So, thanks to the novel coronavirus, I’ve been reading a lot. I counted on my Kindle the other day: 13 novels since July – and counting. Think of the trees I’ve saved.
One short book I picked up was called “There, There,” by novelist Tommy Orange. As opposed to most of the stuff I consumed, this one had some literary value.
It informed me that Native Americans are still very much with us. There are millions of people in this country who genetically belong to legitimate tribes, Elizabeth Warren notwithstanding. And these people live and work and play just the same way I do. Some live on reservations. Many do not. They live in houses and apartments and shop at grocery stores, go to school, etc.
I’m embarrassed that I really had no idea. The book’s characters could have been anyone. Some took their heritage seriously. Others not so much. Some pretended to and others pretended not to.
For some godforsaken reason, I thought true Native Americans were few and far between, that there was nothing left of these cultures in this America. I knew a guy in college who was Navajo. He had really long hair, which he cut once. He said it had something to do with honor. I’d forgotten him before I read this book and realized if there were a failing of honor there, it was mine for not learning more about him.
The reason I bring this up is that it’s, at least officially, Columbus Day. But a good portion of the country (not including Pennsylvania) has switched to celebrating it as Indigenous Peoples Day, for ignorant people like me to be reminded that these people aren’t just the 12 men in traditional headgear I see protesting at Cleveland Indians games, that they are legion and they’re the reason that the Washington Football Team is working on selecting a less offensive name.
Personally, I don’t think we need to be reminded who landed his European boat on these shores and started the process of destroying the homes and cultures of 150 million people spanning two continents. But I do think we sure as heck need to hear more of what Tommy Orange has to say.
Erie Times-News staff writers share their views from behind the scenes, stories and bylines. Jennie Geisler can be reached at 870-1885. Send an email to [email protected]