by Damien Rodriguez
Calling someone indigenous is offensive, Walter Ahhaitty of the Kiowa tribe told an audience at room K5-108 on November 21. Ahhaitty explained that indigenous people prefer to be called “indins” because the word indigenous is used by non-Indian people to force an identity on them. Ahhaitty also had issues with the word sovereignty.
According to Ahhaitty, the word sovereignty was used to manipulate indigenous people. He stated that the indins were tricked out of their land when they were told that they could remain sovereign to their own lifestyles as long as they agreed to the government’s demands.
Ahhaitty claimed that the American-Indian war happened because the government tried to destroy indin culture. He also claimed that indins were not defeated, but instead sacrificed their pride and surrendered in order to further death.
He detailed some of the hardships indins faced in times of war with great respect as indins refused to accept death. He explained that people survived by eating thrown out organs at slaughterhouses and drinking animal blood for iron and protein.
The government’s betrayal of trust with the indin tribes and the development of the phrase “kill the Indian, save the man” led Ahhaitty and his three siblings to have a difficult upbringing, but they managed to keep their culture alive through their various practices. Ahhaitty detailed his childhood as tough, but certainly one that he appreciates.
He was in a dance troupe with his siblings at a young age. In the dance troupe, the four siblings would take turns singing and dancing in the same manner their ancestors had. This encouraged the four to develop a strong connection to their culture that stuck with them.
He would continue to hold true to his culture that was heavily based on having a strong warrior spirit. He pursued his childhood ambition of becoming a marine like his father, but his father was strongly against it. His father encouraged him to go to college and Ahhaitty agreed with his father’s wishes until his father passed away. Ahhaitty then pursued a position in the marines and was successful in doing so.
He claimed that he visited the Kiowa tribe’s homeland in Oklahoma after servicing in the marines and that those amongst the Kiowa tribe that served in any military position were revered with respect since those who made sacrifices made having an identity meaningful. He stated that indin people “stand on broad shoulders” because they are only able to exist today due to the sacrifices of their ancestors.
Ahhaitty ended his discussion with his personal tips to keeping culture alive. He told the audience not to take anything they hear as gospel and went on to recite a quote by his older brother, Daron Ahhaitty. The quote went “the mind is like a parachute and only works when open.”