Forgotten Yesterdays

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Rise and shine in a tent with two ladies.

My guess is that we’re old time Africans. But outside looks more like Southern California.

In fact I’d swear this is Palo Alto in Los Angeles County. This cliff looking over the ocean is familiar. Only there’s nothing here but our tent and our horses.

Seems that we’re on our way to a horse swap.

Along the way I figure out their names. 

Something is eating at me. Something is familiar about Noi and Nai. Something to do with someone else I encountered… Onamandla!

When I was with Onamandla I learned that her people were from Africa and had sailed west to the new world. Noi and Nai are speaking the same tongue as Onamandla. I’m able to discern that these two are a couple of generations removed from her.

On my original Earth textbooks issued by Euro-American academics always focused on the tribulations of civilized European colonization in a savage land while opposing fascist dictators and achieving manifest destiny. 

After that City On A Hill shit was over, people insisted on telling the stories we never heard of in school, stories about the black Indians, the Native American civilizations, the abuses those with advanced technology imposed. We discovered the histories of slaves whose stories had long ago been discarded.

We arrive at the location to find maybe a hundred different people and two or three horses apiece with most of them. Many languages compete and a lot of signing is happening.

The really striking thing is the diversity of people and of horses. I’ve never seen a crimson red horse or a horse that big before. Nor have I seen a horse like the long-eared super-tailed critter with the white girl named Alto Bonito.

America didn’t begin with Pilgrims or Spaniards or Portuguese expeditions. The Indigenous “Americans” came from all directions, mostly by accident or fleeing disaster. There are humans who can divine land masses hundreds of miles away by meditating on the currents of the ocean around them.

I catch myself daydreaming about how America is more than a collection of political ideals about freedom and human rights forged out of oppression. All of America, South, Central and North, has been the very place where freedom from oppression was always possible.

This place was called by many names before Amerigo Vespucci drew his maps. For centuries people could come here, where no one was likely to bother them, provided they could survive the journey and then adapt to the new land.

But when the old continent became crowded and blighted with layer upon layer of unforgettable enmity, the aggression of Europe spilled forth into the “new” world. There was always another mountain, always another valley or a river leading to a forest green.

But clearly among these traders are descendants of Pacific Islanders, Eskimos and even Norsemen.

Before Euro-history hijacked the story of America, America was already thriving with diversity. This may be as early as the 14th Century, and the Americas have experienced an influx  of arrivals for centuries from around the world.

As the afternoon turns to dusk I hear the stories of their ancestors.

On everything from rafts to sophisticated boats and trails leading north and south, migrants have arrived in the Americas continuously since the earliest crossing of the Bering Straights.

In small groups, sometimes only in pairs, intrepid adventurers traveled beyond any horizon their predecessors dreamed of. Sometimes even a solo stranger would go as far as the world would take him.

Alto Bonito seems overwhelmed. She stares at one of our horses wide-eyed. I approach her and introduce myself.

“Is that a horse?” she asks. “Compared to yours, ours are… dissimilar.”

Then the voice of a loud-mouthed bully with a fancy headdress named Wamphamvu Wokwera points a finger at Alto, yelling, “Then it’s true! There are white demons invading our lands!”

I bring Alto with me for safety back beside Noi and Nai, overhearing them.

See woman?” Noi says. “Didn’t I tell you there were red horses in the west?”

Nai likes it. “Girl they won’t believe this back home unless we take one back with us. How much you got? You think he’ll trade?”

But the owner of the red horse, Wokwera, is staring like a man possessed at Alto as though she is a demon from the underworld.

Noi wants to watch. “Hold on, woman, that guy is getting too worked up to talk about horses. You see where that’s going?”

Nai has been following everything. “He’s right, though; ain’t that a white woman?”

Noi shrugs, “So what? There’ve been white people show up once in a while. They go away! They get sick. They run out of white people things, get very sad, and die.”

“She’s not just white, though,” observes Nai more closely. “Maybe white father, who knows? But not just white.”

Oh these people will be gone over the next couple of hundred years. They will be wiped out by diseases and enemies they never heard of.

Ashamed of their inhumanity in the aftermath, the conquerors will erase all history of their existence. It will be as though these people were never here, their treasures were never looted, their bodies never violated and they were never murdered. A well-executed genocide leaves no memories allowed.

And someone was free to do it.

 

 

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