Corine Fairbanks in Native Condition. Discussion »
Corine Fairbanks-Oglala Lakota
American Indians suffer the highest suicide rate of any ethnic minority in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The suicide rate among Native youth in the Great Plains is ten times the national average.
With the odds so stacked against our young people, it is mind boggling that mainstream performers and entertainers insist donning cheap fake Native-themed costuming, or feel justified in selling hideous tee-shirts such as the ever popular, "My Indian Name is falls down drunk" or "My Indian Name is runs with beer," or find the use of racist mascots as not only tolerable, but also honorable.
Some Native people have mentioned that focusing or organizing around these "every day little issues" is a waste of time, reciting chic clichés like "there are bigger fish to fry" or "pick and choose your battles wisely". Clearly, those that feel we have not chosen are battles wisely, have no aptitude for strategy.
Arguing that these "little everyday issues" are not worth mobilizing against is like saying "Don't worry about those termites eating up the house."
American Indians that are comfortable with oppression and have embraced assimilation, suffer from at least one of these two diseases: apathy and egoism.
Our communities are becoming infested with apathy and egoism (individualism) at a fast rate and with epidemic proportions. Those afflicted with these maladies believe the greatest effort they can make toward preserving their Native culture is by signing on to a Face Book group site or attending a local powwow. This is as far as the individual will go to connect to a collective and communal effort.
You might see them at a powwow promoting racist stereotypes by wearing a Cleveland Indians hat. Or shopping at those malls that have been built over Native burial sites - or worse, they might be the ones signing the site over for development! These individuals are not concerned with the suffering or the sacrifices of past generations - many don't even care of the last generation or the upcoming one for that matter - and they have no interest in the role that the collective community has played in various issues such as; civil rights, land right or religious rights.
They are numb to the pain and suffering brought on by historical trauma. The worse kind of apathoids are the ones that work for Native organizations. There are some wonderful Native people working for our Native programs, but somehow apathoids seem to be sprinkled in among them. Apathoids mistakenly think that because they are working for the local Indian Center or Indian Health Services, they are showing everyone how much they care about their community.
These "little issues" do nothing to build the dignity or self respect of our communities and especially our children. If a person does not have a strong sense of self worth as part of their foundation, what do they do? They self mutilate and act out in self destructive ways.
Next, in part 2 of Every Day Little Issues and the Infestation of "Apathoids" in Indian Country we will address the "Egothoids" those of us that are so "Indian", they are super Indian!
Corine Fairbanks is Oglala Lakota and is the director for the American Indian Movement Southern California Chapter. Ms. Fairbanks is a proud mother of five children. She is active on the Board of Directors for the American Civil Liberties Union Affiliate Santa Barbara chapter and also on the Grant Making Committee for the Fund for Santa Barbara.
posted January 11, 2011 10:20 am est
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