Hard road to ‘Civilization’

I’ve recently been reading about Cherokee history and literature and I’ve found various similarities with current issues in Latin America.

One of the readings that caught my attention the most is a speech by Elias Boudinot that he gave at a Presbyterian Church in the Spring of 1826 called “An Address to the Whites.” In it he talks about how great improvement the Cherokees have been doing since the start of the “civilization” process by the Euro-western conquerors decades ago.

He lists the specifics of how the civilization program of the Americans has helped the Cherokee Nation. Then he goes on and says “and for these purposes your aid and patronage are now solicited,” basically asking the White government for more money to continue their way as a “developed” nation.

But before we go on, who is Boudinot? He was a Cherokee that had the opportunity to be educated by the whites. Therefore, he grew with a Euro-western worldview that influenced the rest of his life.

In the later speech where he is asking for more money or “aid” to continue with the improvement and civilization process the whites had started years ago, he tells the whites what a great deed they have done by “civilizing” the Indians, a statement with which I greatly disagree. I cannot help but think that he is wrong in so many ways.

I come from a country that is a melting pot of Indians, Europeans and Africans and I wholeheartedly support each of their own individuality. I do not expect them to be like the whites, to be called civilized or to be like the mixed people in order to be completely part of our country.

Each of those cultures is unique, special and important in the way they are, and reading the words of Elias Boudinot just makes me mad. He is thanking the US government for all the help they have received in order to be a civilized nation.

I believe Cherokees are giving up much more than Boudinot realizes. They are changing to be someone they are not; they are giving up essential characteristics of being a Cherokee just so they can have more money to “improve.”

I do not think improvement is Euro-westernization. The Mayans, for example, were a very advanced culture for their time. Yes, they were not as advanced as other contemporary European cultures, but we have to keep in mind that those cultures had been developing for over 500 years before the Mayans got to Central America through the Bering Strait.

The Aztecs, the Incas, the Toltec, I could go on and on about other civilizations that were fine just the way they were until “civilization” or should I say Euro-westernization came to the rescue and tried to measure everybody with the same ruler.

This also makes me think and remember all the times my country and my fellow Latin American countries have begged for money from the United States and Europe with the promise of investing it to be more like them, to “industrialize and develop” a nation that has “[been] wallowing for ages in ignorance and barbarity,” which I think is another way of been conquered all over again.

There are more ways than the Euro-western way of being “civilized” and “developed”, there is our way, the way in which we grow as a people in our own culture and as human beings without losing ourselves in someone else’s standards.