| Chief Red Hawk plays a traditional flute melody.|
Students and faculty of The Hill School marked Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in a variety of ways, most prominently by hearing an enlightening, motivating talk by Chief Red Hawk, co-founder of the United Indian Nation, Inc., a nonprofit organization established for the advancement of cultural understanding. The speech, presented in the Center For The Arts, was open to the public, and numerous guests from the community attended.
Chief Red Hawk (who also may be called simply Red Hawk) noted that he is the youngest of three brothers. He said his brother Swamp Rat - an excellent hunter - explains his hunting skill by saying that "if you want to hunt the deer, you have to become the deer." In other words, Red Hawk added, people must learn about and understand different situations in order to be successful in dealing with them. "You have to become that which you seek," he said.
To fully appreciate the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, one must understand that Dr. King "didn't just save the black man from injustice, but he saved the white man and all men from injustice," Red Hawk said. "King gave this nation the chance to become better than it was.
"King didn't change the nation's values," he added. "He only asked the United States to live up to the values" the nation was founded upon.
"Martin Luther King raised the moral consciousness of the United States," Red Hawk reiterated, noting that King made it more visibly acceptable and expected that all people, regardless of race, step forward in the face of injustice and say "this is not right."
Earlier in his talk, Red Hawk also observed that "Great warriors have the knowledge to admit when they are wrong."
Red Hawk fondly recalled his grandfather, a man who was passionate and loving, but also "no nonsense" in his approach to giving advice -- and a determined man who took up jogging at age 98 after the death of his beloved wife and who lived to be 105.
"I remember the day that Martin Luther King died," Red Hawk said. "It was the first day I ever saw my grandfather cry. He knew that Martin Luther King paid the ultimate price: that he was willing to give up his life for freedom."
| Students lined up to meet Chief Red Hawk.|
Red Hawk referred to a quote loved by author Leo Buscaglia, a line from "Auntie Mame" by Patrick Dennis: "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death." "If you don't live life to its fullest - after all that people like Martin Luther King and all those martyrs who came before you have sacrificed - it is your fault," Red Hawk stated.
Red Hawk took the time to answer a number of questions posed by students following his formal presentation. He was asked how racist jokes and stereotypes such as those perpetuated through athletic teams' mascot affect him. Red Hawk noted that it is racist for anyone, of any race or background, to tell a racist joke. He then shared an historical perspective on the term "red skins" - information undeniably not presented in most United States school history classes:
Red Hawk explained that the term "red skin" refers to the Native American practice of rubbing one's skin with red ochre, which served as a natural repellent to insects. When Native Americans were being slaughtered by United States government-sponsored bounty hunters by the millions -- a "holocaust," Red Hawk stated - the hunters literally would skin the Indians, then turn in the skins for payment: $2 for a man's, $1.50 for a woman's, 50 cents for a child's.
"So, yes, the expression 'let's skin them alive' and the term 'red skins' can be offensive to Indians," Red Hawk said quietly.
Noting that Native American reservations generally are places of great poverty, Red Hawk said his father moved his family off a reservation when Red Hawk and his brother were young in order to avoid the poor conditions. "Personally, I'd like to see all of the reservations done away with," Red Hawk remarked, adding that - as Martin Luther King, Jr. encouraged - Native Americans, like all Americans, should be free to pursue their dreams wherever they choose to live.
However, Red Hawk observed, reservations continue to exist because the U.S. government now owns the land, which generally is situated in areas rich with natural resources. "The government will never give that up," he said.
A student asked Red Hawk for his insights on preserving one's ethnicity. While he clearly is proud of his heritage, "I would give up my culture if everyone would just get along as children of God," Red Hawk said. "I would love to see life without [ethnic] culture - that is, if it meant that there were no wars, no people in constant litigation ....
"When you separate people - when you keep people separate from other people - it creates what I call 'fearships' [as opposed to relationships]," Red Hawk observed. "Fearships are what keep us separate. Love is the most important, powerful thing in the world."
During the afternoon (January 17, 2005), Hill students each attended two separate sessions on various topics related to civil rights and diversity. Several weeks ago, students were given a list of topics being prepared by faculty and peers - topics ranging from the history of jazz to dispelling stereotypes - and asked to choose two sessions to attend.
Sunday evening, in a performance for students and faculty, Chief Red Hawk performed Native American chants and contemporary songs, spoke about stereotypes and Native American culture, and played several numbers on a traditional wooden flute.