Reflecting on September

Blog post by Masami Glines, 2018-2020 fellow

Now that it is early November already I feel so behind to post this blog on this topic, but I would like to reflect on September Northern Wisconsin Trip to visit Menominee and Oneida tribes, and also the Ho-Chunk tribe in the Kickapoo Valley area.

It was eye-opening for me to see the historical damage done to the tribes over many decades.  They are still in the process of recovering and trying to find inner peace in their hearts.  As a Japanese who didn’t grow up in the US and didn’t learn US history in school, it was almost shocking.  I didn’t know that Native American children were sent to boarding schools, being separated from their parents at young age, being forced to learn English and forget their own language.

Language is such an important part of cultural heritage.  The longer I have not been using my own language regularly, the more I feel this way.  There is so much subtlety you can manipulate at ease with your mother tongue, and good feeling coming from being able to do that.  How terrible it must have been for parents of those children.   Their children missed the opportunity to learn this subtlety while they were forced to learn the language that was not theirs.  How bad the children must have felt when they grew up and realized that they didn’t know what the elders were talking about.   Not to mention other cultural traditions, way of thinking, ceremonies and values that might have been lost due to these interruptions. 

At least what we humans can do is to learn from the past.  We should be smart enough not to repeat the same mistake.   We have to keep working on directing the society to be equitable, liberating, and just, not to be divided and hurt from oppressing/marginalized relationships.  And this work is part of Public Health.