Civilization Marches On

by Mitakuye Oyasin

Driving into Galesburg recently, the sign on some undeveloped commercial property proudly proclaimed, "Ooops! Sold." It is a certainty that, sooner or later, all of the land around it and beyond will be sold and developed, paved over with asphalt and concrete. Driving into Peoria on Route 150 is the same storyŠ another mall, more eating places, a few businesses, and all in the name of progress. At McDonald's says on its sign where a new building is being constructed, "Here we grow again."

Because of the Kroger presence in Peoria, the emphasis on recycling is greater than it is in Galesburg. Behind the Kroger store, several bins are located for the dumping of cardboard, glass bottles, and aluminum cans. It is entertaining to watch the traffic flow at these centers. A little old lady drives up in her new Cadillac, leaves the motor running to further pollute the air, and goes to her trunk to remove a whiskey bottle or two for the dumpster.

Ironically, on land adjacent to the Kroger recycling center at Northpoint, signs offer tantalizing opportunities to further build or develop the area. The spreading, cancerous growth of progress and civilization has prompted my daughter on frequent occasions to exclaim, "Ooops! You missed a tree!"

It makes me grateful to be past middle age, (unless I live to be 119), but I grieve for the young people who will be forced to exist in a world built like a bunker. This presumes, of course, that Mother Earth will not retch and regurgitate the insults visited upon her by civilization before the young people of today reach my age. Meanwhile, in far too short a time, with pressure from Oak Run on the north, Galesburg on the west, and Peoria on the east, Dahinda will probably become the Midwest Mall.

What's so bad about all this "development?" In the short run, it provides jobs and helps steam up the economy and sends more people on the quest for fulfillment of the "American Dream." In the long run, the dream turns Into a nightmare, a world in which people must take a vacation to visit a tree.

Let me put it another way: If this is such a great society, why is the cocaine industry booming to the tune of many billions of dollars a year? Why must so many people, including youngsters, drink or drug themselves into oblivion in order to stand living in America one more day? Are these people telling us something?

I know that cultural genocide has a lot to do with the grief of my own people, the Lakota, and the way many of them deal with it is to drink and drug. In my association with recovering addicts who are black, many of them acknowledge that the unresolved grief of being black and treated like "less than" by Neo-Europeans, makes the oblivion of addiction teem like a pleasant way to detach from life.

But there is more to it than that. Native Americans and African-Americans share a view of life that does not separate their cultures into isolated compartments of their lives. Their cultures are both permeated throughout with spiritualityã and spirituality views all life at sacred, not to be cast away to make room for concrete and blacktop. It is a spirituality that abides with them everyday, all day, and rebels at a compartmentalized religion which meets behind painted walls for one hour each week.

Many Neo-Europeans have also experienced this need for being at-one with the natural world, which is why so many of them clamor to the woods and the country to camp and fish and find their peace. Unfortunately, they bring their radios and television sets with them, and before long, they will be bringing their computers along so they can hook up to the "Internet" on rainy days. No wonder they are so afraid of dying, their Christian religion notwithstanding. Having no understanding of spirituality, they view death as an "ending" instead of a changing of worlds and fear that they will not be comfortable without their toys.

"I remember the old men of my village," writes James Paytiamo, an Acoma Pueblo from the Southwest. "These old, old men used to prophesy about the coming of the white man. They would go about tapping their canes on the adobe floor of the house, and call to us children."

"Listen! Listen! The gray-eyed people are coming nearer and nearer. They are building an iron road [railroad]. They are coming nearer every day. There will be a time when you will mix with these peopleŠ"

"You will sleep on soft beds and will not like to rise early. When you begin to wear heavy clothes and sleep under heavy covers, then you will grow lazy. Then there will be no more singing heard in the valleys as you walkŠ"

"When you begin to eat with iron sticks, your tones will grow louder. You will speak louder and talk over your parents. You will grow disobedient. You will mix with those gray-eyed people, and you will learn their ways; you will break up your homes, and murder and steal."

"Such things have come true and I have to compare my generation with the old generation. We are not at good as they were; we are not as healthy as they were."

"How did these old men know what was coming? That is what I would like to know."

Civilization relentlessly marches on! "Ooops! You missed a tree!"

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