I recently did a series on a native Alaskan culture and their art of totem poles (in my other blog atticreflections.blogspot.com). I learned, while in Alaska, and with some additional research that the native peoples preserve their culture through a verbal telling of their history. The tribe elders tell the stories to the young ones. The people tell their stories whenever they can. One man said that even small gifts have great meaning through the story behind the gift. He tells the story when anyone asks about the gift, honoring the giver. He was very clear that was his culture. The people also carve their stories in totem poles, since the poles tell the story of their history. They hold great parties for many guests when they finally set up a pole, sharing the totem's story in song and dance; they are a respectful and hospitable people. Even the young understand who they are.
But it wasn't always that way for these native peoples. Early in the twentieth century, strangers came from afar. They set up their own culture and demanded that the native peoples go by their rules. Natives were beaten and ostracized when they spoke their own language, instead of the new language. Young people were not allowed to go to school unless they spoke the new language. Their totem poles were burned. Many natives lost their culture, learned the new language or moved away adopting a new culture. Recently, a new people came to their land who are helping them restore their identity, their unique culture.
That is their story, what is yours? Are you from a culture that is shrinking? Are you from a culture that was persecuted or has your family ever lived in hiding? This seems, many times, to be a pattern for some people groups. In this county, the USA, many native peoples and immigrants have been displaced, eliminated, stomped down and assimilated. In other lands, these same tactics were used to eliminate people groups. Why does this have to be? Why do we have to despise those whose culture is different than ours or those of different religions, and different persuasions. People are human beings, just like you and I are. They deserve respect, we don't have to agree with them, but respecting them as people with their own culture is better than the bullying and put downs, don't you think?