The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Rebecca Olfert
Valley County Voices 

Hope for Spring: A Story of Parenthood, Cultural Differences


January 10, 2018

They arrived in the winter, bundled in snowsuits which hid beneath layers of rejection and abandonment. The thick walls that lay before us were massive and seemed at the time, impenetrable. She was 15 months, and he was just over 3. They were sleep deprived, malnourished, and they did not exist, or so they had been told. Our worlds collided as we embraced these two, all the while caring for the other two already within our safety. Birth order was trumped, and anger and frustration dominated our dwelling. Peace was replaced by chaos. I shudder to think of how we managed four in diapers at the same time, let alone four in the dead of winter.

Time passed and the cold was replaced with spring sprouts of trust bursting out of nowhere. Little victories were celebrated and we were beginning to be grafted together. Inch by inch, they grew; and so did our love. Fragile and full of fear, yet desiring stable strength and the chance to just be a kid. They learned how to play and we grew together as a family. All the while journeying up and down through emotional swings, birth-mom visits, and outbursts of anger and rage. It is hard to go back to that state of daily internal anger I felt for what was done to these two. We would fall down exhausted after each day, only to be awakened to a fresh faithful morning of new hope.

We had journeyed too long and too far from the beginning snowsuit days to ever think of returning them to that state. Yet over two years later as we approached a time for full commitment, everything changed again. Our now rich soil plants were being ripped from our garden and threatened to be placed in a single pot that would struggle alone to flourish as it had once been. Several times before, this threat was imminent, but as the reality of these two being put back in their former state hit, it was beyond comprehension.

She was an older kin, stepping forward out of duty, but speaking that fateful statement to our faces, “I do not want you to have them because you are white.” The statement took us by surprise at first, then it grew into anger at such hostility in the face of our care and love. Bitterness was planted that day, in place of two healthy plants.

The two have long since left, and as I remember their lives, I am troubled by not only our loss, but more by the comment made in the name of justice. Quickly growing, bitterness is a weed, and will surely take over a whole garden unless uprooted. It is in this letter that I uproot. You see, this letter is really a public apology to the Native American community. Let me explain.

It has taken me a while, but I now hold no qualms or anger toward this relative. She was offering these two her best, giving up her freedom to care for two that shared her blood. She wanted them to learn their heritage, and appreciate the journey in which they had traveled.

I grew up in Detroit, and have had no concept for anything Native except what was read in school textbooks. Moving to Montana over a decade ago, I was dumbfounded to hear the hostility between the Natives and Whites. And such hostility between the two people groups that have been created equal in my eyes. I rarely have heard any good news regarding the richness, the beauty, of this culture. Instead, I hear mainly bad news. I heard stereotypical comments on character based on no direct interactions or experience.

I read to my children the beginnings of this nation, as if it is coming alive for the first time. I realize that history is full of examples of atrocities that were placed upon the Native culture by the Whites.

Children ripped from their Native soils and planted in White pots, made into White children wrapped in Native skin. By not valuing the good of the Native culture, Whites have attempted to throw the Native culture’s infrastructure completely away.

As we fast-forward to today, we see bitterness only - a place where we inflict our values and culture on another and blind ourselves to see anything good in another. I was not trying to make my two into Whites, but I can see now, that this relative was simply trying to preserve her legacy. She was trying to not lose more than what was ripped from her relatives all those years ago.

I write and say to the Native community, on behalf of years ago and all that was done to rob your culture and people group from thriving, I am truly sorry. Please teach us, so we can see the beauty your culture holds. Teach us how creative you are in craft, and courageous you are in standing up for that in which you believe. You hold your elders in your community with the highest regard and believe they possess great wisdom to share. Teach me to do the same. You carry out practices I do not embrace, but seek to understand and value. You are warriors, strong and brilliant. You are self-sufficient, and lived off the land long before the Europeans arrived. You are and have had such conduct in bravery and valor that we can all learn to follow your example.

As I tend to my garden, now free from noxious weeds of bitterness, I notice a new plant of reconciliation, just sprouting. There is so much value and life in the Native culture, that I will learn and teach my children to see the same.


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