Author of well-known Medicine Cards and Choctaw Pipe-Carrier, David Carson, shares stories of hope and healing with historical roots and contemporary relevance.
From the Trail of Tears forced relocation of Native Americans to displaced Syrian or African refugees, the stories may differ but the wounds and opportunity to heal remain the same. Native Americans have a unique perspective historically, and a wisdom that can help us inform our current situation. Invasion, displacement, genocide have been with humanity forever. In the culture and in the land that surrounds us, even in our blood, all of history is alive within us. This includes the glory and the trauma of our individual and collective past. Healing this history requires looking within one’s self and perhaps taking a moment to hear the untold stories of our history.
“I wouldn’t be here without this history. So to rage against this history is to rage against myself…” -David Carson
Today people are more willing to re-examine colonial attitudes and the ways these archaic belief structures are still playing out in the world today. Along with this has come a global discussion about our relationship to the land, and a scrutinizing of current political/economic systems. Indeed, we stand at the crossroads of a great opportunity for healing. In many tribes this time of healing has been spoken of in stories for generations.
In 1994 Alison “Tootie” Montana, a prominent Black Indian Chief from New Orleans, had a vision of bringing together many diverse tribes to celebrate their shared history. David Carson, Choctaw author of “Medicine Cards” and Kam Nightchase, a Lakota Pipe-Carrier, also shared a similar vision. Reverend David “Goat” Carson of New Orleans led the organizational effort to make this vision a reality at Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park. The gathering was called “Sacred Medicine Circle at High Noon” on Aug. 20, 1994, and a White Buffalo was born later that week. This is said to be a good omen of unity and healing between all tribes and nations.
Unity looks like an impossible dream today though with racial division, immigration, and refugee crises continuing to make top headlines. The lines dividing nations are always changing yet there are no borders in our blood or our common humanity.
Is citizenship or identifying with your own culture more important than recognizing the common humanity in other human beings?
Only through making the inward journey can this story ever be healed. Remembering, honoring, and making peace with our personal and shared history is something that each of us can do to bring peace into the world. As you will see in the video below, David Carson knows this as well as anyone. His stories and understanding are unparalleled because he has lived them his whole life.
Some bands of Indians refused to be listed on the Dawes Rolls because they considered it an insult to have the government that abused them be the ones to make their heritage/citizenship “official” or not. These people had children and grandchildren who are still with us today, some assimilated and some continuing to keep their culture outside of the official “books”.
“Outside Indian Country most don’t realize that over the past 10 years, several thousand people have had their tribal citizenship status terminated. Most were not dismembered for wrongdoing or adopted by other Native nations. They were simply identified by their elected officials as allegedly no longer meeting revised citizenship criteria.” –Dismembering Natives: The Violence Done by Citizenship Fights
Citizenship is based on a set of man-made, ever-changing rules usually devised to serve a political or economic agenda. The end result can be devastating when these ideologies become internalized and a sense of belonging is lost. Externally this becomes wars, internally it can become self-hatred. We heal when we extend the welcome-mat, and allow ourselves and others to belong. We are connected by the good, bad, and ugly parts of this history. Connected it what’s most important.
David Carson speaks about healing the trauma from within by “taking the bitter with the sweet” and his wisdom is applicable to all of us no matter what culture we come from. Carson speaks of, “Coming into a new world that we don’t know how to describe… It has to do with light, it has to do with self-understanding, it has to do with inner-dimensions.” He shares about the “snake of energy” that went from the northern to southern tip of the Americas and the heritage of Mound Builders.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” -Joseph Campbell
When we look to knowledgeable elders and explore our own historical struggles, we begin to see similar patterns emerge for every culture. The oppressors and the oppressed have changed roles on many occasions while the triumphs and suffering continue to be present with us today. Together we can resolve these wounds while deepening our sense of respect for other cultures as well as our selves. This is how new stories are created, this is how we can fulfill a dream of peace and unity, but it will take doing some work within. Deepening compassion for yourself will help you be compassionate for the struggles of others. Cast away your fear, ask questions, explore… only you can heal your history.