you’ve become so
damaged, that when
someone wants to
give you, what you
you have no idea,
how to respond.
Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© Unity South Dakota
Can the government refuse marriage and federal benefits to gays and lesbians? Those are the questions before SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States). They should make a ruling in June, 2013.
In the New York case the survivor of a same-sex marriage is challenging the justices to decide whether the federal government can deny legally married same-sex couples the benefits that go with marriage. For most married couples the benefits of filing joint tax returns and receiving survivors benefits from Social Security are a given; but for same-sex couples they are prohibited under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
There are currently 41 states where same-sex marriage is against the law. In California the voters placed Proposition 8 on the ballot and brought a halt to same-sex marriage. Attorneys Ted Olson and David Bois are challenging this law. They argue that marriage is a fundamental right and that by excluding gay couples from marriage the law denies them the equal protection of the law.
Human nature does not curse of favor any one race of people. There have been homosexuals in every nation that has ever existed on this earth, that is with the possible exception of Iran where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stood at a podium not so very long ago and proclaimed that there are no homosexuals in Iran. He was greeted with raucous laughter for this understatement.
Among the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota tribes, homosexuals were called winkte (wink-tay). If you look the word up in the Lakota Dictionary, even in the “New Comprehensive Edition” the one compiled and edited by Eugene Buechel and Paul Manhart, both Catholic priests serving on the Indian boarding school missions in South Dakota, you will see that they were not able to separate their Catholic religion from the reality of the word.
Their dictionary translates winkte to mean; a hermaphrodite, a plant or animal having both male and female reproductive organs. These Jesuit priests and many who followed them to the Indian missions were too detached from the real world to face the facts about homosexuals and it maybe it’s because there were so many among their own ranks. If the subject was ever broached with their Indian students I’m sure it was beaten to death as a mortal sin of the first order.
To speak of winkte’s today in Indian country draws mixed emotions. There are those who accept it as a genuine occurrence among the Indian people and those who deny it. When I wrote about it several years ago the reactions were mixed. One very old friend of mine, now deceased, named Dr. Beatrice Medicine, a Standing Rock Hunkpapa, fiercely challenged my interpretation of the word. Medicine was one of those rare birds; an Indian anthropologist. She knew her history and she knew her facts.
That’s what happens when a culture has been all but destroyed by religion and modernity. All of the religious orders that came west to convert the Indians, religions from Catholics to Mormons, all had a variation of beliefs that saw nothing good about homosexuality. I have only the words of modern medicine or holy men and women to describe to me how gay and lesbians played a role in the ancient cultures of Native Americans. Even using the words Native American in this context is exasperating because there was no “America” in the early cultures and traditions of the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere, hence no Native American.
To attempt to define gay and lesbian in today’s Indian country is like trying to describe the colors in a shirt that has been left hanging on the clothes line in the hot sun for too many days. The color is all but gone and every effort to bring back that color creates a false image.
And so I will take the word of the modern medicine men and women who claim that homosexuality was a known and respected segment of the traditional Indian culture.
And like everything else in this society, the laws about to be enacted by SCOTUS will also have an impact upon the people of Indian country. I know many gays and lesbians that are Lakota, Navajo, Hopi, Choctaw, Ojibwe, or of many other tribes in America, Canada and Alaska. They also have fought fiercely for the right to be accepted and for the right of equal protection under the law.
The winkte, according to those medicine men and women who purport to know, were a respected segment of the Lakota culture and in fact were highly revered. They base their opinions upon the oral traditions of a people without a written language, but with an oral history proven to be factual time and again by modern historians.
It would be highly improbable for the SCOTUS to accommodate the oral history of Native Americans in their arguments, but then again, why not? After all, our culture is much older than that of all the newcomers to our shores and one to be respected and not feared.
Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the Class of 1991. He was inducted into the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2007. He can be reached at Unitysodak1@knology.net
Days later on Monday afternoon McNairy tweeted an apology for his response to the criticism.
The American Indian Movement Southern California say they’re not interested in his apology. Their statement is below:
“The want to be designer for the GAP “Manifest Destiny” T-Shirt has APOLOGIZED AFTER HE responded to criticisms of his Genocide Fashion statement. From his Twitter page: MANIFEST DESTINY. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST!” (that is a pretty sick statement people- lets him put through some of the HISTORICAL TRAUMA we have been through as NATIVE PEOPLE- teach the little insensitive freak a lesson)—- NO! YOU NEED A NEED DAY JOB…..YOUR APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED- What you did, and HOW GAP endorsed it is not ACCEPTABLE….MAKE A SHIRT THAT says: FREE LEONARD PELTIER and all Indigenous Political PRISONERS!- PROCEEDS of Merchandise to go to LEGAL DEFENSE and the FAMILIES of OUR HEROS YOUR ENEMIES!
The blog “The Belle Jar” helped the petition go viral. The post deconstructs how Manifest Destiny can still be “felt” today.
Manifest Destiny and the philosophy behind it are responsible for a whole bunch of really terrible things. It was used to justify the Mexican-American War, the War of 1812, and, most appallingly, the Indian Removal Act. Manifest Destiny was used to vindicate the myriad abuses suffered by people of colour at the hands of white North Americans. It’s the philosophy that lead to our continent-wide reservation system , not to mention the residential schools created for the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.
The effects of Manifest Destiny can still be felt, in the poverty and degradation suffered by American and Canadian people of colour, and in the deplorable conditions found on many reserves, both here and south of the border. The ideas behind manifest destiny still exist in our white western consciousness, as much as we might be loathe to admit it; they come up every time our (largely white) government asserts that it knows best when it comes to First Nations issues, or every time someone complains about how much freaking money has already been spent on Attawapiskat only to have their community still be in a state of crisis. Manifest Destiny is apparent every time someone chooses to be bigoted and wilfully ignorant about non-white immigrants, or tries to deny the far-reaching effects of racism; it’s apparent in the mindset of all the people who never take a moment to wonder why or how so many white people ended up owning so much fucking land.
Nice apology, racist asshole.
I don’t want to be judged or have someone make fun of me, so I just don’t and I end up feeling guilty about it because I think my blog is shitty and without original content that contains substance.
I don’t know if I’m over thinking or not…