I have been asked many times, “What do you know about being an American Indian?
My name is Hermann Trappman. That tells you that every cell in my body contains a tiny kernel of German. But, I am also the saltwater of Tampa Bay and the Gulf Stream. I am the gray dusty soil of the Pinellas Peninsula, the dark rich muck of Okeechobee, and the limestone formations which Pah-hai-o-kee (the River of Grass) flows across, all mixed together with a generous helping of gator and bird shit. I am Chakulaka Bay. Every spiritual system and religion has miracles. That should tell everyone the nature of the Great Mystery. When it comes to the Great Mystery, no land and no people can own it. Anyone with an open heart and a curious mind can discover the Mystery for themselves. Once the human heart discovers it, the Universe and time unfolds like a magnificent flower.
One hundred and fifty million years ago, the Mother Earth stretched. The Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to its south, are the remains of her stretch. Mother Earth is a sphere, and so when she stretched here, it forced other places closer together. The African, Eurasian, Anatolian, Arabic, and Indian Plates were all forced together. As a result, sparks and flashes fly out from the Middle East. It’s a place of much stress and strife.
I can tell you this, Indians are a living quality, which is ever changing. If you wish to look for them you have to dig both hands deep into the into the stony desert sands of the Southwest, the loamy soil of the Northwest rainforest, the rocky soil of the Manitoban plains, the rich earth of the Shenandoah Valley, the red clay of Georgia, the sandy soil of Florida, and fill your hands with Mississippi mud.
To know the American Indians you have to reach into the black rusty volcanic ash of the Mexican uplands where they first grew corn, or wander from the Pacific Coastal Plain up into the Andes Mountains where they developed over 300 varieties of potatoes, or stalk the center of the Amazon Basin where the first cassava was grown, or stroll the eastern islands of the Caribbean where they first grew pineapple.
They came from a distant land in a mysterious past, and in the moment of their arrival they were the only hope for the human species to reinvent itself. They ventured into a landscape which had never seen the human kind before. Forced to rely on careful observation, it became their most powerful tool. Over thousands of generations they became a reflection of American’s varied geography. Yes, they could be violent and sometimes even savage, but the landscapes they adapted to, could be the same. Floods could sweep entire villages away, sometimes volcanoes lit up their nights, earthquakes pulled down mountainsides, terrible storms toppled forests. But, male and female, together they worked to save their families and they became true Americans. Languages once dominated by ancient Siberian vernaculars, became at first tinged, and then were totally changed by the sounds and experiences of the New World.
On the other side of the world, in the Middle East, the land produced a people beset by conquest and turmoil. It was a harsh desert environment, which held little mercy. Their social system became a top-down hierarchy, a king, his chosen noblemen, and the peasants which had to follow his rules. Practices, once designed to protect women, became rulings, and then turned oppressive. Rules overpowered the reasons behind them. They were the chosen people, the only people who mattered. Their God led them into battle, justified mass slaughter, rape, and theft, in his name. Their God became an all powerful king with favorites and rigid demands. Then a messenger of hope came forth. He believed that the desert could flower again. It could be reborn with new hope. But, he was crushed beneath the sign of the crucifix, a Roman devise of torture, and he was overwhelmed by martyrdom. His death began to hold more meaning than his life’s inspiration. His followers turned their face away from his teachings and returned to the Old Testament God of criticism and pronouncement. In place of renewal, judgment and Armageddon grew up to steal a future that no one really owned.
Here in the Americas, the cosmos sang to the tune of life’s struggle in pursuit of its potential. Good and not good were all mixed together with luck, the probability of the entire Universe. Here, humans hammered out thousands of systems, some of them were successful and many of them failed. No one owned the future. The Great Mystery was promoting possibilities within the balance of things. It was a much more democratic system. Like the Periodic Table of Elements and the compounds they create, diversity was spread out within the chemistry of balance. These environments, these American environments, became the music that our people danced to, our children grew into, and our nations worked toward. They weren’t perfect, but there isn’t any perfection in the Universe, only change and the opportunity to do the best you can.
The European’s who came to Florida saw a wasteland. It had no gold. They came with arrogance and pride. They measured their wealth in gold and the power to oppress, a slavery of the hearts and minds. They couldn’t even imagine the right questions to ask. Why did the Mayans walk away from their great cities to return to a life of work and play in the forest? How had the people living here in Florida, occupied the same landscape for thousands of years without impacting a healthy and very productive system? The Europeans created kings among our native people, visualizing dangerous and corrupt potentates. They destroyed the balance between the Peace Society, War Society, and the Contraries. They had contempt for our shared balance between men and women. They raised men above women. Most often, it was the Indian War Societies that survived that terrible disaster. They became wild vengeance, unchecked powers of violence. Then the Europeans wondered at them, and pointed out American Indian savagery.
Here, in this soil, the Great Mystery waits to be discovered again. It is not a king with cruel judgments and frightening powers. It’s far more democratic than that. It knows that respect flows from child to parent and back again from parent to child. It sees men and women as equals in the dance of passions between birth and death. It gives us the minds to explore new horizons and to try new hopes for better futures. The world of the Indian’s has not stopped or turned static since the coming of the Europeans. It awaits the democracy of the spirit. The Peace Society needs to return, and the Contraries. We must learn again that kings or queens bring ruin. Let the Mother Earth sing once more with respect for all her children and let grace and a more hopeful and democratic system return to fill our lands.