When I was in second grade my world shattered. Mother was killed in a lumber truck-automobile collision. Daddy tried to numb the constant ache with alcohol. My brothers and I depended on nature to care for us as we faded away from civilization and deeper into the wild. Like little animals our whole family was trapped and became "Wards of the State of California." We would be away from our "way" for a long time. Often we fled to our homeland, finding our way to Aunt Gladys and Uncle Rufus' home, usually following the aroma emitting from her kitchen. Auntie's kitchen and front porch became our Lyceum. She gave us lessons before we ate either breakfast or dinner because after we ran off into the landscape for a week or more.
Auntie's mind worked quickly and efficiently. She manicured a foundation in the original "way." Her Grandmother taught her to use her mind always and sometimes her brain, explaining that her mind was knowledge, wisdom and experiences from the previous generations that came to her. She explained that the brain is useful, but it was not as reliable or accurate as the experiences of previous generations, so use the mind first.
During her formal schooling at boarding school, Auntie studied "The white man 'way' and this thing Democracy." She was articulate, using the English language better than most Americans, and her heart grew sad when she looked at Democracy seeing it attacking the native "way," relentlessly. We gathered on her porch. Sometimes the lesson was about our journey through the stars to arrive here, sometimes it was about things we must know about in nature, and sometimes it was about "This thing Democracy." She saw Democracy as an evil that intended to destroy the native "way" from the tip of South America (she said Patagonia), to the North Pole. He (white man) will never be satisfied until we exist no more, and then that won't satisfy him." Her mouth set straight across and her eyes snapped and we knew that we must listen. Her lessons in Democracy always ended the same, "You must stand across the fire from Democracy and BEWARE!" After her lessons in Democracy, her food, usually wonderful, just didn't have that special sparkle, but we ate everything on the table because it was time to fade into the landscape until hunger dictated that we run to Auntie's for a lecture and loving food.
Now in my last days I look across the land seeing little republics sprouting where the original way was planted long ago, hear Auntie say again, "Stand across the fire," and my spirit trembles like distant thunder. In a tender moment my mind whispers to my brain, "We should have listened carefully when wisdom spoke to us. We should never have rushed to the white man side of the fire."
My mother and father didn't like to go to the Indian meetings, because"They always end the same. Our people will argue and fight over who gets hung with the new rope and who gets hung with the old one, convinced they had favor with the white man and the "proof" of white man's friendship and loyalty lies in the newness of the rope he hangs them with."
In my quiet moments, when my spirit thinks deeper thoughts while viewing natives across the land, watching as the natives willingly step into the trap Democracy has laid in the path, it trembles. My quaking spirit whispers to my heart, "Now it may be too late to BEWARE." We shall see.