Today's dissertation is brought to you by the letter 'D,' as in "discovery, and other 'dis' words like "disrespect," "disgrace" and "displace."
Yeah, words like dat.
But let me begin this discourse where it began, with a very disappointing visit to the nearby elementary school where my stepdaughter, Frances, is a distinguished fifth-grader.
My wife and I went to the school gym to watch Frances participate in a "Patriotism Assembly," a musical program in which students dressed as figures from American history and, between patriotic songs, stepped up to the microphone and briefly described their role in the building of this great nation.
Scanning the cast of characters through the zoom lens of our video camera, we could discern only one "Indian" among the children assembled on stage.
As near as we could tell, Frances, dressed as "Sacagawea," was the only child representing Native America in this glorification of truth, justice and the American way.
Anyway, the concert began, to my utter dismay, with a songful tribute to Christopher Columbus and his "discovery" of a brand New World - MINUS, any Native population at all. "Christopher Columbus knew what he had to do, to sail the ocean blue! Christopher Columbus DID what he had to do, back in 1492! Chris crossed the ocean blue, back in 1492!"
Excuse me, but, Columbus didn't discover JACK! Nor Bob, nor Carol, Ted nor Alice!
Are educators STILL perpetuating this disreputable distortion of the truth?
Hello! Dis continent was already peopled with cultures and civilizations spiritually and philosophically far more advanced than Columbo and his crew. Are educators still discounting and dismissing the dispossession of an entire race of people, as if the truth were so dispensable?
You know, I was cleaning house the other day, and I discovered a pair of my wife's socks behind the piano. They had been there a long, long time. By virtue of my "discovery," are they now MY socks? I don't think so.
And what about Leif Ericson and his bunch?
Having disembarked on these distant shores way before 1492, I don't see any Icelanders or Norwegians doing backflips, flag-waving or chest-pounding about having "discovered" anything.
How is it, in dis day and age, when so much knowledge and information is available to us, that we insist on dispensing ignorance to our youth?
I became more and more disenchanted as the program wore on.
Little "Pilgrims" approached the microphone and boasted of single-handedly conquering the hardships of a hostile environment with nothing but fierce determination and God's will behind them. Totally discrediting any Native contribution to their survival.
"Lewis and Clark" spoke of their Corps of "Discovery" boldly expanding the size and scope of the nation as if there were no nations already dispersed throughout the Louisiana Purchase.
Leaving out Sacagawea
"Sacagawea" was disallowed her chance at the microphone to discuss her contribution to the expedition's success. Dispirited, she disappeared back amongst the singing students, already belting out praises to Abe Lincoln.
No mention, of course, of Honest Abe's dishonorable mass hanging of Sioux at Mankato.
The only mention of Indians in the entire patriotism program was by little "Pony Express Riders," whining about friends being killed and scalped by hostile Paiute warriors.
At that point, a furious windstorm outside caused a power outage and threw the gym into total darkness.
Even God, displeased, had had enough.
Personally, I was glad that the assembly had been disrupted.
For there was no mention of the millions of Indians who died from diseases, or from warfare, defending their land and their families. No mention of the Native veterans who gave their lives in this nation's world wars and "conflicts."
No mention that there was no truth or justice in the American way of dealing with Native Americans in the "settling" of America. No mention that "Manifest Destiny" and colonialism were responsible for the rape of a magnificent continent and her indigenous forests, wildlife and peoples.
When an educational system chooses to discolor the truth, sugar-coat facts and completely whitewash reality, our youth only become disillusioned when they eventually discover what really happened, and that they have been dissed by the system.
It's disappointing that any educators STILL choose to dispense American history as if Indians are this country's disposable race.
And as for dis particular school system and its disaster of a display of American history - I have to give 'em a big fat "D." Minus.
©The Billings Gazette
Readers may contact John Potter at [email protected]