We are kept in their mindset as “vanished peoples.” Or as workers, not creators…And what does this erasing of individual identity do to us? Can you believe you exist if you look in a mirror and see no reflection? And what happens when one group controls the mirror market? As Native people, we have known that in order to survive we had to create, re-create, produce, re-produce… The effect of the denial of our existence is that many of us have become invisible…the systematic disruption of our families by the removal of our children was effective for silencing our voices…. however, not (everyone) can still that desire, that up-welling inside that says sing, write, draw, move, be… we can sing our hearts out, tell our stories, paint our visions…we are in a position to create a more human reality…in order to live we have to make our own mirrors….
I am writing this letter as an apology to people who have migrated here from Mexico, Central America and South America. I am Anishinabe, Indigenous to what is now called Minnesota. I am also a playwright. Within the last year I was approached by a production company, OffLeash Area, to write a play with them called Border Crossing. It was my understanding this play would address the inhumane issues people confront when entering the United States.
As a Native American, I am interested in the stories of the indigenous people of this continent we call Turtle Island and the peoples of what is now known as South America. I am interested in the impact the building of the wall between Mexico and the United States has on Native Nations whose reservations created by the United States straddle this man-made border, also made by the United States. That is part of the story I had hoped to tell. In November 07, I did research for a week in the Sonora desert southwest of Tucson on the Tohono O'odham Reservation. I had hoped to include a very strong voice for Indigenous people in this piece. I had hoped to include a very strong voice for Migrant people in this piece.
In my interviews with people I heard stories of inhumane treatment. I heard stories of a sea of sorrow – a desert littered with the bones of people trying to get here for a better future for themselves and for their future generations. I heard stories of joy, hope, survival and celebration.
I am writing this apology because this is not the story that is being told in Border Crossing. It is not your story and your voice has been removed from the piece. I wrote dialogue for native peoples. That dialogue was cut. I wrote dialogue for the characters crossing the desert. That dialogue was cut. I argued to give voice to the oppressed. My voice was silenced. I am sorry. I understand any anger on your part where you would question why I, as a Native American, would have thought that I could tell your story.
If you have questions or comments to me, I am open to dialogue.