Once upon a time, I wanted to give all the goodness I stored in my soul into my community, into my “people” and somehow find a way to give a piece of myself to my Nation. Why wouldn’t I? So many before my time had. My Nation helped me too. The Nation helped pay a portion of my academic career. There were the ancestors who walked the trails, the long walks, the survivors who endured. The strong ones that pushed to create legislation for the Indian Child Welfare Act, reparation of our buried ones, or stolen artifacts- pieces of our culture. The knowledge keepers that reversed the laws against our religion, language, culture, and self-identity. There were those Aimsters that protested and rose up against injustices, even those served to the people, by their own people.
That once upon a time has come and gone several times now. I try to give a piece, and people will try to claw out my entire heart and innards to take ALL of me. The abuse is unreal. The manipulation beyond unsettling. Tribal corruption, misappropriation, sexual assault or misconduct, lying, lying, lying, stealing, stealing, stealing, political insanity. With all that we combat, we have to protect ourselves from our own. Like cannibals, they will tear off your flesh just to keep themselves covered.
I often think of John Trudell in times when I want to fall to my knees and tear the heart from the chest, but I don’t and instead, I retreat into myself and look for some kind of shield or strength that will keep me upright and shove me forward like a Sparta kick into the blood-sucking hoard. It’s that statement he made, he laid it down like Tabacco- and I feel it like a fan of eagle feathers brushing against my skin-stirring up that smoke rising from the burning cedar, swirling around my head and covering me like a cloud, until it finds its way into my lungs. “Protect your spirit, because you are in the place where spirits get eaten.” I close my eyes, and ALL of me is there.
I was likely born into that place. Maybe that is why I am drawn to it, to them. The spirit eaters. Maybe because I understand they are broken. Even when they try to break me too. I am strong enough to endure, and I do. Maybe its because I know deep down inside, they need healing too. Maybe it’s because they forgot what love is. I chose to offer love. That is the gift I bear. And once upon a time, I’ll enter the realm of the spirit eaters again.