Last night I had a dream. I was sitting in a high school social studies classroom. The class was watching a film about the “Westward Expansion“. I was seething. I was also sitting in the back of the class. As the film went on, I withdrew further and further from others in the class. Eventually, the teacher asked me why I was not participating. I explained that the colonists and settlers had killed between 60-100 million of my Native American ancestors, and I saw no reason to celebrate. She was, of course, completely dismissive.
I was also aware, at some point in the dream, that some of my ancestors were colonists and settlers. I was not thinking about the intermarriages between the two groups, just the irony of holding the blood and the desperation of both sides. Coming from the genocide and Ireland and Scotland, and facing repeated economic upheaval, my European ancestors were surely desperate to secure some safety, even if that meant stealing the homes and lands of the original inhabitants. To make matters even more complex, Native tribes were not without border and resource conflicts, and occasional wars. Sometimes, entire tribes were displaced, and their lands and homes seized by other tribes. Of course, warring tribe were seldom, if ever, interested in genocide.
I’ve been up a couple of hours and the dream lingers in my awareness. Something to think about, a complexity to be honored.