Note: This diary is in support of an ongoing crowdfunding effort by the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB). The funding will play a crucial role in helping regenerate the building they've occupied for the last 40 years. Please help in any way you can - ideally, by Rec'ing and sharing as widely as you can, and if time and finances allow, with whatever you can provide to help with the fundraising effort. Times are tight for many of us - simply sharing news of this effort is more than appreciated. Please read on, and thank you.
Or is it all of the above?
Have you ever been far from home - perhaps a bit homesick - only to walk into some place in a strange new area and suddenly feel at ease...at home? Or at least at ease, comfortable and familiar?
Now switch it up: has life sometimes become so fraught with stresses - social, financial, physical - that "home" offers less comfort, less release, less protection from those stresses?
It happens. A lot. Life can at times beset us with challenges that we cannot always handle ourselves, which keep us from being able to relax even for an instant. The constant state of stress can invade our home lives, our shelter from life's storms, and introduce conflicts that interfere with our families and our attempts to progress and grow. Sometimes - too often, nowadays, for too many - we spend 100% of our time fighting against the onslaught, only to find that for every two steps forward we've moved three steps back.
That's when those of us fortunate enough to have family, or friends like family, or a close-knit community, can band together to face the challenges and better position ourselves through the combined strength of others to not only survive, but move forward in facing and dispelling the various and sundry impediments facing each of us.
United we stand, whether that be within a family, a union, a neighborhood, a culture, or a community center. And "united" doesn't mean, nor does it require, losing one's individuality, or forcing a distillation of one's culture. We can stand together, united, on our common humanity while supporting each other in spite of cultural, religious or familial bonds.
That's what we do here at the Daily Kos community. That's what the folks do at the North American Indian Center of Boston. That's what families and communities do when they bring out the best of humanity to rise against the challenges that can arise from life, especially when some of those challenges are imposed by divisive elements that arise from a lack of cultural awareness, or bigotry, or racism, or ignorance, or fear.
It's important to know where you are from; it's important to know where you're going. And it's important to know that you can, when needed, locate & reach out to those who could provide information, guidance and assistance.
In a nation like the United States, comprised of a mixture of people from different walks of life - different races, cultures, religions and nations, it's easy to get lost. The history of the nation is rife with misguided1 attempts to assimilate all into one generic cultural norm; only relatively recently, in fits and starts, has the recognition of the importance of maintaining ties to one's past cultural history gained traction. The dominant culture still drives onward, imprinting itself on the national identity, as the national identity, often without regard for the other rich cultural traditions that comprise our nation's people. Inherent within this is the unfortunately too-often remnants of embedded racism that was once a primary tool used to push non-dominant cultures toward assimilation.
If you're not part of the dominant culture - if, in fact, you are easily identified as a minority due to physical appearance or gender - then you can easily find yourself facing challenges to you and your family that are significant, yet some if not most of those very real challenges are decried as nonexistent if not entirely overlooked or ignored by non-minorities who are fully assimilated within the dominant culture.
And past "assimilation" practices, still embedded1 and sometimes resurgent, can add stresses that make it even more important to have a home, or at least be able to connect with others of similar cultural background, in order to establish a solid point of reference upon which to build a foundation from which a positive path forward can be forged.
While non-minorities may never fully understand the problems faced by minority groups, all people can understand the need for a place to call "home" or gather with others with whom they can be themselves, share stories, and encourage each other or provide support for each other whether it's in the form of social, mental, environmental, physical or even financial form.
In recent years, regardless of race or color or creed, more and more families have found themselves in situations where children, having left the nest to start their own families, have been forced by circumstance to return home to their parents - with their families - and still work hard to survive.2,3
"Home" takes on an extended meaning, as does "family." Care-giving responsibilities grow and extend; stresses ebb and flow as situations change, and people strive to survive in the best ways they can.
And many still need help.
Over the past few weeks, I've been posting diaries to help grow support and awareness of the North American Indian Center of Boston's crowd funding effort, so that they can regenerate their building, qualify for more government grants and programs, and build on their success in helping to serve the Native American community in and around the greater Boston area. One of the programs they started in recent years is specifically geared toward helping grandparents who have found themselves once again serving as primary caregivers - it's a good program, one which the folks at NAICOB are proud of. Over the fold, we'll talk a little about that - and a bit more about the importance of a cultural touchstone that the building which houses NAICOB provides for many Native Americans in the northeast.
Our national economy is slowly "recovering" from a near-depression recession, but it's not the recovery it could be. Various factors combine to create at least a less-than-rosy picture of what could become the new normal (or the "new" new normal), and the impact is hitting the middle class and the poor very hard. In many cases, this means young adults with families who were once out on their own are returning to the formerly-empty nests maintained by their parents, and in some instances those parents find themselves having to serve in the role of primary care-giver once more. With the ongoing assault on the social safety net by conservative idealogues4, families and communities are restructuring and adjusting, often working with community and both state & federal agencies to best adapt to the new circumstances.
At the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB), one of their most successful new(-ish) programs is the Grandparents' Resource Guide, which is specifically designed to help Native American families who find themselves in this very situation. It's not the only program that NAICOB runs - and they want to add to and increase their offerings to their growing service area - but it is one of the programs they are (rightfully) quite proud of. From the NAICOB Grandparents' Resource Guide webpage:
"This manual is dedicated to all the grandparents that have become, by circumstance, or design, caregivers to our children.The role of grandparents as caregivers for our children has long been a sacred part of who we are as a People. Today, more than ever, we continue to rely on the goodness and selflessness of our grandparents. They are Mother Earth and Father Sky, they are the Ancestors, and they are our relatives.This program is just one example of how NAICOB works with the Native American community in the area. The non-profit organization also serves as a touchpoint and guidepost for Native Americans coming to, moving through or simply visiting the Boston and New England area. The building where they're housed - serving the greater Boston area for over 40 years - needs some work, and they've started a crowdfunding campaign to attempt to fund it. Successful completion of the campaign will enable them to do some much-needed maintenance, which will provide further opportunities to renew some of their past programs and apply for grants that can help them increase both their effectiveness and their reach.
They represent warmth when it is cold, guidance when we are lost, and love always, unconditionally...
They are our grandparents."
-- Joanne Dunn, Mi'kmaq Elder
North American Indian Center of Boston, Inc.
They're already well-established as the default "go-to" in the state. From the NAICOB Regeneration Fund page:
Why is that important? Because most Native Americans in the United States live in cities and urban areas, not on reservations. As such, they are often even more invisible than those on reservations.5
"...over two thirds of native peoples living in the U.S. now live in cities, only a tiny percentage of federal funds (only one percent, for example, of funds earmarked for healthcare) are directed towards urban centers.
NAICOB provided cultural, economic and educational support for a group of people who far too often fall through such cracks, and who are often almost totally invisible to the majority of people - in the northeast of the United States, many people do not even realize that their are federally recognized Native Nations, and that there are thousands of tribally enrolled and non-enrolled Native American men and women living amongst them. NAICOB has given many of these people hope when everything seemed blanketed by despair, and helped many advance their prospects and begin to achieve great things. If it is going to continue to achieve such great results, and begin to once again turn the tide of poverty and isolation (that fosters that blanket of despair), it needs just a little bit of help.
And the overall tendency of the dominant culture, particularly in some states, is to continue to erode and undermine Native American culture in a form of cultural genocide, forcing through circumstance and often blatantly ignoring the impacts that myopic, arrogant and often racist policies have. This can be seen in several ways, more clearly, by looking at what is happening in some states with regard to federally recognized reservations. For Native Americans not living on, or growing up on or around reservations, it can be even more difficult to find help surviving or preserving one's sense of history, culture, or extended family.
The difference between having some place to go when one needs to connect with others, and being well and truly alone, can be illustrated by the following image: a room full of ghosts - people gathering at past events, or who could be attending events with future generations, vs. the empty hall that stands and echoes hollow when nobody is there:
An ongoing problem that - shamefully - still hasn't been resolved is the ongoing cultural genocide that is enabled and prolonged by the pretense of "helping" Native Americans located on the reservation: several states, most notably South Dakota, has created a corrupt system that creates a profit center for non-Indian foster homes by taking Native American children away from their families and placing them with non-Native families, in spite of laws, rules, regulations and treaties that emphasize the need to place children with Native families whenever and wherever possible. This has a devastating impact on not only the affected Native families and children, but also the extended tribal family and culture. For some insight, refer to this piece - South Dakota kidnaps Indian children and sticks them in white foster care by Meteor Blades on Wed Oct 26, 2011:
among Indians who participate in the Daily Kos group Native American Netroots, at least four of us have relatives who were yanked away from their families and sent to boarding schools (aji: great-grandmother; me, grandmother and great-aunt; navajo: mother; cacamp: grandparents, parents and himself).
Some went to government-run schools; others were taken in by church operations, Catholics and Mormons being among the prominent proponents of this approach to "civilizing" us.
In addition to being physically abused and treated as sexual prey in many cases, children in the boarding schools had their language, culture and religion yanked away. That wasn't collateral damage. It was the whole point. The concept behind the boarding schools, more than 150 of them by 1900, was "Kill the Indian…save the man," as noted in an 1892 Denver speech by Col. Richard H Pratt, founder of the U.S. Training and Industrial School at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.
Read the whole piece. Another important - and shameful - aspect of our past history as a nation, which MB touched on above, was the forced attendance of "Indian Schools" designed to forcibly assimilate Native American children into the dominant culture, intentionally breaking and suppressing any ties to their known culture and history. It wasn't just a United States thing - it also happened in Canada, affecting First Nations people. As horrible as it was - and as recent as it is in our history - it is, in a sense, still continuing through the pretense of "protecting" children. Native schools and stolen generations: U.S. and Canada by Denise Oliver Velez, posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, reviews and elaborates:
Chase Iron Eyes posted another piece illustrative of the damage and criminal practice of removing Native American children from their families and placing them with non-Native foster care, from Thu Sep 19, 2013 entitled End the Cultural Genocide in South Dakota against Our Lakota People. He provides some damning facts and assertions:
The plight of Native American and First Nations children in the United States and Canada as stolen generations cannot simply be brushed off as "ancient" history.attribution: Frontier FortsPupils at Carlisle Indian school, Pennsylvania (c. 1900)
Many readers here are aware of the history of Native American boarding schools, like Carlisle, depicted above, and the Canadian Indian residential school system, thanks to the ongoing efforts of editors and writers for Native American Netroots, founded by navajo, both on their site and here at Daily Kos. They have also provided critical coverage of the current South Dakota kidnapping of Indian children—placing them white foster care, in pieces written by Meteor Blades, and Aji.
Unfortunately, too many of our fellow citizens remain in complete ignorance.
The excerpts above serve to underscore the importance of family and culture, in particular how it is being attacked even on the reservation. For Native Americans who do not live on or near reservations, life can be even more difficult: it's hard to realize one's history, culture and family roots in one world while maintaining and establishing an identity in another - particularly if that "other" world is the world defined by the dominant culture, and "complete assimilation" is the often only recognized and recommended option. We saw an example of this from navajo, who shared her experiences in Living in Two Worlds ("Half Breed"), as posted in First Nations News & Views #14 on Sunday, 13 May 2012. Below, I've excerpted only a few small sections - as with the pieces above, make it a point to read the whole piece in order to fully comprehend the context and power of the pieces:
- Fact: When our foster and adoptive children are taken from their families, 90% of the time they are not placed with their kin or another Indian family (as required by ICWA), although eligible Indian foster homes exist and yet sit vacant.
- Assertion: When our children are taken from us and placed in non-Indian residential or institutional care they have arguably zero access to culture or teachings which are vital to their self-esteem/identity.
- Fact: All foster children are classified as “special needs” children by the state of South Dakota, making them four times more profitable and resulting in a 72,000 per year financial incentive per child.
- Fact: the South Dakota economy brings in approximately 56 million dollars per year from the federal government by classifying Indian kids as special needs and removing them from their families.
- Fact: Approximately 21% of our kids who are taken from their families end up in institutions other than foster homes, such as detention centers, group homes, and psychiatric care centers.
- Assertion: Our children are prescribed psychotropic drugs at such institutions, side effects of which include destabilized mental health and suicidal ideations, and sales of these pharmaceuticals are increased significantly at our children’s expense.
- Fact: Within two years of leaving these institutions or turning 18, or otherwise "aging out" of the reach of the DSS, 63% of our kids are on the streets, in prison, or dead.
Born and raised off the reservation, never taught my Native language and existing more or less comfortably within the dominant culture. I'm invisible to non-Indians, so we get along well. In the past few years, I have made strong statements with my appearance, but no one ever asks if I'm Indian. They just assume I'm of the hippie culture that is very much alive and well here in urban Northern California.
Because this family culture wasn't destroyed, my mom's Navajo roots remained strong. She visited her family on vacations and she remained steeped in the culture. She maintained fluency in the language. She took us along for several weeks every summer to herd sheep, enjoy the wonderful food, play with our cousins and live in the traditional style. We watched shi cheii perform ceremonies. I treasured every moment on the Rez.
I pay a price for not knowing the language when I visit my relatives on the Rez. Every time I go, I'm completely left out as my relatives converse in Navajo. I have to patiently wait for someone to translate for me. I can't tell you how many times I've asked for a translation and no one could go back that far in the conversation to help me out. And then the talk forges on while I sit in the dark.
...in both worlds, there are inclusive people and exclusive people. Fortunately for my mental health there were many more nice people than mean ones. But the adverse experiences take a toll, especially on a young heart and mind.Reservations can and do play an important role in the preservation of Native American culture and history, but not all Native Americans have been to a reservation. For those who have left reservations to seek other opportunities, or those who have never been to a reservation but who will still find themselves treated as minorities in - if not totally invisible to - the dominant culture, it's important to have and maintain a touchpoint, a guidepost, a home-away-from-home where one can find shelter, solace, comfort, assistance and reassurance.
Urban Indian centers like NAICOB can help; they do their best to provide information and resources to Native Americans in, around and traveling through their areas.
And if we can do anything to help those centers maintain, or even expand and improve their facilities and capacity to help, it's a good thing.
Can you help?
NAICOB Mission Statement
To promote greater self-determination, socio-economic self-sufficiency, spiritual enhancement, intercultural understanding and other forms of empowerment for the North American Indian Community and to assist North American Indians in obtaining an improved quality of life by providing health, job training, education, housing, and other related programs and social services.
* * *
To those who have taken the time to read and share this diary, and help spread awareness of both importance & role of NAICOB as well as their current crowdfunding efforts, from the folks at NAICOB, a heartfelt and hearty Welalin ("Thank you!").
Footnotes & References
First the footnotes, then the references. Feel free to review, add to, comment upon any and all of the elements listed above and below. Ideally, if you have additional references that you can provide for more information on the diary topic or related key elements, please do so.
But, above all, please share this post with others - via email, or whatever social networks you may maintain, or post a link on any discussion boards or comments sections of news sites or other blogs. Even better, and far more helpful, please share the link to the NAICOB Regeneration Fund page on IndieGoGo and help them reach their goal.
- From a comment on embedded racism & microaggression that I posted a while back, in its early and still-raw form:
There are many, many factors affecting our capacity to recognize embedded racism/oppression/etc. which all roll up into what is often described as "dominant culture" behavior. Getting caught up in is easy - learning to recognize it for what it is? That part's hard.
And doing the right thing usually means doing the hard thing.
"We" are both a whole a nation of indivual people, and a people of diverse nations. "We" are still steeped in both barely veiled and overtly blatant racism, homophobia, agism, xenophobia, sexism, ableism, misogyny...1
Recognizing, and acknowledging, embedded racism forces people to face the additional, inherent and concurrent gender, racial, religious and other biases that are "comfortably ingrained" in dominant culture talking points; exposing such incidents - ones that touch upon race, religion, gender, education in ways that could get people to question some of the default knee-jerk jingoism and break down additional barriers toward eliminating such microaggressions2 - isn't just doing the right thing.
It's also disabling the various devices that many conservatives, right-wing pundits, one-percenters and their paid enablers want to continue to quietly preserve, as it enables them to better manipulate people, policies, politics and power.
Racism, sexism, religious bigotry all work on and play on fear, and when so deeply embedded within a dominant culture as to be virtually unrecognizable and unassailable by the general populace, they work effectively, acting to create knee-jerk enablers who fight against calling out the incidents, or even deny that it's an incident - "it's a joke, get over it" - and the oppression it continues and expands.
"We" need to be the ones to speak up and speak out, to point out and underscore when such things are uncovered. "We" need to be the people pushing back against those who can't be bothered to care, or - worse yet - those who don't care for the harm that is done to others because doing so would be an inconvenience to them, or uncomfortable.
"We" is a polymorphic term, and it can be divisive as well as uniting, defining as well as confusing; it can both preserve & protect as well as undermine and misrepresent.
"We" aren't perfect. But isn't that the point? "We" are human, all of us. Imperfect, somewhat clever at times (and at times too clever for our own good), and all capable of tremendous things.
Sometimes, we need to ask things of ourselves - question our path, our past, our present, our community. In doing so, we sometimes find answers - if we ask.
Do "We" live in a bubble of convenience, or are "We" more a part of the world than we often realize or admit - or sometimes claim in erroneous, self-(National) serving ways, instead of as patrons and defenders of humanity?
Sometimes, what matters less is the question we ask ourselves: sometimes it's the way we choose to respond, to react, when we learn to recognize wrong from right, wrong from "comfortably numb," and decide to use our voices to say something - to do something - to change it.
1I'm likely missing a few, and then probably dozens of variations of those that are listed.
2 Hat-tip to Aji for reminding me of the term "microaggressions" - References:
- Microaggressions - Fordham University
According to Sue and colleagues (2007) microaggressions are common verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional ...
- Unmasking 'racial micro aggressions'
Some racism is so subtle that neither victim nor perpetrator may entirely understand what is going on—which may be especially toxic for people of color.
Two colleagues—one Asian-American, the other African-American—board a small plane. A flight attendant tells them they can sit anywhere...
- Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life : Psychology Today
Oct 5, 2010 - Microaggressions in Everyday Life. A new view on racism, sexism, and heterosexism. by Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D., and David Rivera, M.S. ...
- Microaggressions - Fordham University
- When empty nest fills up again, things get hectic by Allison Linn, CNBC, on Thursday, 26 Sep 2013:
- No more "Empty Nest" by David Stauth:
The “empty nest” of past generations, in which the kids are grown up and middle-aged adults have more time to themselves, has been replaced in the United States by a nest that’s full – kids who can’t leave, can’t find a job and aging parents who need more help than ever before.
According to a new study by researchers at Oregon State University, what was once a life stage of new freedoms, options and opportunities has largely disappeared.
An economic recession and tough job market has made it hard on young adults to start their careers and families. At the same time, many older people are living longer, which adds new and unanticipated needs that their children often must step up to assist with.
The end result, researchers suggest, are “empty nest” plans that often have to be put on hold, and a mixed bag of emotions, ranging from joy and “happy-to-help” to uncertainty, frustration and exhaustion.
- IMO, the same "idealogues" who supported - and want to not only return to, but strengthen - the idiotic policies that led to and enhanced the Great Recession in the first place, and continue to drag down attempts at improving any recovery. YMMV.
- NAICOB Regeneration Fund - crowdfunding page on IndieGoGo
- NAICOB page on Wikipedia
- Stories From The Field: Site Visit to Boston - an article on NAICOB on IndianYouth.org. NAICOB is a "Running Strong" partner organization.
- List of Urban Indian Centers - link listed at the end of the Site Visit to Boston article; appears to have up-to-date listings on current Urban Indian Centers in the US.
- North American Indian Center in Jamaica Plain looks to the future - 2011 article from Boston.com on NAICOB
- Strengthening Tribal Communities Through the HEARTH Act - WH Press Release from July, 2012.
- A Matter of Perspective - The Overton Window, Reservation Life and a Chain of Sorrow - A piece I wrote a while ago, listed not so much for the diary itself but for the excellent commentary provided by Meteor Blades, navajo, Aji, and several others: very pointed, insightful and informative.