Reflections from the Ah­nish­i­nah­bæójib­way (We, the People)

March 3, 1986

[letter to the Bemidji Pioneer]

To the Editor:

With regard to Mr. Aaron Beauchamp’s letter published in Friday’s Pioneer:

Aaron Beauchamp writes, “Why should special attention be paid to a minor language? [meaning Ojibway]”  His (perhaps unconscious) arrogance and bigotry stand out loud and clear.  He does not explain how a “monolingual society is necessary for unification.”  He also does not clarify his slippery English and forked-tongue speaking—there are many possible meanings for “unification.”

He says, “‘Oppressed’ people normally cry out for unity.”  On the Red Lake Reservation, we are treated as a colonially occupied nation, with indirect rule completely controlled from outside the community by the United States Government.  The U.S. Government has written policies [accessible to any non-Indian: carefully read the 27 volumes of present B.I.A. policies] of divide and rule on the Red lake Indian Reservation.  So, the kind of unification which we would like—which would eliminate much of our oppression and the resultant problems—is impossible.  More “official” English will only make it worse.

But, what kind of English is Aaron Beauchamp using?  What he probably means by “unification,” implied by “monolingual society,” is “unification with the dominant society.”  The United States Government has been using considerable force over nearly a century to make Red Lake Indian people “unify.”  Explaining this forked-tongue speaking and slippery English, what this kind of “unification” means is assimilation, integration, and ultimately losing our identity and becoming non-persons hidden among the helots in the dominant forked-tongue English-speaking feudal society.

Black people have been “crying out” for more than a hundred years for the kind of “unification” that Aaron Beauchamp seems to advocate.  Blacks have risked their lives for integration and assimilation.  And yet, obscured by forked-tongue English and the bureaucracy, the de facto apartheid U.S.A. (America) retains an unwritten policy of segregation and discrimination.  Here “lies” “unification.”  They say that “actions speak louder than words”—in any language.  We wrote earlier that English is a foreign language on this continent.  As any linguist understands: language, customs, religion and the way a society is put together are inseparable.  The uses to which the English language (which Aaron Beauchamp advocates as our only language) has been put together include domination of feudal England and then exploitation and colonization over the entire world by the British Empire.  The form and function of any tool, including the English language, are also inseparable.

We realize that the “English first” people are saying only that they want an “official language.”  This alone will “inflict punishment” on non-English-speaking citizens: disenfranchisement, economic loss and abuses in a legal system which uses slippery English and forked-tongue speaking.  I’m not “making accusations.”  Just one example is the apartheid laws forced on Indian people, written in very slippery “monolingual” forked-tongue English in title 25 of the United States Code.  These racist laws impose forced “unification” of Indian people into the bottom of the feudal social hierarchy which exists in the United States today.

“English first” is a small first step—on a very short path.  Do you “recollect” the Holocaust, Aaron Beauchamp?  Any surviving speaker of Yiddish, Romany, or the Slavic languages will be glad to clarify.  We are not “accusing.”

Also, there are still volumes of genocide laws against Indian people on the books in the United States of America [another example: Public Law 280]—and they are written in deviously-worded bureaucratese, slippery English and forked-tongue speaking.  Go to the Library of Congress and see for yourself.

We repeat, English is a language of inherent lies.  “Bring me your tired, your poor, etc.,” is written on the Statue of Liberty.  Refugees from feudal Europe were lured to the “land of milk and honey” with forked-tongue promises and slippery words.  In the “new land,” they found transplanted the same exploitive European feudal structure they had fled from.  They were “given” land, only to discover that the White “American” descendants of European feudal lords, merchants, and clergy are the real “Indian givers.”  Who owns the land?  Not the farmers.  Just don’t pay taxes on “your” land, and the feudal structure will become quite clear.

How about your President or your Vice President, would they lie to you?  Or would they beat around the bush, using slippery English and forked-tongue speaking?

Mee gwitch.

Francis Blake, Jr.
Ojibway Anishinabe



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