The Sleeping Indian

Away, away
You have been banished
Your land is gone
And given me
And here I will spread my wings
Yes I will call this home
What’s this you say
You feel a right to remain
Then stay and I will bury you
What’s that you say
Your father’s spirit still lives in this place
I will silence you

Don’t Drink the Water – Dave Matthews

There is a mountain just outside of Cody, Wyoming called Heart Mountain, otherwise known as the Sleeping Indian.

At first you usually don’t see it but as soon as someone points out the profile of the chief’s head, lying on his back, sleeping under the stars, you can’t unsee it. I remember marveling at the way the feathers in his head dress would appear just before sundown as the light created shadows in just the right way.

I also remember hiking up the trail and then climbing to the top of his “nose” to have a picnic and I also remember visiting the memorial and interpretive center there a few years ago, when the kids were still young.

It’s not a memorial to the Native Americans who used to gather at Heart mountain, but instead one to the Japanese Americans who were interned there at one of many concentration camps during WWII.

Having been raised up in a devout military family filled and instilled with patriotic pride, I always felt especially torn by these things in our collective past. For many years as a teenager I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate the 4th of July because I was fixated on the wrongs our ancestors perpetrated against others, so instead I went to the pow wows held at a nearby reservation on that day.

That didn’t go over well with my career Navy father, needless to say.

Eventually I got over my “white guilt”, to a degree, and learned to accept my place as an American citizen. I came to realize, with age and wisdom, that every nation has its dark history and every nation will continue to do things in the present and into the future that we don’t agree with or even condemn with every fiber of our being.

I celebrate the 4th of July now and we fly our American flag proudly.

Yet, still, there will always be that nagging feeling.

Every citizen has, or should have, a degree of inherited guilt that comes with being born under whatever flag they happen to be born under. It’s the consequence of having a conscience.

It really hit home for me when I heard the lyrics to the song “Deutschland” translated from German to English.

Germany – my heart in flames
Want to love and damn you
Germany – your breath is cold
So young, and yet so old
Germany – your love
Is a curse and a blessing
Germany – my love
I can’t give you

Deutschland by Rammstein

Some of us are born into nations, like Germany, who have such an evil legacy that it’s impossible to ever come to grips with what our forefathers did. For some, it’s impossible to fully love our country despite wanting to and we have to somehow come to terms with that.

If we even can.

Some of us never will.

2 thoughts on “The Sleeping Indian

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