The first people who lived on the northern plains of what today is the United States called themselves “Lakota,” meaning “the people,” a word which provides the semantic basis for Dakota. The first European people to meet the Lakota called them “Sioux,” a contraction of Nadowessioux, a now-archaic French-Canadian word meaning “snake” or enemy.
The Lakota also used the metaphor to describe the newcomers. It was Wasi’chu, which means “takes the fat,” or “greedy person.” Within the modern Indian movement, Wasi’chu has come to mean those corporations and individuals, with their governmental accomplices, which continue to covet Indian lives, land, and resources for private profit.
Wasi’chu does not describe a race; it describes a state of mind.
Wasi’chu is also a human condition based on inhumanity, racism, and exploitation. It is a sickness, a seemingly incurable and contagious disease which begot the ever advancing society of the West. If we do not control it, this disease will surely be the basis for what may be the last of the continuing wars against the Native American people.
…excerpt from Wasi’chu, The Continuing Indian Wars,
Bruce Johansen and Robert Maestas
with an introduction by John Redhouse
Aaron Huey set out to photograph poverty in America, but somewhere in his quest, he ended up in the Lakota Indian reservation and the focus of his photography changed. In this impassioned Ted Talk he talks about something that has been and is still going on all over the world – the process of how history is rewritten by the victor – the original immigrants and how the defeated are truly wiped out. In poverty, ignorance, systematic exclusion & persecution. He talks about how our collective apathy leads to us repeating the same mistakes, silently witnessing destruction of entire nations, with an unapologetic shrugging of our shoulders in the dark, absolving ourselves of any and all responsibility, while we stand in the side lines questioning – “My God what are these people doing to themselves? they are killing themselves”.
History repeats itself in today’s world and perhaps we are doomed to it for all eternity because we refuse to become wise to our “Wasichu” ways. After all, the survival of the fittest & strongest rules is the dominant philosophy of every day lives and choices, while ‘altruism’ lies dead on our wayside. It’s the reason why climate change and it’s very real impact on societies who are drowning now still need to be debated by nations haggling over climate credits and fund allocations.
Its the reason entire wars can be launched in the name of democracy, saving humanity, giving dignity to oppressed people or fighting terrorism / fundamentalists – pick whichever option is suitable to sway the majority of voters. Once the troops are on the ground, work out contracts for rebuilding, for mining, for extractions of precious resources and award them to your fellow countrymen, in contracts with corporations, negotiated behind closed doors.
We conveniently forget that the very people who are supposed to be saved are the one’s being bombed, until nothing is left and they are forced to move. Then we deny these very people, any human dignity or consideration. We leave them on boats to die. We watch them wash ashore – dead. We rally and cry out against this encroachment on our hard-earned easy life. We brand them as economic burdens, pariahs, each country doing it’s best to stem the flow, to close its borders, to shove off as many as possible to its neighbors to share the burden.
We do the same here, we do it with the tribes in the hill tracts. We sign treaties, we violate them, we flood their lands with new settlers of the dominant community. We have no option – we are too big in numbers, we need land to farm, they don’t know how to manage their communal properties. They are backwards and inefficient and in desperate need of our technologies, health system, and education designed to brainwash and indoctrinate children into accepting authorities without question. We award quotas for college and university education, jobs in the civil service. We know they are not going to make it because the systematic persecution is too great. But we sugar coat the truth, we extend hands in friendship and with promises of greater economic prosperity. We destroy lives, culture, history, language and we wipe out anyone trying to hold on to an identity that doesn’t blend in with the ones we want to establish.
The Australians did it with the aborigines, or perhaps I should say that the original immigrants from the British Empire to Australia did it. They did to the Maoris in New Zealand, who by the way, are still fighting for their lands and their rights in the court systems. The Spanish did it to the Incas – wiped out. We have been doing it over and over and over again. We wipe out indigenous population, we wipe out age-old wisdom, we destroy the very fabric of the society. We install progress, democracy, individual wealth economies, we are even wiping out the earth with our fast resource depletion.
Then we sit back and question, puzzle over and research into why there is so much strife and disorder in this world. Why and how we are destroying the only planet that we have to live in. Why and how we do not recognize, refuse to acknowledge, bury our heads in the sand, when it comes to seeing the very real threat of the imbalance we have created in our ecosystem. We wring our hands as we bemoan the lack of human connections that lead to school children shooting up their classmates. We hold candle light vigil over great injustices and inhumane incidents of crime and torture wrought on members of our societies. We question where and how we lost our humanity, whether we had it, or can ever hope to salvage it.
What are we doing to ourselves?