by Darren Zane English / Chiwatenhwa
Wyandot Nation of Kansas Cultural Coordinator / Webmaster wyandot.org
I could not be more pleased that I did attend the reconciliation and followed the advice of the council. It is not often easy to separate the relationship between parent and tribal official, however it is a task I often have to pursue considering that my mother serves as our Chief. She and others on the council stated that this ceremony of Reconciliation would be a way to prepare ourselves for the upcoming repatriation of our ancestors in Midland (August 1999). It would be a dishonor to those ancestors to attend the repatriation with a heart heavy with resentments.
The reconciliation lasted for three days. These were days packed with events that were planned by the Huronia Reconciliation Committee. The first thing that struck me during our registration for the event was that this was not a media driven event as we had been warned. The people involved in the event were all there for the same reason, to hopefully bring a level of peace to their own communities for the pain that had been caused by their own ancestors through out history. Needless to say, the history of the Wyandot people is full of both proud moments and painful events. I was anxious to receive apologies for the pain inflicted onto our people. I also know enough about our history that although we are an incredibly kind and sweet people, we have never been a pushovers. We have often fought for what we felt was right. So, I kept an open mind that maybe we had caused a bit of pain too, and maybe we should give a halfhearted "sorry if we've ever done anything to upset you". However in the back of my mind I kept being reminded that holding a resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other party to get sick. We have held resentments for centuries and I had to think, maybe this is the time we stop taking the poison. Maybe we shouldn't pass that poison on to the next generation.
We received apologies from the French, Dutch, British peoples as well as the Anglican and Jesuit churches for the pain inflicted on the Aboriginal peoples and toward the Wyandot/Wendat people in particular. During the event, hearts were softened and positions of prideful indignation shifted by all who attended. Those who initially felt they had nothing to make amends for apologized for their lack of action in preventing the events that had caused such pain.
We received apologies from the Iroquois people for the conflict that served to our people from our homeland.
We were given apologies for pain and conflict by the Wyandottes of Oklahoma, Wyandottes of Anderdon Michigan and the Huron Wendat in Wendake.
I was given the opportunity to speak at this event as well. I gave thanks to our Cayuga (Iroquois) brother who apologized to us. It has long been a resentment that has festered in my heart that we were driven from our beautiful homelands around Georgian Bay. Conversely though, I apologized for our part in the conflict. I know myself and I don't think that I am much different than our ancestors. They felt their lives and very existence were threatened. I know that when pushed, I can push back as well - I have always been taught that it takes two people to fight, so I knew that in this well documented war we couldn't be blameless.
I thanked and gave apologies to the Jesuits, Anglicans, Dutch, British and French as well. (Read about the Canadian martyrs on our website and you'll understand why the Jesuits deserved an apology). I also apologized to the Anderdon Wyandottes and the Huron Wendat of Wendake for not having pursued communication and fostering the spirit of brotherhood as would have been right. As Cultural Coodinator, this is something that I should have done. Instead of fostering friendship, I fostered the feelings resentment that we hadn't been had communication by them. The telephone dials out as well as rings in. I had to have a group of people from another country bring us together.
Most importantly to me though was that I was able to address Chief Leaford Bearskin and members of the Wyandotte Nation - Oklahoma's business committee. As we all know there has been a longstanding battle between the Wyandottes of Oklahoma and the Wyandots of Kansas over the Huron Cemetery in Kansas City Kansas. This battle ended last year through efforts by both tribe's leaders and attorneys (thanks again Holly) in a legally binding agreement that provides for the permanent protection of the Huron Cemetery. This latest round of conflict in the battle to preserve the cemetery is one that I had the honor to fight in, however I knew that even after the agreement was signed there was a great deal of resentment in my heart that couldn't be expunged without saying something. I was given the opportunity to thank our leaders, Chief Bearskin and their council for helping forge the agreement. I also thanked him for the experience of fighting for what I felt was right as it gave me an opportunity to learn more about our history than I would have, had this conflict not arisen. Most importantly though, I was able to apologize for the resentments that I had held over the cemetery battle and was able to ask for his forgiveness. Forgiveness in that I know myself and my tongue can be a bit more sharp than necessary I know that even though I didn't speak untruthfully, my comments during the conflict were hurtful to both him and the other Wyandottes of Oklahoma. Chief Bearskin graciously accepted my words, shook my hand and said "you are Wyandot."
We exchanged gifts the next day with the participants of the event, but what I will cherish the most from the event is the friendships that have been forged between our Oklahoman brothers and sisters, the Anderdon Wyandottes and the Huron Wendat of Wendake. These are friendships that are continuing to flourish and I am sure will continue long into the new millenium.