Beverly Jensen: Shinnecock Nation exercises free speech right

"We wrote an article for a tribal publication that wound up putting us on that collision course. The first thing we did was to voice a protest. The article was crisp. It brimmed with facts and figures. It was descriptive to the nines. The People had a right to know. (Yes, we went there.)

That defensive maneuver hardly mattered. We wound up squashing our perfect epistle ourselves, satisfied that at least we’d taken a stand on behalf of the most traditional law in all of the Shinnecock culture — the right of free speech. We know this because we invented it long before an amendment was a glint in a constitution’s eye. We are born into it, nurtured on it, thrive on it and exercise our right to free discourse at the drop of a hat. We can orate, argue, discuss and orally disseminate like no others. Any outsider who has ever had the experience of attending one of our tribe meetings can attest to that.

But this is about the article that we squashed, not a tribe meeting. We tossed the article ourselves because the greater truth is, we are a member of the Tribe. As such, we were taught to heed voiced concerns. Our survival depends upon each and every one of us expressing ourselves, each and everyone of us lending an ear, or two. We are weaned on the wisdom that the fight for survival is not about one individual, or one slightly dented ego, or one article with which a few somebodies took issue.

We are The People of a long march through time, one foot in front of the other, at least until the horse and buggy came along and we were able to hitch rides. These days we’re driving, and who knows how the next seven generations will move towards another millennium. Fly, maybe, as in a gaggle of geese, in formation, flapping onward to the next century."

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