Lummi Drive-By

This dark and ominous cool front moved in over the San Juan’s and across the bay as I took a right at the four way stop. I usually go straight. Straight past the yellow fields and a grove of green leafed poplars. Straight past the lonely casino with its hotel rising up stories above the surrounding landscape of neglected barns and small farmhouses. You wouldn’t happen to be walking by this casino and decide to stop in for a quick game of blackjack or a run at the slot machines. No, this casino and its location demand at least some amount of premeditation. There is nothing else out here.

Today I didn’t take the straight road home. Today I turned right and immediately found myself in another nation altogether. The sign on the side of the road told me so. It read,

You Are Now Entering The Lummi Nation.

I was on Native land now.
I suppose I am always on Native land if I stop to think about it. But this Native land was marked not only with a large road sign stating the invisible line of demarcation, no, this land was marked by many other signs that were soon to follow.

Trailers. Yes, trailers. Abandoned trailers with all the windows busted out. Rundown trailers. Neglected trailers. Trailers that had once been painted. That “once” being sometime 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. That “once” was not recent, not now.

Handwritten signs read “50% off”. 50% off of what I wondered? Then the shuttered and locked homemade fireworks stands came in to view. Fireworks, of course.

Rain pelted the windshield in between the quiet swipes of wipers set on their lowest setting. Outside I passed small piles of garbage left on the roadside.

The road took me by the Lummi Island ferry landing. Native fishing boats bobbed up and down in the choppy water just to the left of the dock. I thought of the many embittered statements I’d heard made by white men in this part of the country about Native fishing rights and how it restricts non-Natives from many of the fishing opportunities they believe they are entitled to. I felt no sympathy for the white mans plight.

As the road curved along the bay and the city came into view I thought about how different these two nations were. One had thrust itself upon the other in such a violent and destructive way that it had broke these people so thoroughly that they never really had “recovered” from that breaking.

I understand that there have been steps taken by the American government in the last few years to try and somehow make amends for the past. I understand that Natives are somewhat “responsible” for taking care of the land they live on, the homes they live in and the families they raise in them.

During the rare occasions when I bring up Native issues (most of which I know really nothing about) I seem to come up against an immediate defensiveness that does not surprise me yet still takes me off guard.

It is this strange idea that the “past” wrongs perpetrated upon the Native American population are something that the Natives should have been able to somehow “move past” by now. I mean after all this is America, is it not? The land of the free, right? We have the American Dream and that dream states that with a little bit of pluck and some elbow grease anyone can be whatever they want in this great nation. The inference here is that anyone in America who is not “living the dream” only has themselves to blame for their “dreamless” state of being. It’s the same argument I hear about African Americans. The level of ignorance displayed in this statement is understandable.

What do those making these kinds of statements know about being a part of a culture that was crushed so thoroughly that it will probably never fully recover?

I often wonder what happens to those who live in America and have no desire to neither strive for nor live out the American Dream? To me it feels as if the American way of life is an either “all in” or “all out” way of existing. Either you play by the rules; accrue debt by going to the right schools, buy a house which you will never be able to afford much less pay off and then proceed to spend the most precious years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes of your short life working a job to try and keep the banks and credit card companies at bay.

That’s the traditional “all in” way of life. That is how this country is set up and that is how it operates. For those who choose to opt out of that system (or to simply never opt in) there is a resounding “Get The Fuck Out!” that seems to resonate from within every ivory tower this system is built upon.

Either you decide to go all in or you can get the hell out. That seems to be it, plain and simple.

No concessions are made for those who wish to live a simple life. It appears as though life cannot be simply lived within this system.

Ok so I got a little carried away. Eventually I left the Lummi Nation and entered the one I was born into. I then realized that it didn’t matter whether I had taken the right or gone straight because either way I still felt like a foreigner in a strange land, Native or American.


Blogger wilsonian said...

There is a third way.
I suspect you're figuring that out.


4:23 PM  

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