He conceded, “ok, yeah, there are some non-Natives who involved themselves in Native affairs because they simply wanted to help.” Those rare benevolent non-Natives don’t want special attention—they just want to be a part of improving Indian Country’s infrastructure through small incremental steps.
But, according to Chad, there are also seems to be SO MANY non-Natives who want to do all the work for Native Americans. These are the non-Natives who do not believe that Natives can improve our own lives internally. Instead these non-Natives want to be comic book Superheroes to us poor Native Americans. They see themselves as Spirit and want to come rescue us, GI Joe-style, from the evils of Cobra Commander, fires, our alcoholism, and woes of the reservation life. They want us to reply to their heroic deed with “Now we know,” so that they can say “And knowing is half the battle.”
They want to save us because, apparently we cannot save ourselves.
I asked Chad, “Can we really be surprised that there are these people who want to “save” us? Think about this, bro: there’s a certain historical pattern that shows white folks ALWAYS tend to think that they know what’s best for us Natives. There have always been non-Natives who wanted to “save” us. These folks are the direct descendants of Capt. Richard Pratt—yknow, ‘kill the Indian, save the man.”
He replied, “Yeah, my grandmother always said that the white folks who messed us up the most were trying to help us. The people who stole our grandparents and great-grandparents’ children to bring them to boarding schools were trying to “rescue” Indians. The politicians who incentivized Natives to leave reservations so that they could find non-existent jobs were trying to save Indians from ourselves. I guess, yeah, white folks always wanted to be in our business. Dang, these FEW crazy non-Natives who love to speak for us Natives STILL think that they know what’s best for us, ennit?”
And he’s right, of course; this pattern of non-Natives wanting to be Superhero in Indian Country for helpless Natives isn’t just relegated to ancient history.
For example, in our integrated society we now always have non-Natives who work for our respective tribes. Good for them—God bless those non-Native folks for finding gainful employment in this tough economic time! And oftentimes these non-Natives are wonderful workers and truly have our peoples’ interests at heart! Many of them also provide important skills and trades until our tribal members gain more education and training—self-sufficiency. And these non-Natives help create self-sufficiency and play their role. These folks are not trying to be Superheroes. They are just doing their jobs. That’s a good thing.
…there are always a few—and you know who those few are—who try to become more than just “good employees” within our tribes. Those special few try to become members of our tribes, spokespeople for our tribes, the very superheroes to our tribes!! In fact, they want to singlehandedly save our people—“Behold, it’s Great White Father Man!!!” They want to save us from ourselves by making all of our decisions for us and talking for us and generally not wanting us to be sentient, capable adults.
Everybody knows those people.
I guess I can see why those non-Natives would want to do that. It’s a weird desire (in my humble opinion), but I guess I could see how someone could get off on it—“saving people.” Heck, I watched “The Incredibles,” where Mr. Incredible snuck outside to be a hero because he missed the rush. It must feel good to say that you “saved someone.” Being a hero must be fun and that’s why all these non-Natives want to save us, I guess.
But Mr. Incredible was a cartoon. Superheroes do not exist. Heck, I have nice pecs, but I can’t save anybody. I also don’t think that the majority of Natives want to be saved. “Self-determination” and “sovereignty” means “we can do this ourselves.” And we WILL do it ourselves—and continue to make up amazing amounts of political, educational and financial ground like we have in the past twenty years—if folks just leave us alone long enough to adjust to and counteract 500 years of rapid and destructive change.
Natives do not need a Superhero to save us from our perils. In fact, I submit that a real hero doesn’t want to save anyone. A real hero wants to eliminate the circumstances that necessitate “saving.”
Therefore, the father who lies his gun around and then dramatically snatches his son before he pulls the trigger is not a hero. Instead, the father who keeps his son from dangerous things in the first place and teaches him the consequences of playing with destructive things is more heroic.
My goal, then, is to be a small part of the process that shows my people that we have the capability to rescue ourselves. We have all the tools, capabilities and potential within our own communities. We are empowered to do it ourselves.
And empowered people do not need a superhero.
I almost feel fortunate to have grown up poor–you never ever see poor people with these kinds of weird habits. These New Age folks crack me up, “Let me see how badly I can burn my feet!!” And they PAY for it…I can make a fire–I’m Native. I could hook them up!!! Quote from the second clip, “I walked on fire. And if I can do THAT, certainly I can go in there and ask for a raise.”
You could do that with any sort of masochistic rite, right? “I shot myself in the eye! Certainly I can go in there and ask for a raise…” “I gave myself a lobotomy–certainly I can go in there and ask for a raise!!”
Anyway–entertaining at the least!