Bill Miller: Native Americans, Aborigines, Dersim Kurds in song

Bill Miller is of the Mohican peoples, one of many who are the first peoples of the North American continent in the modern lexicon, before the arrival and subsequent destruction of their communities through modernization/colonization. He has composed and sung music, created visual art, and speaks to the history of the Native peoples of North America in the present. His music and words resonate with many peoples around the globe whom have spiritual traditions inclusive of nature and its movements, relations and community, and values which are made increasingly irrelevant to the modern world unless they can be co-opted.

Although, as usual in European and US American mentalities, the Native peoples’ culture can be romanticized and listened to for feeling personally sad or guilty, Bill Miller sings to invite advocacy and memory, in memorium to things and people and ways that are largely disappearing, and asks us not to forget.

As you may or may not know, when Christopher Columbus arrived accidentally onto the North American continent, the Natives were there for centuries in various communities with various different cultures. From this period to WWI, the United States proceeded to think of the continent as belonging to the European settlers and governing forces of France and Britain, Spain and others. As the United States began taking form through their own wars, the extermination of the Native population was a purposeful act. Of course, as is today, propaganda was necessary. Precursor to this is the thinking that ‘might (domination) is right.’ The Europeans thought they they ‘deserved’ the land and others needed to be vanquished. Some Native tribes, surrendered, while others wanted to fight for their own lives. The fighters and the those that surrendered, were all less-than-deserving to the emerging ‘United States’ visionaries. Here is a small portion of Thomas Jefferson‘s letter to Alexander von Humboldt in 1913:

We have cut off all possibility of intercourse and of mutual aid, and may pursue at our leisure whatever plan we find necessary to secure ourselves against the future effects of their savage and ruthless warfare. The confirmed brutalization, if not the extermination of this race in our America, is therefore to form an additional chapter in the English history of the same colored man in Asia, and of the brethren of their own color in Ireland, and wherever else Anglo-mercantile cupidity can find a two-penny interest in deluging the earth with human blood.

(from The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition (Lipscomb and Bergh, editors), 20 Vols., Washington, D.C., 1903-04.)

So as Bill Miller sings, the memory of being with Grandfather and of loss and sbjugation, is alive. Of course in assimilation, of every country nearly, it is hoped that this is forgotten and we just ‘blend in’ with the rest of those who have forgotten. In addition, the consciousness and therefore values and views of the dominant, who has forgotten, is viewed as more ‘normal’ and more sensible. Such is the dynamics of the present-day struggle of memory and ancestral heritage. I think that if this forgotten past and the elders were not feared, there could be tremendous healing and incredible amounts of energy–no longer suppressed and ignored, that can help our future.

Those Natives that surrendered–those that were not killed off by new European diseases or direct tactics, were put into small communities on government-built groups of housing, usually in the middle of barren lands. These housing areas–or basically concentration-type camps, became residents to most Native-Americans to this present day. These are called ‘reservations.’ Add to this the introduction of alcohol and other means of destroying the community and we have the picture of the intent. Natives that assisted the US government were paid and were ‘more free’ to move and run the schools, which were controlled by the US government. Thorough assimilation and subjugation. This same system was a model used in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, etc. The Dersim people in eastern Turkey, has also had this system used. In the 1920s, Sıdıka Avar, a woman was sent to Michigan by the Turkish government to study the Native American schools, to learn assimilation and national citizenship education. Upon returning, she was in charge of the girls’ boarding schools in the mountainous Dersim region of Turkey, where there were many orphans from the devastating genocides there, as well as mixing them with Turkish girls from more wealthy areas. For girls, this was their only way into being considered ‘human’ by the modernizing middle-class Turkish society and to be educated. So as with the Native Americans, the Dersim girls, and others such as the aboriginal tribes in Australia and others, were systematically made citizens and also divided amongst themselves as a result. How much of this results in self-hatred? (see Unfolding Republican Patriarchy: The Case of Young Kurdish Women at the Girls’ Vocational Boarding School in Elazig – Master of Science Thesis of Sevim Yesil, Middle East Technical University 2003).

I, having Cherokee ancestors on my father’s branch of my heritage, had clan members on ‘The Trail of Tears,’ one of many ‘events’ in the genocidal necessities in building ‘The New World.’ (http://www.nps.gov/trte/index.htm) I refuse to forget. Not to be sad, although mourning is necessary, but to think of what is going on and how we can create new worlds without killing and prioritizing ethnic cleansing as a way to freedom. Afrter all, that is what the newly arriving Europeans thought. Kill to build freedom.

The first song is “The Promise,” which he sings about the peoples’ relationship with the ecology that is threatened presently.

For the second video, “Reservation Road,” I have included the lyrics. Ancestors are with us. Forgetting must be fought. From remembering, we learn.

If you enjoy and/or want more information, visit the website:

Bill Miller Arts http://www.billmillerarts.com/

Reservation Road

I was holding on to my grandad’s hand
He was pointing to the promised land
That lay beyond the reservation road
He said don’t make promises that you won’t keep
Don’t betray the earth beneath your feet
As we walked on the reservation road

Chorus:
And just for that one moment we were racing with the wind
And sound of horses thundering they echoed once again
Back to a place where our hearts and souls belong
A thousand dreams away from that reservation road
A thousand dreams away from that reservation road

Then his spirit soared into the sky
Beyond the place where eagle fly
And my tears fell on the reservation road

Now a hundred moons have come and gone
And I’m holding on to my newborn son
One day he’ll walk on the reservation road

Chorus:
And just for that one moment we were racing with the wind
And sound of horses thundering they echoed once again
Back to a place where our hearts and souls belong
A thousand dreams away from that reservation road
A thousand dreams away from that reservation road

I was holding on to my grandad’s hand
He was pointing to the promised land
That lay beyond the reservation road
It went way beyond the reservation road

Have you ever walked on the reservation road?
Let me take you down the reservation road
Like to take some Senators down the reservation road
Let me take you down the reservation road
Let me take you down the reservation road

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