Registered voters in the United States of America will vote tomorrow for a new President. “Make America Great Again” has been the campaign slogan for presidential candidate, Donald Trump. The patriarchal attitudes that Donald Trump represents are not what will make America great again or ever did make America great! In my estimation, what will make America great again is when we realize that the land mass we now call the United States of America was originally inhabited by people whose societal structures were organized around cooperation, compassion, common ownership of land and care for the land that sustained them.
Women, in these original cultures, were not second-class citizens. They owned land collectively and worked together, with each other and with men, to bring sustenance from the land, raise their children and live in harmony with nature. The Cherokees, one of the native societies of the United States of America, are a model for empowerment of women and thriving communities, as a result. In traditional Cherokee culture, there was enough for everyone. Individuals didn’t amass wealth and hoard it for themselves. The gadugi was a work group in which men and women tended gardens for the sick or elderly. There were public granaries to provide for households whose crops may have failed. Women, and even children, participated in government through local town councils. With the influence of European culture, government shifted from local town councils to a centralized national government and the role of women changed. The Cherokee National Council was comprised only of men, as was also the case for the government organized by the European settlers.
In the early 1800s, as a ploy for eventual takeover of their land, the U.S. government encouraged the Cherokees to convert to a system of individual land ownership. With the eventual adoption of individual land ownership, came the ownership of slaves. As long as they jointly held ownership to land, the Cherokees were able to stand strong in the face of threats from the U.S. government. Once they succumbed to individual land ownership, large geographical distances between households and exploitation of other human beings, the strength of their communities dwindled. The U.S. government succeeded in forcing the Cherokees from their beloved land. Beginning in 1838, after betrayal by an elite class of wealthy men, many Cherokees lost their lives on the Trail of Tears.
Sadly, 100 years after genocide was perpetrated by the United States of America, genocide began in Europe in the form of the Holocaust. On the eve of Election 2016, Arun Gupta aptly describes an ugly truth about the United States of America. “Trumpism boils down to one idea: ethnic cleansing. When he says, “Make America Great Again,” his followers understand he is really saying, “Make America White Again.”
We will make “America Great Again” when we rediscover the practices of the native peoples of America! We must raise our voices for communities where people work together for a common good and where everyone has a voice. Electing a woman President who embodies patriarchal values will also not result in healthy, thriving communities. We must stand together and work together to protect our communities and our land. I stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. I applaud the zeal of 15-year-old Madison Kimrey, from my home state of North Carolina, as she speaks out for youth involvement with politics, women’s rights, the humane treatment of animals and LGBTQ+ rights. I will cast my vote tomorrow for Chris Kolb, a Board of Education candidate who understands the importance of making decisions based on input from those who actively participate in public education in Jefferson County, Kentucky.
Regardless of who is elected President of the United States on November 8, 2016, I resolve, in whatever way I can, to work together with others in my community to see that we all have the things we need to thrive and live in harmony with the earth. Will you, my reader, find the issues that energize you and work with other inhabitants of this great country to rediscover America and make America great again?
Learn more about the Cherokees:
Cherokee Flash presentation by Doris Bailey Spencer