Monday, January 21, 2019

Early Morning Meditation on Martin Luther King Day 2019: Nathan Phillips And The Significance Of His Drumming

Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles of racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its Indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it.” 


Living close to the Lummi Nation, I have been fortunate to be able to attend numerous events in which I was moved by the presence of Lummi drummers, including at Martin Luther King Day celebrations.  Although it was clear to me and to anyone familiar with Native drumming, that Nathan Phillips was attempting to stop a charged situation from escalating by stepping in, playing his drum and chanting a healing prayer, that action was not understood by the crowd of Roman Catholic young men and perceived as an act of aggression to which they responded with edgy laughter, defensive body language and blatant disrespect toward a representative of the people who suffered so deeply historically in the Roman Catholic mission schools.  

To add to the complexity of the situation, Deb Haaland is Roman Catholic in the best sense of the word:

"This Veteran put his life on the line for our country," Haaland, one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, wrote on Twitter.  "The students' display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration.  Heartbreaking."

May this Martin Luther King Day shed light on these words:

"Revolution is never easy.  It is hard and messy and painful."
(Nylah Burton)

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final work in reality.  This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."
(Martin Luther King, Jr., from Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Olso, Norway, 1964)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We are living in such challenging times. I have always wished for an awakening, and when I was young I thought it would happen. Martin Luther King had a dream, and I have wanted it to come true all of my life.