"Forgive us our trespasses," we beg; to no one in particular. "As we forgive those who trespass against us," we continue, as white Americans, having no idea up until a few years ago what trespassing against us might even feel like, let alone being ready to forgive it.
I saddled up my Harley-Davidson Rozinante on Saturday, and ventured out on a little quest to another corner of paradise and saw just what I had hoped to see -- but did not feel what I had hoped to feel. I knew, of course, that I was on the land of the Menominee, but had failed to REALLY take into account that it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, my land. Because I am sympathetic to Native causes and may even have a drop of Native blood in my veins, I had supposed that my being on a land reserved for its original people would feel just fine. After all, I was entering with a degree of reverence, would take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints (and not MANY of either.) I sprinkled some tobacco which I'd brought along as a sort of spirit offering. It was not my first time on a reservation.
I think the difference, this time, was that I began to think about that word. "Reservation". Began to think about it not only as a prison where we hold people for the crime of being native, but as a tiny fragment of land reserved. For the people born to it.
Oh, I will still ignore "No Trespassing" signs most of the time, but I think when I'm on reservation land I will show the courtesy of asking my hosts' permission before wandering in as though I owned the place. I think I'll never hear "This land is your land, this land is my land," in quite the same way. This land is your land.
Forgive us our trespasses.
- Ralph Murre