October 8, 2009
The doctor entered the room, preparing to give me the exam required by US Immigration authorities. Quickly his questions turned personal. Why was I here, what was my job?
I briefly stated that I was working with a Christian non-profit organization seeking to walk with and work among Native people in the area. His reply dumbfounded me. He said something like this: “I don’t know what Native Americans want, we, (obviously referring to his Caucasian ancestors) won fair and square.” I was taken aback by his rather calloused and simplistic reply. Unfortunately, not being too quick-witted, it was only later that I could think of what I wanted to reply. “Maybe you won—but there was nothing “fair” and “square” about it!
On Monday, October 5, 2009, our Nez Perce neighbors commemorated the 132nd anniversary of the Battle at Bear Paw, Montana. Here, their fighting retreat ended with Chief Joseph’s heartrending surrender to Generals Miles and Howard. It marked the culmination of their almost four month long flight, fraught with many “unfair” battles, hardships and losses of warriors, children and elders. It all had started at White Bird Canyon on June 17, 1877, when a hothead civilian volunteer engaged the US Army and the Nez Perce, who had approached under a white flag of truce, in battle, by firing the first shot.
Is it not high time that we shed ignorant and simplistic attitudes about historic events and begin to deal with the reality of what happened, not by re-writing history, or by trying to “explain away” what happened, but by squarely facing the hard and difficult truth, warts and all?
Unfortunately, what has happened cannot be undone; however we can learn from history and commit to not let injustices go on or happen again. We can begin to identify with the loss and pain that our Nez Perce neighbors are reminded of on days like this. We can choose to treat them with the dignity and honor Creator has endowed them with. They are the First Americans and they are the Gate-keepers of this nation.
From Creators Word to us we know that transforming change begins with the recognition of wrong, and honest repentance, (change of mind and then of action). While it is impossible for me to even imagine the agony and suffering Nez Perce families are reminded of on this day, I want to express my sorrow over the injustice they suffered and identify with the sins of my forefathers. I know, it will not bring their ancestors back, restore the lives and land lost, but I commit myself to walk beside you, to speak up against unrighteousness and injustice and to add my small contribution to a better present and future for you. Most of all, I trust and pray that the Judge of all the earth, will do what is just! (Genesis 18:25)By: Volkhard Graf