When you leavin’?

“When you leavin’?”

White men in Indian Country squirm when they hear this. The person who has this question directed at him is usually the representative of a government or quasi-government agency, or maybe a mining representative doing some kind of outreach to the community. When he hears this he is usually talking to the sort of Indians who don’t hold offices. He’s used to talking to someone who speaks his language of bureaucracy and regulations.

“So, when you gonna leave?”

When you hear these words in my nation it comes from that old blood. The elder or clan leader in the room. The one that rules the room with his silence, and silences the room when he speaks. It’s a simple sentence, and its an echo of the last 500 years. There’s more there than just those few words. There’s weight there, and everyone in the room knows it.

I used to think that we were biding our time. Waiting. I used to think these words were an actual question. Now I hear the challenge in it. Our elders and traditional clan and tribal leaders have the responsibility of asking this question; with the weight of silence behind it, with the knowledge that an answer that will never come. Our young men and women, our warriors, have a responsibility, too. If they cannot or will not answer this question then we will answer it for them.


About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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