~ Orannhawk 

I grew up in a small community, where

like the old song from Cheers, everybody

knows your name. It had its advantages,

although looking at it through the lens of

adulthood; it teemed with 
judgments, contradictions and labels.

Overhearing adults at different times, I realized the obscure division of the areas in the town. One designation held its name based on the tall grain elevator tanks, another area nicknamed for a sharp spiny burr that permeated the grassy fields and the creek that ran through the Eastern side of town. The community has its share of plantation style homes with large pillars and porches and housing for a wide discrepancy of incomes. I grew up on the edge, away from the southern looking multi-story homes and the side of town with fancy bows knotted in greenbacks. As a child, I remember feeling confused and questioning a teacher at school regarding the names. “That’s just the way it is,” she answered. It was not a satisfactory answer.  

From the location of one’s home, to the cars parked in front, the clothes on your back, to 
appearances, jobs, friends, who you date or marry; judgement dances to anger, confuse, embarrass and label.

I have heard it said that we are the product of our environment and our upbringing shapes who we are and become. To some extent, it is true and we have seen the results of the manipulation of minds regarding Indigenous people. On the other hand, change is possible, if you are willing.

More often than not, judgement is the byproduct of ignorance. Passing judgement without knowing or even attempting to learn and understand other cultures and traditions weighs heavy in the hands that point. Sadly, the concepts of Manifest Destiny regarding cultural and racial superiority continue to occupy mainstream America. Conventional schools teach inaccurate historical information leaving the child to either question and seek out the truth or bend to the will of distortion, furthering the cycle.

Teachers are expected to impart the information provided in the textbooks issued to the classrooms, regardless of the outright lies and deceptions. Unfortunately, many of the teachers are not aware they are feeding the progression of misinformation.

In a survey taken earlier this year, 40 % of the individuals responding did not even think Native 
Americans still existed. This is horrifying.

The Reclaiming Native Truth project aimed to figure out what the "dominant narrative" is around Native people. So, what are people saying about Native Americans, how are they represented in culture and media and, crucially, how does that translate into public policy and opinion?

“The complete lack of representation in the media, in pop culture, in K-12 education not only erases us from the American consciousness, it inadvertently creates a bias,” consultant Echo Hawk told Women's Media Center. “People were less likely to support certain rights and social justice issues for Native people when they had zero perception and understanding of who we are. Invisibility and erasure is the modern form of racism against Native people.”

The article also shared the following:      

There were several positive stereotypes of Native Americans that were identified in the survey, including "committed to preserving their culture," "committed to family and community," 
"spiritual/mystical,""resilient in the face of discrimination, oppression and genocide," "close to the land or stewards of the environment" and patriotic Americans/serving in military.

It also noted that protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota lifted the profile of Native Americans, reminding Americans and people around the world that they still exist, united tribes, leveraging non-traditional media and bringing issues of tribal sovereignty to the public.

Most people, from elected officials to the media to the general public, didn't understand tribal 
sovereignty. Most lumped all Native Americans into one group instead of recognizing tribal differences.

The survey also showed college-educated people, people of color, people who are or know Native Americans, people in the Northeast, liberals and young women are more likely to support Native Americans. White people in Indian Country, seniors, conservatives and older men without a college degree were considered the toughest to convince to be allies. Kristen Inbody Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune, 8-10-2018

The ramifications of the current political climate continues to rain down, and the torrent is overwhelming. Obviously, judgement is nothing new; however, the instigation of all things contradictory to honesty, acceptance, respect, compassion, kindness, empathy, education and treating others without judgement is not acceptable.

We all have the ability to change, to be more accepting of racial, cultural, sexual orientation and ethnic differences. We can live without judging others. Education is a key, and it must cover a broader spectrum. 

Practice non-judgement and let your positive actions be a guide for others.

It is important to understand that many people are not even aware of their actions and reactions. Think about things you do on a regular basis and without judging yourself, recognize the different times you have looked at someone and reacted in a negative way without just cause.  

Something as seemingly benign as looking at the selection of food in someone’s shopping cart can trigger negative judgmental thoughts about an individual you don’t even know or the circumstances as to why they are purchasing items you deem inappropriate. 

When I think about my childhood, there were many inconsistencies with parental judgement. Granted, the judgement fluctuated depending on the amount of alcohol said parent had consumed. Friends were also judgmental. I remember a classmate refusing to ride with me when I was taking a close family friend home because I was going to that side of town, never mind the fact it was a few blocks away from my own home. She was afraid. I had a difficult time understanding that.  

Society in itself adds to the judgmental bias, leading people to question and panic when in contact with someone who is different, regardless of what the differences are. We cannot fall into the habit of equating different with evil or any other unpleasant descriptives. Be realistic about your fears.

Yes, we need to be aware, because we are living in a chaotic world unknown to the Ancestors. However, living in fear and judgement is not living a full rich life; that is a life devoid of the abundance of cherished experiences and encounters of others. Think about your fears and understand that many of them are simply not rational. Consider your judgement of others. Is it real or is it a perceived judgement based on what you were taught? Take into account the times you were aware of someone judging you. How did it make you feel? Take a breath the next time you start to judge.

Think of the Ancestors, feel Spirit within you and if you judge, then do so in an honorable, respectful and positive way. Kindness, compassion, acceptance and love pave the road on which we all should strive to walk.