I asked my grandmother to teach me, teach me about our ways, our culture, our people.
I asked her to teach me our native tongue.
I asked her to teach me the stories about our creator I’itoi.
I asked her to teach me about what it means to be a people of these lands.
I asked her to teach me the songs we sing to bless others and our family.
I asked her to teach me all of this and more.
I asked her to teach me everything she could.
“I can’t. I can’t teach you because my mother never taught me. My mother never taught me because of fear. Fear of her children being beaten as she was. You see my mother was beaten by the white man for speaking our language.
She couldn’t pray to our creator without being struck with a yardstick. She keeps her hair short now, not out of habit. She keeps it short because she was forced to cut it. Her beautiful long hair, cut off, leaving her scared.
Her tongue stripped from her.
She was forced to be something else.
Not herself, for being herself was wrong.
but why? It’s what I always asked her.
Why? Why do any of it?
What did we do wrong?”
My Grandmother continued to speak as I sat quietly.
“I asked my mother these things because I was curious. I was curious as to why she never taught me. I found out she was only trying to protect me. She did not want me to be beat as she was.”
As my Grandmother told me all of this, I cried.
Tears fell from my face. Tears fell for my Great Grandma. Tears fell for my ancestors. Tears fell for our history.
For the loss.
And when there were no more tears, I asked my Grandmother.
What do we do now?
“I don’t know what to do now. You see I can only share what I know. Not much history, just living. Now I can help you search and learn as much as you can. There are still those who know plenty of our culture. Learn from them. Learn our language. Keep it alive for your children. Keep it alive for the young that will follow you. Learn it. Teach what we couldn’t teach you.
You have to do it.
It is up to you.”