Wednesday, March 23, 2005

How far from ourselves

One of my pet bitches when I survey blogdom is the manner in which the words "tribe" and "tribalism" are (mis)used. Definitions become particularly important when issues like the recent shitstorm surrounding Ward Churchill bring up the issue of What Makes an Indian. That's not a particularly easy question to answer; at a fundamental level a North American Indian tribe is an extended family, so the question was historically a matter of defining who was a member of the family and through what means. When I meet a member of the tribe for the first time, the first thing we do is sit down and hash out exactly how we're related. This serves a variety of purposes, but it first tells us our position in relation to each other, and establishes certain rules governing how we interact.

Everyone who does not live in a cave is aware by now of the terrible events on the Red Lake reservation. It's heartrending enough on the surface, but what I think most non-Indians will fail to appreciate is that this youngster walked into a school and murdered his family.