There are times when I will pick up a book I had read or wanted to read from years ago; I read Henry David Thoreau’s book “Walden”. It is a book I think I read over 50 years ago while in either middle school or early high school, it’s strange I don’t remember. I don’t read much any longer choosing instead to listen to audio books of which this was. Some I purchase, others I borrow from the library. Some I listen to many times others I read then put aside for years until re-visiting.
Thoreau defined himself as a Philosopher remaining rigid to its core at times presenting himself as a superior being defined by how aloof his writings were defining his life.
He lived at Walden Pond from the years 1844 until around 1850, or there about.
I have re-read numerous classics (audio), the language in the books is what interest me the most although I didn’t realize it until I had read a few. The American Authors of the time period preceding World War 2 did not hesitate to use the language of the day liberally sprayed down with racial slurs, sexual stereotypes and outrageously denigrating those different from their beliefs of what humanity should be like. Mark Twain and John Steinbeck are two of the most prolific offenders of humanity by who are considered American Classic Authors.
My admiration for them began to wan years ago as I read mostly English Classic Authors, notably Charles Dickens and Jules Verne to mention only two. They did not use slurs or rant on endlessly about the living conditions or beliefs of their fellow citizens. While reading (audio) Walden I couldn’t ignore the casual way Thoreau used not hard core slurs but the common terminology of the day; which was not offensive during that time period however prejudice it sounds today. Listening to the dialogue reminded me of my Mother’s father who was born in 1874 in a farming family in Pipestone Minnesota. He passed in 1968 when I was 17 living in my parents house supporting the family along with my brother who is 18 months older than I while my father laid in bed dying for years.
When my Grandfather spoke he did not realize how prejudice he was, to this day I’m not certain if he believed the words that came out of his mouth or if using them was a habit used through his 90 plus years of living. Henry David Thoreau spoke exactly the same words with exactly the same sentence structure making it difficult to not place our ethics and beliefs on people who have long since expired. I am not sure if there is a way to effectively address what was considered normal during those long ago days. My Grandfather knew I and my siblings are 1/3 Sioux knowing my fathers dad was born on the Menomie Reservation in Central Wisconsin.
My dad told us to never tell anyone we were a substantial part native. I cringe at the word Squaw, I got in many fights when hearing my little sister called “Squaw Girl”.
It all makes me wonder how they could possibly state they are in touch with nature while respecting humanity when in this country they were neither, especially when little kids had to hide their ancestry from unfair criticism. It’s become very obvious throughout my fairly long life that the separation hoisted upon many people of different races have been cast aside as not equal to some. Make no mistake the American Authors were not only racists but they mirrored the attitude of the general population of the this country towards those perceived to be “less than”. It’s no wonder the European invasion and genocide of native peoples was so successful. I remember vividly some calling us “those Indian kids”, and pointing as if we were caged in an exhibition.
My world is made up of three, Nature, Reality and the Spirit World, all very real and inter active in not only my life but many other natives as well. I have a profound respect for all in the world knowing the Great Spirit accepts everyone at the Great Council Fire; my Fathers father told me he would walk before me on the path leading to it where all of my ancestors will greet me when my time has come to an end. I was 6 years old when he told me, he died a month later but he felt he had to pass it on.
Because of my beliefs I have been condemned to hell (which does not exist) more times than I can count however I remember the first time. I was condemned to hell by the son of a Christian Baptist Minister because I am by their definition a “Pagan”. He was of the same ilk as those that sent my Great Aunt Marie to the Carlyle Indian schools in Wisconsin where her memory was lost forever, no one knows what became of her.
“Walden” was worth reading again however now I am leaving all of it to blow on my back as a wind driving me forward to where my last path leads. Finally I can say it “I am Sioux”.
Jacques Lebec Natural Self Reliance