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Potter Column: We are all Native Americans today

by John Potter

15 September 2001

(Originally posted here: http://www.billingsgazette.com/newdex.php?display=rednews/2001/09/15/build/opinion/potter.inc)
(The Billings Gazette)
(Last modified September 15, 2001 - 2:25 am)
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(For those who need to know, this article has been "peer-reviewed.")

Potter Column: We are all Native Americans today

"Terror is not new to American soil, nor is our government a stranger to it."

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Potter Column: We are all Native Americans today

Well, Whatever

Terror and death filled the air.

The attack was totally unpredictable, and our people taken completely by surprise.

One minute, we were living our peaceful, ordinary lives, savoring a beautiful morning, playing with our children or going about our “business as usual.” In the next moment, explosions, balls of fire and smoke, the air filled with the screams of helpless men, women and children, the bodies of friends and family falling torn and lifeless at our feet.

And the children. What about our children?

In the first moments of the attack, brave ones charged forward in valiant efforts to rescue the wounded and hasten survivors to places of safety. Then another vicious and cowardly attack, explosions rock the air, and our world comes down in fire, taking the lives of the rescuers as well.

Through the horror, the chaos and the savagery of these assaults on our people, we know that our lives — our very way of life — will never be the same again. Attacked by a foreign and hateful presence, the lives of innocent people torn from our hearts on our own native soil, we wrestle with emotions and decisions heretofore unknown to us. Ones that we thought we were forever insulated from.

We have been violated.

History lessons

And what about our children? Will they ever feel safe again?

We need time to find our relatives, for some might still survive. We need time to mourn the loss of our people. We need to gather what food we can find, find our weapons and find our ponies scattered in the hills. Above all, we need to gather together and pray for the future of our people.

You see, this account of horror could’ve been written dozens of times throughout the brief and glorious history of our nation.

Perhaps after the Baker Massacre of the Blackfeet Indians. Innocent men, women and children killed senselessly and brutally.

Perhaps after the Sand Creek Massacre of the Cheyennes in Colorado. Again, innocent noncombatants slaughtered beneath not only a white flag of truce, but an American flag as well.

Or perhaps the same could’ve been written after the “battle” of the Washita, where Black Kettle and the rest of his family and survivors of Sand Creek were cut down by Custer.

Need I even mention Wounded Knee?

Terror is not new to American soil, nor is our government a stranger to it.

This nation was begun, expanded, and founded on terrorism — but in those times it was cloaked in the shimmering mantle of “Manifest Destiny.” Thousands of innocent Native American men, women and children were murdered in the name of this particular form of terrorism.

You may argue that was war, but does any war justify the killing of women? Of the elderly? The killing of babies?

Make no mistake, whoever attacked our nation last Tuesday certainly is at war with us, but does that justify the horrific deaths of so many innocent men, women and children?

Know our enemy

The point is, all governments, all people are capable of terrorism. The United States stands proudly as the world’s defender of truth, justice, democracy and human rights, yet our government is not innocent.

Remember Kent State? Innocent people died.

Remember My Lai?

And if you DON’T think that thousands of innocent people have been killed so that we can put gasoline in our SUVs, perhaps you need to think again. Why do you think they’re dancing in the streets in Palestine?

Our government and our nation is outraged, filled with righteous indignation, and rightly so. I am as hurt and angered and hungry to retaliate against those responsible as anyone else.

But we cannot go forward under the blind belief that our own government has not carried out acts of terror, on our own soil and around the world. We need to remember that our own government, throughout its brief history, has committed horrible acts of terrorism against innocent people, as well. In this way, we can begin to know our enemy, begin to understand the anger and the hatred they feel for us. It is not an unjustified anger. Not something that they’ve made up.

Native Americans have known that anger. Native Americans cannot help but remember certain moments in our history that stand out as events that forever changed our way of life, changed the way we look at the world, and changed the stories that we tell our children. Our history and destiny were forever altered by the terrorism of the late 1800s.

But we have survived.

And so shall our great nation.

For now, we need time to find our relatives, for some of them might still survive. We need time to mourn the loss of so many of our people. We need time to grieve.

We then need to solidify, gather our strength, unify behind our leaders, take steps to protect our people and our homeland and somehow punish the enemy.

For we are all one people now, we are ALL Native Americans.

And above all, we need to gather together as one and pray for the future of our people. Because, what about the children?
Gazette readers may write to John Potter at speakup@billingsgazette.com.

Updated: Sat Sep 15 06:17:33 CDT 2001 Central Time
Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.

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