Monday, July 14, 2014

Don't mock me, I'm relatively new here.

I like to think that I am a cultured and intelligent member of society. I know a lot of fun facts and, having been raised in Europe, I have been blessed to be exposed to a life that I know many were not. That being said, there are some things that I am still learning regularly as part of my assimilation into American life.

In the public education of my youth (from the ages 4-18), I spent 10 years in British public schooling, 2 years in American, and 2 in International. There are a lot of things that British and International school systems don't include in their curriculum. One of these things is the history of the American people. Thanks to movies and television I patched up the history that occurred after the Puritans left England to find religious freedom (which was the spot where my education in regards to America ended). These reliable resources told me that the Puritans were greeted by friendly Native Americans who they dined with happily and shared a delicious meal of turkey, corn on the cob, and an offensive amount of pumpkin pie. Hello to the creation of Thanksgiving!

When I was 15 my family moved from England to Maryland. I began school at an inner city public high school which was overpopulated and a terrifying culture shock to me. One of my very first English classes contained readings of essays scribed by Native Americans in regards to their sufferings at the hands of the white man. In studying these, I learned that things weren't so hunky-dory between the new Americans and the Native ones, and my mind was violently and metaphorically blown. Somewhere in this new education, however, I learned of the term "Indian Reservations" and my heart was less heavy.

For those of you who don't know, Indian Reservations are a place where Native Americans live as they did before the invasion of white men to America. These lands have been preserved for them to maintain their heritage. They live in teepees, study smoke signals, harvest the land, and play lacrosse while they sing songs about life around the river bend and care for every living thing because they are one with nature. They wear gorgeous garb of leather and feather, with war paint, and headdresses, and fine turquoise jewellery. There is no electricity on the reservations, and no part of western civilization has corrupted the boundaries. There are no phones, no TV, no magazines, or any modern invention. They are a happy and peaceful people.

This was never explained to me, but I had seen Pocahontas, and I'm not an idiot; when I first heard the term "Indian Reservation" and was informed that it was land that was provided and protected for Native Americans I knew that exactly what they must be like.

I once met a sister missionary for our church who was Native American at dinner at my friend's house. I asked her excitedly if she grew up on the reservations. She told me she did. I asked what it was like to come to Maryland. Was it a huge culture shock for her? What did she like best about it? I was incredibly disappointed when she said it wasn't, and that she liked being so close to the capital. "Capital-schnapital," I wanted to scream. "Tell me about your teepee! Do you miss it so much?! How much do you hate wearing shoes? It must be such a transition." These questions went unasked, because I didn't want to command the conversation at the dinner table, and instead I quietly wondered, and wished I could visit an Indian Reservation some day.

Once I got to University I found I had a deep love for documentaries, and spent many hours searching for things to watch to educate me on things I didn't know. One search turned up a documentary series by Morgan Spurlock entitled "30 Days." One episode's explanation stated that "Morgan goes to a Navajo Indian reservation to experience Native American life."


Never have my dreams been so heavily and abruptly crushed.

Every now and then a new part of American history or culture that I do not know will crop up in conversation and I will be teased for my ignorance, but I try to reason that I know a lot of things that others don't, and someday I'll know a lot more than I do now. That being said, I really did like knowing that Indian Reservations were just like in Pocahontas, so I'd like it if we could make that the case so I could be right again.

Also, Peter can't mock me too harshly, because a couple weeks ago he said the word "queue" for the first time in front of me, and he pronounced it "cue-you" so I got a moment to shine in the "I know something that you are grossly misinformed about" light for a bit. Granted, the mispronunciation of one word is a lot less embarrassing than a false understanding about an ethnic culture, built on a concept found in a Disney movie.


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