'Finding the words' a spear to the heart

  Dear HCN,

Michelle Nijhuis' "Finding the Words" (HCN, 1/21/02: Finding the words) leaves me struggling to "find words" to convey my grief, once again, for the injustice done to our native peoples. A well-sharpened spear to my heart; I have not wept with that sort of compassion and anger in a very long time, the remainders of which still haunt me today. To strip a people of their language is to starve them of their very soul. That this vile tactic for "control" goes on still today is enough to make one mute indeed.

A couple of years ago, when "A Prairie Home Companion" came to Spokane, one of Garrison's guests was an old Native Spokane woman, who he claimed single-handedly was trying to preserve the Spokane's native tongue. The number of Spokane who still could speak fluently was 16. She spoke of salmon in these almost sing-songy words, then translated. A sight to see her, hand and hand, with one of our last "keepers of the word" on that dim stage.

It was no great act that Mr. Keillor would not or could not speak for quite some time. Speech, words, accuracy of thought - Oh, we are so emaciated from the lack of these days. That our spirit wavers, then rallies behind the empty, yet time-tested, antidote of a made up "War" is no great irony. This seems a natural enough way to express confusion since, as a nation, we've lost all other means of expression. As a writer, my hat is off to Michelle Nijhuis for this beautiful, albeit hawkish, piece. As a man of hope, I tip to such leaders as Georgia McKinley and the Spokane woman I was so fortunate to hear. And my faith rides high with the children who follow.

Sam Lucy
Winthrop, Washington
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