Wednesday, September 21, 2005
The Crow's Cry People
Where I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley there was a river called the Kaweah. We've basically lived near that river for five generations. The Kaweah were a subtribe of the Yokuts Indians that populated the Valley before my family arrived with the rest of the onslaught. The Yokuts' name for crow or raven was Kaw or Gaw. The word for cry was weah, so the Kaweah were the "crow's cry people." The Yokuts prided themselves on living in harmony and peace, however the Kaweah were as boisterous and quarrelsome as crows, holding something of the shadow for the Yokuts people. For me crows are messengers bearing something from the deep, dark unconscious into the light of the created world. Whether we want to hear it or not, crows will bring it to our attention. That's probably why many people hate them, because the people don't really want to examine what the crows have to say. Among other things it would be too embarrassing. I've paid attention, though, and the crows have taught me much.
Last week I saw Kurt Vonnegut on The Daily Show. He is a huge old crow, wheezing, rasping, cackling with delight at the words he launches. He described our democracy. "After a hundred years you have to let your slaves go and after a hundred fifty years you can let your women vote. At the beginning of democracy it's ok to have genocide and ethnic cleansing." In the aftermath of Katrina we are rushing to provide needed aid to all the displaced and homeless with promises to rebuild what was destroyed. It's all totally necessary. I can't help but think though, of the genocide of the Native Americans. We have never rebuilt their homes and land and the money spent to rebuild the Gulf Coast will probably be greater than all the money ever spent on Native American welfare. We as Americans never really wrap our minds around this great fact of genocide. We push the things we don't want to know into the dark recesses and submerge them. If anyone brings something to the surface they are called godless or un-American.
My great-great grandfather settled on the site of a Yokuts village situated at an all year spring in the summer dry foothills of the Sierra. My family is complicit. I have learned to listen to the crows, listen to their dark stories and learn from them. That is my salvation. Sometimes people ask me if I am Native American. The answer is no and yes. No, I am not genetically, but yes, in that I was raised walking the same ground as the Yokuts, listened to the same bird sounds, and learned from the spirits of the place. I am native to this American place. Listening to the stories from the darkness is not Hell, is not the work of the devil. Ignoring them is. That's what creates the world we live in.