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Always the Story

As a Native person and educator, I frequently reflect on my Tribe's treaty. That may seem strange to you, but in Indian Country, this is quite common. Around America, Indian people are exercising their treaty rights to hunt and fish. Around America, Native Nations are exercising their treaty rights of self-governance and self-determination.

I have taught the 1855 Treaty of Hell Gate to middle and high school students and teachers. Twelve articles of promise and obligation that I support students to analyze and evaluate by asking, “Was that promise honored? If not, what did that look like?” This is not a simple task, as I am requiring people to begin with an understanding of treaty law. To make meaning from this historic event, we must have the story of how a Native Nation found themselves in a treaty negotiation in the first place. To do that, the story of the Doctrine of Discovery must be told. And to do that, the story of Papal Bulls, and so on.

Sometimes, fate is our friend. As I organized the chapters in Our Way, I had the good fortune to be introduced to a remarkable woman, Loretta Afraid Of Bear Cook. In a conversation, I learned of Loretta’s mother, Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance, traveling to Rome to hand deliver a letter to the Pope. Beatrice’s letter asked for rescindment of Papal Bulls that authorized the seizing of lands and people in countries that were not Christian.

Beatrice’s activism struck me, and I believed her story would inspire others. Loretta graciously permitted me to publish her mother’s letter with the chapter on the Doctrine of Discovery. Loretta also agreed to share her reflection.

Loretta has read the manuscript up to her “mama’s piece.” I hope that I have honored her mother’s story. It encouraged me to continue to look for the stories around and in between. The stories that portray the human side of history. That is where we will find meaning.

So, it is always the story.

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