I was eating my oatmeal and flipping through Facebook posts this morning when I saw a news story about a 1200 year old canoe that was raised from the lake near where I live yesterday. Several friends had already commented on how wonderful it was that this treasure had been found. Others noted how they hoped that the Ho Chunk would be given the opportunity to be a part of the process of reclaiming and restoring the artifact since it was found on land that is historically Ho Chunk.
Personally, I’m still wondering. There is undoubtedly value in learning and lessons to be learned from such artifacts. However, the people who built that canoe are ancestors of the Ho Chunk, not Europeans. It doesn’t belong to the people who’ve taken it. The media often doesn’t tell the whole story, but from what I’ve read there’s been no indication that anything beyond a very white perspective of history. It is a story in which white folks go in and take what belongs to Native people again, claim it for the themselves, and say they’re doing the right thing for everyone. Is this anymore right than when we were doing good by creating boarding schools where children were torn from their families, lost their language and culture, and thousands died? Is it better than when we put people on reservations and took away traditional foods in favor of ground flour that would lead the way to processed foods and diabetes?
Sure, we found a canoe. It seems to me we need to just give it to the Native leaders and follow their lead to care for this treasure. Get out of our heads, let go of our egos, and listen to the deeper wisdom of time.
Photo by Ebony Cox/ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel