By Rene' Locklear White (Lumbee)
and Chris (Comeswithclouds) White
Native American Church of Virginia -- The two-star Air Force general who resigned, saying he "inadvertently made an unfortunate comment" about Indians during an airman's disciplinary hearing was my vice commander during a two-year assignment in the Republic of Korea. What was the context of Maj. Gen. Michael Keltz's remark?
"Noble Savage." What did the person who authored “noble savage” mean? Was he or she describing people who are “barbarous and uncivilized” or describing “the others” as a people who “symbolize humanity’s innate goodness?”
Gen. Keltz's comment was clearly about Indians and drunkenness. Now, after serving 34 years in the military, he ends it with four words directed to more than 10,000 Indians.
I am tired. I help people deal with alcohol abuse, especially Native American Indians from the rez (Indian reservation). In fact, I have spent this last week doing just that; removing stitches; making meals; teaching life skills; and checking to see if someone is still breathing. It is 2:00 a.m. right now, and my husband is praying with someone. I believe helping a person stop drinking is harder than my 22 years of military service.
Years after trading alcohol with settlers, living in poverty, homeless and dealing with regular occurrences of suicide, our Indian people are now literally drinking themselves to death. Many drink cleaning detergents and cough syrups because they can't afford to buy FDA approved alcohol. Our people are dying and need help.
I am disappointed. The people who coined words like, "primitive,” “uncivilized,” and “savages,” had passion too. They made a difference. But, the impact of those words on our Native American ancestors continues to linger.
Power, control, powerlessness, authority, influence, sovereignty, independence and freedom are all contained in language and have vibrations.
Unfortunately, the vibrations of Gen. Keltz four words will be felt for some time. By him and others. I'm sure it was not his intention. He is a kind man.
I challenge Gen. Keltz to visit an Indian reservation after his retirement. Please consider starting in South Dakota or my Lumbee Tribe in North Carolina or stop by our Native American Church in Virginia. There is plenty of Indigenous people who are suffering and need help. We can begin with a traditional sweat lodge ceremony for Gen. Keltz to help him through this unexpected transition.
"My conversations with Gen. Keltz (2007-2009) left me with an impression of a person with the highest integrity and superior standards. The two leggeds of creation are the ones that need forgiveness and need a Savior. Who among us is perfect? Who among us has a heart that is perfect? One slip of the tongue does not define the material that a man is made of."
Language is a Barrier. We must work on our language. To be present to what people around us are saying and what they are not saying. It is vital to removing the barriers that separate us
Likewise, we cannot skirt our responsibility for what we are saying. The tongue is a sharp part of the body. Like a forest fire set by a small spark, the tongue is also a fire. It can set the whole course of your life on fire. A fire can be destructive and a fire can be beneficial.
Are we any better? Our communications are complicated by texting and simplified into capital letters because we don’t make time to talk to each other. When people type LOL they aren’t really "laughing out loud." When people don’t want to take time to explain something they text TTYL, but they never really "talk to you later." When people say, “praying for you”, they aren’t really.
What next? We must continue to ask ourselves, "Are my words destructive or beneficial?"
We should help others understand that we “mean what we say” and we “say what we mean.”
Out of the mouth comes truth of an authentic or inauthentic heart.
I forgive him. Gen. Keltz is an extraordinary commander. It takes courage to resign. It takes acknowledging truth. I believe where there is no truth, there is no justice.
Gen. Keltz, you can reach us at this EMAIL.