Q&A with Charles Trimble: On Indian victimhood
Dorreen Yellow Bird of The Grand Forks Herald interviews Charles Trimble, a former executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, about his recent column in Indian Country Today that called on Indian people to shed the chains of what he called "victimhood."

Yellow Bird: What you mean by victimhood?

Trimble. Victimhood is just a constant state of recalling, however true it might be, that you are a victim.

In my column, I use the example of Matthew Spetter, the man who went through the Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps during World War II. He lost his entire family. He saw them starve to death or be killed — but he had to put that behind him.

We tend not to want to do that. I think that reluctance is fed by people who constantly relive the tragic history.

A good example is Tim Giago, columnist and former owner of the Lakota Times, whom I’ve known since childhood. After awhile, this kind of talk gets to be a litany or mantra, so whites expect it when we speak. They say, “Tell us about those awful days in boarding school; tell us how they beat you up.”

So, we’re feeding people what they want to hear or what we think they want to hear in order for us to get our way: to elicit pity or push guilt.

That’s what I found myself doing when I testified on behalf of the National Congress of American Indians before Congress. I knew the litany by heart: highest infant mortality rate, lowest life expectancy, highest unemployment, lowest per capita income and on and on.

At first, I thought it was pretty effective. Then, I got to thinking, “What are we asking these legislators to do in those hearings?” We constantly live with it, and after awhile, it wears on us and ultimately it wears on our children.

Get the Story:
Interview with Charles Trimble: Official says Indians should stop pushing guilt (The Grand Forks Herald 8/24)

Related Stories:
Charles Trimble: Shed the chains of victimhood (8/15)