Archival photograph of Inuit mother and child by H.G. Kaiser, entitled ‘Madonna of the North.’ Dated 1912, Nome, Alaska. Image source: Library of Congress
“It seemed as if the spiritual and social tapestry they had created for centuries was unraveling. Everything lost that sacred balance. And ever since, we have been striving to return to the harmony we once had. It has been a difficult task. The odds against us have been formidable. But despite everything that has happened to us, we have never given up and will never give up.”
Mankiller: A Chief and Her People
Native mothers simply don’t give up. They can’t give up; not in their DNA.
This time of year causes me to think about how much time Native publications spend writing about the things about which, they feel, Natives are supposed to be offended or angry. Granted, that’s probably just a reflection of larger society’s focus on negative news. Still, I don’t know if it’s good for Native people to buy into that ethic.
Either way, it seems like us folks lucky enough to have a public voice need something kinda scandalous sounding or anger-inducing to generate page views. “Such and such did this and that and it’s racist!” I definitely find myself doing that from time to time; I see it a quite a bit elsewhere as well. And while there are certainly developments that require a sharp response and things we have to work on, sometimes we sorta overlook that there are so many, many beautiful things to be thankful for within our communities. Indeed, if those voices would simply visit our homelands or pay attention to Native communities they would see that there simply is not a ton of angry Native people looking for more reasons to be mad. Our ceremonies, our languages and our societies have always focused on function, survival and beauty.
Sometimes function, survival and beauty doesn’t get enough page views though. If those things did get the attention they deserve, then we would focus on Native mothers 365 days a year—that’s what they provide for all of us: function, survival and beauty.
If someone really wants to know what’s really important to Native communities, they’d just talk to the moms and the grandmas.
As Chief Mankiller said, Native moms are completely aware of the “formidable odds” against their precious Native children. Hell, there were only two hundred and fifty thousand Native people in the year 1900—we were dying out in front of Native moms’ eyes. There are historical accounts of Tribes that wanted to receive all the proceeds from signing Treaties—if any—within 10 years of signing because the members of those Tribes didn’t expect to be alive longer than 10 years.
I’m sure these were times that even shook Native mothers’ and grandmothers’ massive faith.
But they kept on in spite of those formidable odds. Just like they keep on today. They keep on in spite of some of their children losing faith—committing suicide, resorting to alcohol and drugs to escape. They know that they have to keep it together. They keep on in spite of oftentimes being victimized within their own communities—suffering domestic violence and sexual violence at epidemic rates and with those horrible crimes being unreported and unprosecuted because of the lingering stupidity of male privilege that many times justifies violence against our lifegivers. And while there are many memes and bumper stickers that profess almost a reverence for Native mothers and grandmothers, many times our actions still don’t show that.
“We have never given up and will never give up.”
We can judge the health of Native nations by the health of our mothers and grandmothers; if Native mothers and grandmothers are not well, we are not well.
Native Moms: Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for never giving up. Thank you for continuing to believe in us even when we don’t deserve your faith and love. We would have been literally extinct if not for your incredible faith and love. Enjoy your weekend.
Everyone Else: mom deserves a footrub. Play with her hair. Don’t just send a card, spend some time. Pick her some flowers. Don’t buy ‘em—pick ‘em. That’s the least that we could give in exchange for them keeping us together, wiping the sleep out of our eyes and braiding our hair for centuries.
Native moms aren’t going anyplace—promise. Their love and faith won’t allow them to; they’re gonna outlast all of us. “We have never given up and will never give up.” That’s why they WILL rule the world and WILL correct the imbalance going on right now. It’s best to get on their good sides, so y’know, start by treating them right this Mother’s Day Weekend.