Letters: Apologies from a white man
My name is Robert Franson. Most people call me Bob. I am now 60 years of age and I was raised in the era of TV and TV westerns of the 1950s and 60s. During this time, you had over 100 westerns showing on television and many, if not all, of these shows showed Native Americans as savages, killers, and bad people to be exterminated. Some shows showed compassion for the Native Americans and good relations with individual white people, but all in all mostly in a negative light.
In watching these shows I always felt bad for the Indians and thought the white man was so unfair to these Native Americans that at first helped them to survive and welcomed the few American whites that traveled west in the beginning of moving west. Historically, it all started with the Spanish, who tortured and killed many Southwestern Natives trying to find the seven cities of gold. Later, the Spanish enslaved the Southwest Pueblo Indians forcing them to do away with their traditions, religion and culture and become Christians. The only good the Spanish did was bringing horses, which changed the various tribe’s way of life in using the horse.
From the time the Europeans arrived until the U.S. government was formed and existed from the beginning they lied, cheated, killed, starved, stole lands, and destroying cultures whether Native American tribes like the Cheyenne who befriended the white man even changed to Christianity and yet lost their lands and were forced to move.
… I am not proud to be an American, or a white man, when it comes to treatment of Native Americans. For when you look at history you see the atrocities that man has done to man to his own injury worldwide. Whether it is because you are different in looks and skin color or whether you don’t believe as the rest do in culture or religion then you should be removed or die. For what the white man was trying to do was genocide to all Native American tribes and nations and not merely existence or coexist with them. There are many politicians I hate for what they had done to the people that existed here first, as well as military men, warriors of great fame to the white man, for these men disgust me to my very soul.
… The Massacre at Wounded Knee under a white flag, soldiers killed again, men, women and children as they played leaving 250 dead. Who really are the savages?
Surprisingly, President Thomas Jefferson spoke out many times with many bills in Congress to free black slaves, which Congress refused to do, yet due to Jefferson buying the Louisiana Purchase he saw no wrong in westward expansion and the impact it would have on Native Americans and their cultures and people’s being displaced, killed, and lands stolen. Why did he not seek a solution for both whites and Native Americans, as he did with the blacks for he knew early on that race and equality would eventually have to happen for the good of the U.S. to continue as a nation?
A Cheyenne prophet named “Sweet Medicine” got 40 tribe leaders together and told them of a vision he had, giving them a warning saying, “Strangers called earth men, would one day appear among them, light skinned, speaking in unknown tongue, and with them a strange animal that would change the Cheyenne way of life and every other Indian peoples forever.” (Sweet Medicine).
This warning was years before the Spanish arrived and that strange animal was the horse for Sweet Medicine described as tall with a mane and a long tail that almost touched the ground. That light skinned would also to me describe the white man and his unknown tongue who came 140-plus years later after Sweet Medicine gave his warning. For the real savages were the white man and the U.S. government from the time of President Jefferson until the turn of the century.
… What I love about Native Americans is their love of the land and the respect for all creatures. Their love of family and their culture, their way of life is not forgotten but embraced to young and old alike, respect for old people and their ancestors from times past, and for their history as to where they came from and the honor of being their people (tribe, nation). They respect nature and try to preserve it, unlike the white man, who seeks to get out of it whatever he can, and then toss it away after they ruined it or destroyed it. Native Americans for the most part were a peaceful people, oh yes, there were warring tribes that prayed on other tribes for land and slaves, but overall most were peaceful, good takers of the earth and had a closeness of family and their tribal society.
The whites (first Europeans) came to this continent for religious freedom and from oppression from English rule, and to start a new life. Yet they eventually became oppressors themselves, destroying or trying to destroy cultures, beliefs, and religion different from their own. How soon they forget of the way they were treated by the monarchy of English government.
Today, many Native Americans need help with jobs, decent places to live, water, food, and a better standard of living. It is 2016 and still the U.S. government does little to help Native Americans progress.
… My heart has bled slowly for more than 45 years for what the U.S. had done to Native Americans both in the past and in the present. The image of these wonderful people of many tribes has been slandered, making them look like unintelligent savages lower than a human being, yet you are human beings with a soul like the rest of us. You are intelligent, caring human beings.
I, Robert Franson, white man, apologizes to all Native Americans for the atrocities that my race has done to you in the past and in some ways continues to ignore the problems you face today for you and your families, as well as future generations. I am so sorry and cut to the heart of your treatment by my race and if in some way I can help Native American causes I will help.
My letter to you all does not and cannot erase the past between all of your cultures and minds. I just want to help in some way and stop my soul from crying out for I have said nothing to help you and I should have years ago. My heart still bleeds but I hope other white Americans feel the same way as I for even though I have no fleshly brothers and my family are all gone I consider you brothers and family.
My sincerest apologies to you all and I hope all Native tribes and Native nations have a future for themselves, and that both whites and Native Americans can work together in unity and understanding for the future.
Proud of Diné College students
Last month, I spent three days with nearly 1,000 American Indian and Alaska Native tribal college students, including more than 80 students from Diné College and Navajo Technical University, engaged in academic, cultural, and athletic competitions at the 36th annual AIHEC Student Conference in Minneapolis, Minn.
At the conference, I saw the future of Indian Country: compassionate, hardworking, intelligent, proud, engaged, and committed to change. The students from Diné College and Navajo Technical University were particularly commendable – after driving two days on buses to reach the conference, they spent each day practicing, competing, supporting one another, and proudly representing the Navajo Nation. Their commitment paid off, with NTU winning two competitions and Diné College winning 10 first place honors, including the Knowledge Bowl (which focused this year on Anishinaabe and other Great Lakes tribal histories and culture) and the popular Hand Games Competition.
As much fun as the competition is, the AIHEC student conference is so much more than winning. It’s a chance for Native students from around the country to come together and share their cultures, songs, histories, and aspirations. It’s an opportunity to develop and strengthen leadership skills, gain self-confidence, and to begin working together to build stronger, safer, and more accountable sovereign tribal nations.
A short one-act play performed by Diné College students is an example of how today’s tribal college students, grounded with a strong sense of their tribal identity, are developing the confidence, tools, and courage to shape a better world on our own land.
“When the Warriors Were Called Home” is a play about an annual winter event: the march of death by exposure in Gallup. Last year, hyperthermia in or near Gallup claimed more than 20 Navajos. This year, in a period of about five weeks, eight people died. Anywhere else – anyone else, the students said, there would be a national outcry. In Gallup, it’s just an annual event. Not anymore. That group of young Diné College students held all of us accountable: the Navajo tribal government that hopes for a new solution; the state of New Mexico that cut funding; and the City of Gallup that once closed the detox center and now contributes little to its support.
“We are telling the story,” they said, “Now what are you going to do?”
It was not easy for any of the students to perform their play, and it is not an easy play to watch. For all of us who are Navajo, the story is difficult, deeply personal, painful, and at times just plain uncomfortable. Yet, it is a story that we have to hear if we are ever going to change the situation.
Transformation takes courage. Changing complex generational problems requires even more resolve – and often, it requires reaching out and working with others. I am proud of Diné College for giving its students the freedom to explore their creativity, even though funding is scarce and resources are lacking. I am proud of Diné College for creating a safe place for students to confront some of our most serious challenges. I am proud of Diné College – and all of the tribal colleges – for instilling in our young people the courage and, more important, the sense of responsibility to make our nation a better place.
Every winter, the howling wind cries out to our warriors. Our young people are hearing the call. Ahe’hee.
Carrie L. Billy
American Indian Higher Education Consortium
‘We at Kykotsmovi voted down gaming’
In the March 6, 2016 issue of Tutuveni, I read the report of the Gaming Task Team to the Tribal Council. I thought that the Hopi sinom had voted in 1955 and in 2004 to reject gaming, that we as the Hopi sinom are finished with gaming. Yet it is here again.
On my last year in Council as a rep, one morning, Norman Honanie popped up and asked why gaming was not considered. A few days later, the former Attorney General Frederick Lomayesva gave us a thick document on gaming.
When Norman was re-elected for another two-year term, I felt he and chairman would try to bring gaming to the Hopi sinom again.
In our village of Kykotsmovi, we voted down gaming by a majority vote twice. In 1995, there were 41 for and 210 against. In 2004, there were 114 for and 176 against. Therefore, the village policy on gaming is that by a majority vote twice we are against gaming.
This brings up the question: Why are two of our village reps working to bring gaming to our village again? Rep. Kaping is the chair of the Gaming Task Team and Norman Honanie started the whole thing.
My opinion is that village reps must represent village policy. If they cannot or are unable to, they should resign or be taken off the Council by the board. Otherwise, our village majority votes mean nothing.
If gaming is going to keep coming up on the Council agenda, we need to make sure our candidates reflect what the village policy is on gaming. Those villages who rejected gaming need to elect individuals who are against gaming. Unless we do this, this gaming issue will keep coming up.
Requesting donations to recover lost items
I’m writing this letter to ask for financial donations to cover our cost for taking our trash to a landfill.
On March 6, 2016, we lost our woodpile, a shed, and a vehicle that we were going to fix with a lot of stuff that were in the trunk of the car like tools, jewelry, moccasins, and a gift set that my granddaughter was going to wear during her 8th grade promotion in May. We need $3,000 or more to cover the cost.
Donations can be dropped off at my residence (2.9 miles south of Fort Defiance Chapter House on Route 112 (towards the Natural Bridge turnoff, beige house with brown roof RA No. 347).
We appreciate any donations you can give. Thank you very much and God bless.
Virginia and Benny Joe
Fort Defiance, Ariz.