Whose Feet: Since Time Began

A wonderful thing has happened. A friend has pointed out that I made a mistake, and this brings me great joy. I know that I, with my European-American cultural background, make many mistakes in my attempts to learn about First Nations’ history. I also know that true learning means having friends and colleagues who are willing to correct me. So I am grateful to Lenore Three Stars for gently showing me the following error.

Back on January 19 of this year, while exploring the origins of the Salish peoples, I wrote that “they arrived here an estimated 11-12,000 years ago via land bridge from Siberia to Alaska.” Well, OK, that statement probably sounds fine to the ears of white anthropologists, since they are the ones who originated the theory. However, the land bridge theory may conflict with the understanding of the peoples themselves about who they are, and where they come from.

I am learning that each of the First Nations has its own belief about origins. Many of those beliefs are centered right here on North American soil. I recently visited the museum and cultural center of the Makah Nation, on the northwest tip of what is now called the Olympic Peninsula. One of the first points made in the history exhibit is that the Makah have inhabited those lands “since the beginning of time.”

Since time began.  I don’t know how the anthropologists reconcile this powerful history with their land bridge theory, and perhaps it doesn’t matter. If I must choose whose version of history to honor, I will honor the descendents of the people who lived it. And I will request again, with a little trepidation and a lot of joy, that my First Nations colleagues keep on telling me whenever I get it wrong.

With that in mind, the credit for all good things in today’s posting goes to Lenore. The accountability for any offenses rests with me, and you can reach me at MGarred5@hotmail.com. Many thanks.