Charles Eastman, 1858-1939, was a Santee Dakota physician, writer, national lecturer, and reformer. Photo: Bureau of American Ethnology / Smithsonian Institution

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: There is no room for Indians here

Native Sun News Today Columnist

Are your reading habits diverse and open to all ideas? Or do you, like many of us, just read from the sources that agree with us?

I’ve found that newspapers and books often vie for our attention as though they are competitors.

As for readers of local news where I get much of my news it all seems like a continuing time of ethnic cleansing and genocide, moral injustice, historical crises, times not far from the history I know: poverty, hard times, relocation, and termination.

It has often seemed like that time (for people who have lived it) when the advice that Many Lightnings gave his son who became the famous native spokesperson, Charles Eastman, reflects on being an Indian in America, “there is no room for Indians here….” It was 1877.

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. Courtesy photo

Since then, the choice has always been for the indigenous peoples of America, a place of either resistance or complicity. Today, scholars and journalists alike, tell day to day stories of times that eventually become history’s first draft. They tell of suffering and the realization that those who stole the land had no intention of living up to the promises of Treaties between Nations. We must make of it what we can.

There is no harm in reading between the lines. In the sixties and seventies of the last century I remember being attracted by the writings of essayist-journalist-fictionist Susan Sontag, a New York Jewish writer not well known in the heartland but a writer whose work was more selective than most. 

She offered the voice of one who was aware that she was living in emergency conditions, much like the conditions of my world as well as what Many Lightnings observed.

Sontag wrote mostly about art but became a passionate critic of what she saw as catastrophic times. She was often in despair, and she thought the choices offered were futile.   

She wrote “the white man IS the cancer of the human race” in a time of riots and police killings and the AIDS epidemic, environmental disasters and political corruption. Many Indians agreed with her. Resistance, they said, is required.


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Read the rest of the story on Native Sun News Today: Eric True Blood: Oglala Warrior

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