower the people.

Correct “history” to our history as Native people. Connect with individuals, families, elders, schools, and community to teach, understand, and share real history. In turn, this connection will help to address and heal historical, intergenerational, and childhood trauma. Empower all Indigenous populations and tribal nations to develop their own unique Indigenous ways to address genocide, trauma, and ‘history” in a realistic and systematic manner in schools, services, and programs. In many areas this is already being done. My respect to all tribes and providers implementing positive change now.

With an initial prayer, we have developed the following unique Indigenous ways to address trauma:

1. The Diné Trauma Project – A community-based project at an elementary school on the Diné Nation that combine science (Trust Based Relational Intervention) with Indigenous wisdom for a holistic healing model. The project will develop correction, connection, and empowerment principles and create wellness and self-care tools for elementary age children to recognize and address trauma rather than reacting to it as they grow older.

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2. A Traditional Healing Circle facility design, service, and Indigenous holistic healing model of care – a model that combines behavioral health services (counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists, other key staff) with traditional healing services (Medicine men/women) in a setting that includes a sweat lodge, hogan, tipi grounds, shade house, meeting room, kitchen, bathroom and shower facilities, community garden and campground. Care provided is reimbursable as a covered service under federal law.

3. The Warrior Spirit Conference and Ceremony Movement to Address Historical Trauma. We have had three conferences and ceremonies at the Gila River Indian Community near Phoenix; the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians in Alpine, California and at Window Rock, Arizona on the Diné Nation. The event focuses on historical trauma and Indigenous Wisdom. Future conference and ceremonies are planned. These three projects are currently in progress and can be discussed with interested tribal nations and Urban Indian Programs.

4. A documentary film on these topics is currently in progress.

The murder of Innocent children should be a huge wakeup call to all humanity. They were innocent. They were victimized. They were not “discovered’ they were murdered. In reality, in society often times these horrific actions are forgotten or ignored, like it was nothing but a news topic, and the next news topic begins. Tribal nations must do everything in their power to bring the children home and hold accountable those churches, institutions, and governments (among others) who committed murder. It is imperative to develop and implement a community, tribal, national, or worldwide movement as Indigenous people and tribal nations to stop genocide and seek justice.

Tell the truth. The history of Indigenous genocide has been exposed again. Innocent children. Racist people. Murder. Hidden in “history.” Let us be aware of trauma and intentional genocide. Let us realize, resurrect, and embrace our own Indigenous history. It is my prayer that this realization and resurrection will lead to identity, wellness, self-care, empowerment, and spirituality for you and all Indigenous people. Great elder advice I have received – (1) “Realize yourself.” (2) “Pray, believe in your prayer, God hears you.”

God bless each and every child. The truth is – we will never forget you.

Editor’s note: Ken White, MSW, is with Native Health Care Solutions.


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