The end of a year, and the beginning of a new one, has always been a moment when it seems appropriate to review the past and look forward to the future.
In ancient Roman mythology, the deity that became associated with the first month of the year was the two-faced god, Janus. This is, of course, the semantic origin of the month January. Janus oversaw ends and beginnings, and thus became a metaphor for the change in the years.
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As the westward expansion of the United States, euphemistically called "Manifest Destiny," progressed toward the Pacific while the Nineteenth Century wore on, what has been characterized as a slow motion genocide of Native American peoples wreaked havoc on the traditional culture and way of life of the original occupants of the North American continent.
Gradually the survivors were herded onto reservations, often in less desirable areas, where the Great White Fathers, in our beneficence, promised to provide for the now downtrodden and demoralized tribal members. A once proud, fiercely independent lifestyle that was far more engaged with nature and sharing the earth was gradually deemphasized, changed to emulate white culture, and was to be forgotten.
In such a milieu, how can anyone wonder that a culture of dependency developed that led to poverty, addiction, and hopelessness?
After 12 years working with the Lakota (Sioux) people, I shared their concern about a book about natives written by a non-native. This historical novel, first in a trilogy, is amazingly well researched and well written. It accurately portrays the culture of the Lakota people and provides vivid descriptions of life, hardships, and dreams of those who chose to move west on wagon trains crossing the US. It also portrays the immigrants who came here lured by the dream of a new life, and the conflicts that occurred as a result of different cultures and different lifestyles. It also vividly describes those who viewed Natives as a group to be dominated and annihilated if necessary to meet a political goal or to pursue personal riches - something that continued long after the time of Manifest Destiny.