Part of our motive in going to Lincoln City this last weekend was for the purpose of a field trip. In American History, we have been learning about the Native Americans - the original residents of our land. When we were discussing the Trail of Tears a few weeks back, I found it difficult to teach without getting choked up. I'm embarrassed to say that the reality of the injustice executed against the natives of our land hadn't ever really settle enough in my mind to make me uncomfortable. It's really just awful. Tribes were decimated or forcibly uprooted purely for financial reasons to benefit a bigger and more powerful white government.
November is Native American Heritage Month. A Google search for events in Oregon sent us to Lincoln City. There was a traveling "trunk" exhibit at several locations. (double click on the photos to see the bigger view, and more of the whole story) We stopped at the exhibit at the rec center first. One wall sized poster to read and 10 authentic hand-made traditional items in a case was all there was. Since it was our destination, we made the most of it and spent time with the kids reading everything. We even asked the Rec Center employees (who really knew NOTHING about the exhibit) if we could take a closer look at the printed descriptions for the items in the case, which revealed 1/2 the item descriptions were printed on the back. We eventually found another piece of the exhibit on display at the Public Library - just one wall.
I was disappointed in the presentation of the exhibit, and felt that it was simply a passivizing effort. By spreading the already small exhibit across 4 locations does not encourage participants. It's as if by having it done, no one could argue that something had been done, but really, it was only done in a way that wouldn't really interrupt anyone's normal way of life. Maybe this is why a 33 year old adult can just now come to the realization that we have not cared enough about the Native American people and heritage that has been all but destroyed at our hand. It isn't convenient for us to think about, let alone make a real effort to compensate.
In my opinion, if we are bigger and stronger, we should be looking for the interest of those who are not as big or as strong.
... but, as I said, we did take in what was provided and used it as a learning tool. In addition to being profoundly struck by the injustice, I was also moved by the example of conservationism, environmentalism and preservation that is fundamental to their culture. There was a beautiful pair of "braintanned moccasins". To make these slippers extra soft, in the process of stretching the hides and tanning them, they would coat the hide with boiled brains of the animal. I know that sounds gross, but it shows how they would/still won't let any part of the animal go to waste. In the different craft items we saw, most of which served utilitarian purposes, they used reeds, grasses, bones, sinews, skins, etc. All things provided to them were given reverence. There is much we can learn from them.
So, in following their example, we are trying to make full use of the resources provided to us. We make broth from our chicken dinner. We have been doing lots of canning this fall, and we are saving the skins from the fruit and pureeing them, spreading on cookie sheets and making "crackers". I am looking for ways to reuse or re-purpose clothing that is too warn to be passed on.
I am on the look out for other ways to be a good steward of our earth. Is there anything you are doing to make the most of what you are given? Do share!