MTPR

David Moore And N. Scott Momaday Reflect On Reconnecting What's Broken

Feb 1, 2017

"Like many today, my troubled inheritance is the great wave of settler colonialism that washed from Europe over the Americas for the last five centuries.  I carry its invisible weight when I walk these Rocky Mountains and when I drive America’s freeways—all on stolen Indian land," writes "Reflections West" co-host, David Moore.

"In fact, I am the descendant of a notorious figure, Captain Myles Standish, Indian killer for the first Massachusetts Bay Colony at Plymouth Rock.  So when I set out on America’s “open road,” it helps to admit that I’m the beneficiary of white privilege and even abuse. 

Facing facts is a good step.  For people of color, America’s roads often have been corridors of danger.  Native Americans watched as they became exiles in “the land of the free.”  “Sundown laws” criminalized travel by Blacks and Indians after dark all over this land.  Because of the color of his skin, the famous Ray Charles couldn’t even stay in motels along Route 66 that he sang about for millions.  “Get your kicks on  Route 66” was indeed an affirmation of strength and resilience.  

The history is horrific.  It might take more than a lifetime to unlearn privilege and to learn stories of Indigenous survivance, of shaking off the long shadow of slavery.  My job is trying to change the future in the present.  Along with good humor of  human friends and family, the ground itself, the mountains, trees, and rivers feel like my own family too.  Bison and eagles, dragonflies and ground squirrels remind me of connection.  

Then the other morning, here in Missoula, I had a conversation with a talkative pine squirrel.  Smaller than the invasive Eastern gray squirrels imported by my settler culture, the pine squirrel is beautiful with its gray-green back and cream-colored chest and belly.  It sat right outside our open bedroom window, awaking me early, and chattering, “Wake up!  Pay attention!”  

Perhaps that’s one thing we can do inside this tide of history:  remember the earth and each other.  We can pay attention to ways to reconnect what has been broken in ourselves and in our relations and in the land." 

Moore pairs his reflection with lines from "The Way to Rainy Mountain," by Kiowa author, N. Scott Momaday, winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1969.  Momaday calls upon each of us to know a specific spot of land, as he does in Oklahoma.

"East of my grandmother’s house the sun rises out of the plain.  Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth, I believe.  He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it.  He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it.  He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind.  He ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk." 
 

(Broadcast: "Reflections West," 7/27/16. Listen weekly on the radio, Wednesdays at 4:54 p.m.)