By Lehman ‘Dar’ Dowdy | Provided by Steve Gordon
Below is a letter written by “Dar” Dowdy in 2009 that still resonates today.
Over the past three years, l have spent a great deal of time trying to find a solution to help my people deal with the various social and health problems that attack them emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. I learned, through different discussions with other educators and healers that the majority of our physical ailments begin as emotional problems. I further came to understand that these emotional triggers begin at childbirth and can even be transferred to us through our mothers and fathers. As I dug even deeper into the extent of our emotional attachments I found that collectively, as a distinct race of Native people, we have all been exposed to the same type of emotional garbage: forced assimilation, education process, cultural persecution and genocide, prejudice, boarding schools, relocation, substance abuse, diabetes and other health disorders. We are walking around with five hundred years of emotional and spiritual trauma strapped to our backs. Throughout our lifetime, we grow accustomed to bearing this heavy load and we learn to live our lives without any outward signs of discomfort or disease. But the deep, ugly signs of this bodily stress are there: domestic violence, low self esteem, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, greed, sickness, indifference and a general lack of caring. Our ancestors were wise when they advised us to “Let it go”; let go of the negativity; don’t own the pain. They understood the connection between the mind, spirit and physical body. Throughout our history, we learned to consistently adapt and change; this is how we arrived into this new period of time; we are survivors. But we are not free of the emotional burdens that we carry. Many of us walk around with our heads down; behaving as helpless victims. Once, we had an entire community, extended families, clans, who would help us to bear these loads. Today, too often, we find ourselves alone. So we self-medicate and bandage up the pain; hoping that it will just go away. Before long, it appears as a disease, an illness that robs us of our vitality and the will to be happy and healthy. That unhappiness spreads to anger and affects our families and communities.
Finally, the spirit begins to falter and all hope is lost. That hopelessness spreads to the borders of our communities and affects everyone and everything. Because we have abandoned our traditional ways of caring for one another we’ve lost our sense of community. Our society is becoming one of; every man for himself. Deep in our hearts, we know that this type of thought is wrong but we don’t know how to correct it. It is too simple to realize that the change has to begin with one’s self. We need to come together again as a community, as an extended family of caregivers. We need to stand one another back up; to lend that helping hand or to express our caring. These are easy things that we can remind ourselves to do; to start making that difference. When we see our children adopting another culture as a way to behave, dress and belief; we have taken a giant step toward terminating our Native culture and defining who we are as a distinct Native people. There is a feeling of indifference to preserving our language and culture, not realizing that these are the foundations to our sovereign survival. We are who we are because our grandparents chose to speak their Native language and to retain the customs and traditions of our ancestors; they knew that this would someday matter. They knew that the day would come when we would need our traditional thoughts and ways to carry us through these difficult times. I do not recommend a return to the ‘old ways’; history will not allow us to go backwards; I’m recommending a going forward with our language, culture and traditions firmly preserved and rooted in our communities.
I’m advocating that we again think like our ancestors; to understand that it is our responsibility to make a better world for our children. Our life roads can all be different but they should all lead to creating the best possible results for those yet unborn; that thought will insure our survival as Native people. With the help of all the Native educators and healers we can raise an awareness of the true strength and power of our Native spirituality. No one has to have a title or position of power to raise this issue; all it takes is caring, love and compassion for our Native people. It is my greatest desire to find a way to help our people, to give them the spiritual strength to better themselves, their families and their communities. That is my intent and I look forward to all your positive suggestions, solutions and feedback.
Lehman ‘Dar’ Dowdy