Believe What You Like But Know What You Must

People are free to be consumed with contemplating their existence, their origins, the origins of the universe, supreme beings, controllers of destiny or anything else. But solving "the Great Mystery" is neither a requirement of being Ohnkwe Ohnwe nor does it provide a path to righteousness. I maintain that spirituality does not require faith or the leaps that faith requires but rather awareness. If it helps to believe that "God has a plan" and we just must have faith that "He" knows what "He" is doing, then walk that path. My interest is in taking the mystery out of life by pointing to the obvious that is ignored everyday in the midst of fanatical ideology and the sometimes not too subtle influences of promoting beliefs over knowledge. I have said it before: “beliefs are what you are told, knowledge is what you experience”. I support a culture that prepares us to receive knowledge and to live a life with purpose. I am certainly not suggesting there is only one way to do that.

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Time to Fly the Flag


Over time symbols can lose their meanings. When a symbol or expression gets over used or exploited to the point that we consider them a part of our identity without really understanding the depth of their messages, it is time to restate the message. I think it is great that the Hiawentha Belt is so identifiable in our communities. Tattoos, T-shirts, hoodies, bumper stickers, decals, refrigerator magnets, pens, stationary and, of course, flags all carry the image of the wampum belt that symbolizes the last unification of our people and the constitution that binds us. The problem is that bearing the image does little to actually bring us together. Although it is genuinely a symbol of unity, it has become little more than a popular native design. The Seneca Nation flies the Hiawentha Belt flag right beside the American flag in front of their administration buildings. I'm not sure what message that is meant to convey, if any.


I am clearly biased on the subject of the Warrior flag, but I believe there is no symbol with as much recognition and strength of message. The flag was designed to be a symbol of unity for all Native people. It became specifically associated with the Mohawk Warriors even though it was intended for broader use. The declaration of unity, pride and resistance is its message. Although this symbol has been exploited just as the the Hiawentha Belt has, the message is not lost. It is not lost to those of us that have seen the strength of the warriors from this side and it certainly has not been lost to those that have seen it from the outside. The Warrior flag is a symbol of the people and a symbol of their strength. No nation claims the flag in spite of the fact that it sends the boldest message of sovereignty and resistance. This is because both sovereignty and resistance comes from the people. Tribal governments will likely never fly this flag. They exist removed from the people and disassociated from the Warriors, yet a Native community cannot be visited without seeing the flag flown somewhere.


It is time to send this message. It is time to fly the flag. We aren't looking for a fight, but we are not running from one either. As the State and Federal governments continue their push through our communities and attempt to criminalize our trade and commerce, we must state clearly what our position is. If those that claim to lead our communities are afraid to send this message; that's fine. They are still welcome to join the people in declaring their defiance to the outside, but whether the American flag continues to fly in front of the William Seneca Building or not matters little. The State and Feds know where true resistance comes from and that is what worries them. Every time some Native speaker makes some public statement about controlling the actions of the people, the outside authorities only wish it were true. Every Warrior flag that flies tells a different story.

3 comments:

blood of pride said...

I strongly agree with what you have to say. We are still haere today, because we have fought for our existence. We the people of the nation are what controls the nation it's self.

One Day As a Lion said...

Totally agree and more so now I see a resurgence on a variety of levels from many different Nations. Well said as you always have!

Anonymous said...

Dear John,
thanks for writing "Time to Fly the Flag" it really helped me out today and I am currently looking for one, you see I live on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai reservation and am a member of the Little Shell Chipewa Tribe of montana. For the last week and a half my mornings have been greeted with the new placement of 2 confederate flags one directly accross from my home and one down the street, it really bothers me and I have found myself constantly debating why it bothers me so much, maybe it is because that particular flag represents such a disgrace and evil time in our nations history or maybe it is because I have African American friends or maybe it is becase I am a member of a tribe that has yet to recieve federal recognition no matter it bothers me and I try not let it becase we all do bleed red. Thank you for you're words of wisdom and please continue to tell all native people to show thier pride and please let them know that there is a native american in Montana who would appreciate thier
positve thoughts!