LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The real and full truth needs to be known
During the April 20 Bemidji City Council meeting, Councilwoman Erickson provided a shining example of both white privilege and white fragility. During the meeting the councilwoman referenced the vile historic quote from Andrew Myrick, stating that the quote is an "insult to the white population and certainly it holds no value whatsoever". While I can agree that the statement is an insult, it was quite obviously not pointed at the whites.
Furthermore its inclusion is entirely appropriate as it is truly indicative of the governmental policy of the time, one which chose not to learn anything useful from the indigenous people or their culture but to cast them aside, and to attempt to snuff their culture out. It was a governmental policy of making treaties that promised, but never truly delivered, further accommodated by the "dominant" (white) culture's ability to sanitize history to its own liking and benefit. This appears to be the history that has informed Ms. Erickson and which makes her comfortable, but it is not the history that has been experienced by the Anishinaabe (or other Native American) populace of our area and our state.
Fortunately, the days of "kill the Indian, and save the man" are mostly over. I am heartened to know that the younger generation, as exemplified by Mr. Olson's and Mr. Meehlhause's words, are able to understand that it is necessary to confront the ugly truths of yesterday in order to not only heal the existing wounds, but to learn how to conduct ourselves (and our politics) to prevent such atrocities from re-occurring. To bury the truth, as Ms. Erickson suggests, is exactly the attitude that has created the state of race relations that exists today. The real and full truth needs to be known.
In regards to the telling of Shaynowishkung's story, how could we ever appropriately honor the man without having a full and truthful understanding of the times in which he lived? It was despite all that he experienced and saw happening around him that he chose to stand firm to the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, a choice taken at great personal expense. This should be the legacy of Shaynowishkung, one that should set an example for our population as a whole.
I would also like to acknowledge Mayor Albrecht, and Councilman/former Mayor Larson for displaying the bravery and fortitude to do the right thing.