THE GIFTS OF ANNA MAE
Monica J Charles
We had a chance during the 1970’s to bring healing and balance back into our communities. We could have undone the damage done by the misogynistic white man.
Our family lines were traced through the mother. We had powerful women’s societies. Our “work,” songs, and ceremonies were inherited from our mothers.
We always knew that somewhere on Mother Earth there was a white man race. We were told in a prophecy that if he ever became lost he would be sent to us for help. We were told to help him get back on the spiritual path.
Just before the lost white men appeared we were given a new prophecy. Our Ancestors could not believe that such evil would be allowed to happen. They did as they were told anyway.
We were told that the white man might try to kill all of us. Whole Tribes and families could disappear. My Ancestors could not comprehend genocide. That’s an invention of the white man.
Two children from each village and Tribe were chosen and sent for fostering to other Tribes. They were destined to marry and be returned to their original homes should the village or Tribe be completely wiped out.
What happened was worse than we could imagine. Whole Tribes and villages and families completely disappeared from our Mother Earth. Most of our People died.
Those Old People thought that if the white man found out that there were survivors he would come get the babies and kill them. Those who were destined to save their People were quietly absorbed into their host Tribes.
The white man did show up lost scruffy and smelly. He wasn’t searching for spiritual enlightenment. He was looking for gold, that yellow metal that makes him crazy.
What happened to our People during the early occupation of our lands is unconscionable. Our babies, our great-grandparents and grandparents, were kidnapped and held at church and government boarding schools.
Those holy people of the white man’s version of God did not treat our children as the sacred beings that they are. They violated our future, our children. They beat and raped them.
Those broken children were sent home to plant those evil seeds of destruction in our communities. Violence and sexual abuse took hold.
The authority of Woman was ignored by the white man. Our women’s societies disappeared when our religion and ceremonies were outlawed and forced underground.
Indian men unknowingly helped the white man keep us in the prisoner mentality. He began beating and raping the women in his life. He forgot his own sacredness and that of Mother Earth’s representatives on earth.
During the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 a call went out for women who knew how to sew. I was surprised how few answered the call. We were to make quilts from the clothing that was found in the basements in churches. We wondered why they were never distributed to the poor Lakota.
Anna Mae and Mary Moore led our discussions. We were young and uneducated at that point. You would be hard pressed to find a more intelligent conversation anywhere.
We talked about our Tribes, our reservations, our lives and the situation we found ourselves in. We talked about how out of control and sexist the men were. We thought that they would grow up and settle down as time went on.
Mary asked me why I was there. I said because of my Treaty, our fishing rights and it was the right thing to do.
Although our Treaties guaranteed us the right to fish, white men wanted to keep it a white man’s sport. We were arrested for fishing for food. We were arrested for fishing on our own Reservations.
My Dad fished at night. His smokehouse was built underneath a big maple. Everyday before we went to school we were told not to tell anyone that we had fish.
It was time for Amerika to grow up and live up to the word of her ancestors. They had taken our land. We gave up that land but retained our right to hunt, fish and whale.
It was on this work detail that I met and got to know Anna Mae Aquash. She was smart, pretty and quiet. She stood out yet she was one of us.
We made quilts. We made mittens with trigger fingers for security. One of them came to us and told us that it was a good idea but they were too small. I was told to trace his hand for a pattern.
I got a magic marker and traced his hand. I was real happy with my pattern. He was looking at the black ring the marker had left on his hand. Everyone laughed. I was embarrassed and apologized.
We were able to make mittens for our men out of wool sweaters. We later learned that the feds had a professional version of our homemade mittens with trigger fingers. I had thought we were the first to think of it.
I was a student when I heard of Anna Mae’s death. My roommate had volunteered the year before with WKLDOC. She knew Anna Mae too.
My roommate found me standing in line at the college office. She told me that it was on the news that Anna Mae had been found dead. We were both in shock.
I finished my business and went back to the dorm. I sat on my bed and cried. Another dream had died in the cold and snow of Wounded Knee.
We had sworn to stand for our People even unto death. Now our best had been required.
I can only wish healing, health and happiness for her daughters. They should not disparage the whole Movement nor laud the FBI.
It sickens me to hear people who did not have the courage to stand for The People mocking those who did.
We cannot bring Anna Mae back. We can honor her by continuing her work. We can honor our People. We can bring back respect for Women and Elders. We can protect and educate our children so that our future is secure.
We can bring back balance between men and women.
We can stop uranium mining and other ventures that harm and rape our Mother Earth.
If we do all of those things then we will have accepted the gifts of Anna Mae Aquash.