Wasichu

An excerpt from Alice Walker’s Living By The Word (1988).

Wasichu was a term used by the Oglala Sioux to designate the white man, but it had no reference to the color of his skin. It means He who takes the fat. It is possible to be white and not a Wasichu or to be a Wasichu and not white. In the United States, historically speaking, Wasichus of color have usually been in the employ of the military, which is the essence of Wasichu.

The Wasichu speaks, in all his US history books, of “opening up virgin lands.” Yet there were people living here on “Turtle Island,” as the Indians called it, for thousands of years; but living so gently on the land that to Wasichu eyes it looked untouched. Yes, it was “still,” as they wrote over and over again, with lust, “virginal.” If it were a bride, the Wasichus would have permitted it to wear a white dress. For centuries on end Native Americans lived on the land, making love to it through worship and praise, without once raping or defiling it. The Wasichus—who might have chosen to imitate the Indians, but didn’t because to them the Indians were savages—have been raping and defiling it since the day they came. It is ironic to think that if the Indians who were here then “discovered” America as it is now, they would find little reason to want to stay. This is a fabulous land, not because it is a country, but because it is soaked in so many years of love. And though the Native Americans fought as much as any other people among themselves (much to their loss!), never did they fight against the earth, which they correctly perceived as their mother, or against their father, the sky, now thought of mainly as “outer space,” where primarily bigger and “better” wars have a projected future.

The Wasichus may be fathers of the country, but the Native Americans, the Indians, are the parents (“guardians,” as they’ve always said they are) of the land. And, in my opinion, as Earthling above all, we must get to know these parents “from our mother’s side” before it is too late. It has been proved that the land can exist without the country—and be better for it; it has not been proved (though some space enthusiasts appear to think so) that the country can exist without the land. And the land is being killed.

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