"The People looked around them and they saw Black People, Chicano People, Asian People, many White People and others who were kept poor by American wealth and power.
The People saw that these People who were not rich and powerful shared a common life with them.
The People realized they must share their history with them."
What you've just read is an except from The People Shall Continue, a poem written by Simon Ortiz. His poem was published as a picture book in 1977. If you read American Indian poetry, you are likely familiar with his work. He is from Acquemeh (Acoma) Pueblo, and "The People" are the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Ortiz begins The People Shall Continue with Creation. Not Genesis, but Creation, as viewed by several different Indian tribes. From the opening pages of his book, children learn that there is more than one way to view Creation. And they learn about diversity in lifestyle, diversity that is dependent on place.
As the story continues, Ortiz tells us that "something unusual began to happen." That something is the arrival of what he calls "strange men" who came "seeking treasures and slaves." This happened to the People, everywhere. He tells us about resistance as he recounts the many ways in which the People persevered in the face of government efforts to stop us from being who we were and are.
His book, in short, offers a history of American Indians.
Here we are, nearly 30 years after the publication of his book, and the rich and powerful continue to cause suffering.
The title of Ortiz's book THE PEOPLE SHALL CONTINUE helps me when I read the news each day and learn of yet another incident in which the rich and powerful denigrate people of color. This morning I read about a parody of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" written by students at Tufts. The re-written song is "Oh Come All Ye Black Folk." It takes aim at affirmative action, but also, specifically, at 52 African American freshmen at Tufts, who, it is suggested, are there regardless of D's and F's. For more on this, Inside Higher Ed has the story I read.
As noted in an earlier post, racial tensions seem to be on the rise on college campuses across the country. A student told me last week that over Thanksgiving break, she overheard students at a bar talking about their "Trail of Beers" party.
A comment to my post about Philbrick's book suggested that on this blog, I "doth protest too much." That individual is not paying attention. The pile of ugliness is huge and it is everywhere.
And so I will protest, and, THE PEOPLE SHALL CONTINUE.
The People Shall Continue, written by Simon Ortiz, illustrated by Sharol Graves, was published in 1977 by Children's Book Press.