Charles Trimble: Indigenous Thrivers - No victimhood here

Over the past year and more I have been following a Facebook site that represents the complete opposite of victimhood. It’s called “Indigenous Thrivers” and it was begun by a young woman named Feef Cleand.

I am guessing that the name Feef Cleand will not be found in any U.S. Census records, and that her real name is something else. But that’s not important; what is important is a movement she’s started. Nobody’s up in arms and marching, just a lot of people who can identify with what this young woman propounds, and who believe as she does that we can deal with our problems and solve them.

What initially attracted me to this group is its purpose: “This group is intended for indigenous people to network so that we can solve our own problems on our own terms. As many indigenous people are not in control of our own images, and many external people of our communities propagate images of our communities that often are disparaging, this network is intended to celebrate the survivors of past wrongs and help indigenous people thrive so that we can solve our own problems on our own terms.”

When I first read her writings, she made reference to a book by Viktor Frankl titled Man’s Search for Meaning. I ordered and read the book, and was impressed as she was in his attitudes and his own healing from Nazi death camp incarceration and torture. Then I contacted her via Facebook, and began communicating with her.

Because of my seniority and a name that attracts some readers (as well as barbs and epithets), my columns are published by Indian newspapers and online with indianz.com (and in the lower level of two-story outhouses of certain blogs). So, as long as I have that media attention I like to use it to give voice to others who don’t have a following of admirers or haters, because they speak so much more passionately and articulately than I can ever do to describe their causes. It’s also lazy journalism on my part, I suppose, nevertheless, I want to help them be heard.

I would encourage Feef Cleand to write periodic columns and even a book on the communication that goes on in her domain in Facebook. These are survivors of Indian life and victims of abuse, I am sure. But they refuse to succumb to victimhood, and they encourage each other with their own attitudes – indeed, philosophies – of survival and victory.

Below are quotes of Ms Cleand’s posts that are tough, encouraging, inspiring, and that say “Bring it on, colonizer, oppressor, victimhood purveyers, or psychologist; I am an Indigenous Thriver.”
Ms Cleand wrote: “I am a little concerned that folks in our tribal communities want to be isolationists in thinking that rejecting colonization will make us whole again, and we somehow just got to do ceremonies or speak the language or reject anything not having an origin in our tribe & that will magically help us be whole again. While I do not doubt that ceremonies, learning language or learning history can help with the right people as guides, I simply know that being a person who honors him/herself is all about logical choice, which is universal to all human beings. If someone doesn't have access to such ceremonies, language opportunities or history lessons, is it responsible to let that person struggle with neglect? We can certainly learn from other human beings who are not our tribal people, and just because there were jerks of the past who inflicted pain on our predecessors or even on us during our life times, Frankl's book certainly demonstrates that it is possible to choose one's attitude during adversity when all other freedoms/alternatives have been exhausted.”

“As I am aware of the suicide epidemic of our kids in our tribal communities, I am concerned that our kids are being fed a victim mentality to justify negative behaviors that occur around them. For example, your mom drinks because of inherited trauma or your dad does weed because of inherited trauma. OK, so how do I cope with such a situation if I can't get away from them because I am a kid? Our kids need guidance on how to choose their attitudes when faced with adversity. They need to know that adversity/struggle is a part of life/growing. They need to know that through the worst of circumstances, it is possible to get through situations that will eventually pass & that adverse situations make us stronger & wiser as we get our pride out of the way in order to be receptive to the lesson.

“There are other avenues of knowledge that can promote our survival beyond just isolating ourselves with ceremonies. The boarding school experiences of some of our relatives may have been heinous, but such experiences are not an excuse to become an abuser as well or an excuse to remain stagnant. I knew my share of elderly people who were abused in the boarding schools, whose children were killed, etc. & they were good people who protected & guided me as a child. Some didn't like to be reminded of their past adversities, but they remained caring & loving people who figured out ways to prosper despite the odds & even did good work for others who were struggling.

“Our kids need to know that our choice to control how we react to every situation in our lives, positive or negative, is all we may have at times. While no one is perfect, we must remember that our ability to choose our attitude always remains when all other choices are taken. Throughout my limited life, I know it was my fighting spirit which guided me to not believe anything anyone said or did to me to try to take me down. If I got taken down, I had to get back up again. It was obvious I had to keep getting back up again because I kept waking up & that was reason enough for me that at the very least somehow I was supposed to serve a purpose.”

I have been reading about historical trauma, intergenerational trauma, unresolved grief, and whatever else it is called, and the authors of the materials are convincing and they talk about helping Native American people deal with the tragic social pathology that afflicts so many of our communities, especially on the reservations.

But I have not read any of the authors tell that IGT and HT are mass diagnoses that should rule out any possible reasons for or cures other than their theories. I am sure that those theorists and authors would agree with what Feef Cleand and those who have joined her in Indigenous Thrivers are about, and will encourage her in her efforts.

Charles "Chuck" Trimble, was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation. He was principal founder of the American Indian Press Association in 1970, and served as Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1972-1978. He is retired and lives in Omaha, NE. He can be contacted at cchuktrim@aol.com and his website is www.iktomisweb.com.

More from Charles Trimble:
Charles Trimble: American Indian Graduate Center memories (3/7)
Charles Trimble: Obama needs Indian votes to win election (2/27)
Charles Trimble: Joe Garry a hero of modern Indian America (2/20)
Charles Trimble: Putting aside old boarding school memories (2/13)
Chuck Trimble: Reconciliation and restoration of Black Hills (1/30)
Chuck Trimble: Firebomb incident at Pine Ridge still a mystery (1/24)
Charles Trimble: Nebraska's Ponca Tribe loses a great leader (1/16)
Charles Trimble: Indian youth share important lesson with us (1/2)

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