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NATIVE AMERICAN and TIBETAN: a comparative study

Pluto Ohanzee Panes

The Native Americans have never been able to come to terms with their extinction as a separate social and cultural entity. They maintained within the circle of their extended family in isolated reservation neighbourhoods many of the tribal values and social institutions from 1900 to 1940. However, the government policies gradually destroyed traditional tribal leadership and collective decision-making and took away their lands. Since approximately 1940, they have experienced increasing social and cultural disintegration and they have become increasingly dissatisfied with their position in American society. At the Salvation Army a clerk caught me wandering among old spoons and knives, sweaters and shoes. I couldnt have stolen anything; my life was stolen already. In protest though I should have stolen. My life. My life. She caught me; Carson caught Indians, secured them with his lies. Bound with his belief. After winter, our own lives fled. I reassured her what she believed. Bought a sweater. And fled. I should have stolen. My life. My life. (Simon J. Ortiz , From From Sand Creek) Following the entry of Chinese troops in Lhasa, every effort was made to undermine the sovereign authority of the Tibetan government and impose Chinese authority. This was carried out in three ways: First, political and regional divisions were created among Tibetans under the policy of divide and rule. Secondly, certain social and economic reforms, calculated to change the fabric of the Tibetan society, were instituted against the wishes of Tibetans. Thirdly, various organs of the Chinese Government and new bodies under their authority were set up alongside the existing Tibetan institutions. Kill my Dalai Lama that I can believe no more. Bury my head beat it. Disrobe me chain it. But dont let me free.

Within the prison this body is yours. But within the body my belief is only mine. You want to do it? Kill me here- silently. Make sure no breathe remains. But dont let me free. If you want, do it again. Right from the beginning: Discipline me Re-educate me Indoctrinate me Show me your communist gimmicks. But dont let me free. Kill my Dalai Lama and I will believe no more. (Tenzin Tsundue, Desperate Age, Kora: stories and poems) Historian Ronald Robinson argues that imperialism begins when a high technology society gains influence in a lesser technology society by linking itself into a collaboration group. The collaborators are not necessarily acting out of self-interest according to Robinson, but may well accommodate to establish equilibrium between the encroaching and the responding societies. For example, the decision of Red Cloud, a principle Native American Sioux mediator, fundamentally shaped Sioux- white relations in the 1860s. Similarly, according to Wang Lixiongs Tianzang: Xizang de mingyun (Sky Burial: The Fate of Tibet), the stabilizing group and the modernization shows the two major elements that have been driving the development of Tibetan modernization. The stabilizing group originally consisted mainly of Han people who were mobilized to enter Tibet in the 1950s, but in the reformed era (1978 to present); this group has become increasingly Tibetan- dominated. The Tibetan cadres and other privileged members of this group fear the return of the Dalai Lama because they will lose all they have gained under the Communist rule. However, it is precisely because of the potential threat of the Dalai Lamas return that they have become a valuable stabilizing force for the Chinese Communist Party. The Tibetan cadres and other privileged members hence find it in their interest to play double- role while helping Beijing to stabilize Tibet. They also encourage small events of instability so as to increase their value as stabilizers. This paper intends to do a comparative study of the interaction between the Chinese and the Tibetans, and the white settlers and the Native Americans. Both Chinese and the white invaders indulged subjugating the Tibetans and the Native Americans. They systematically tried to terminate the culture, the identity and the freedom of the Natives. This paper intends to look into the various aspects of such subjugation indulged by the colonizing powers. This paper attempts to investigate the fiction between the imperialists and the subjects particularly in the sphere of culture, tradition and education. Mainland British North America consisted of twelve colonies spread along the Atlantic coastline from New Hampshire to South Carolina by the beginning of the eighteenth century. The Anglo- French wars for empire lasted from 1689 to 1763. The victory of the English and the demise of the French made the English the new super power but that did not being any change in the condition of the Indians. In 1763, the king issued a royal proclamation that ordered division between the white settlers and the Indian lands.

On 7 October 1950, 40,000 Chinese troops under Political Commissar, Wang Qiemi, attacked Eastern Tibets provincial capital, Chamdo, from eight directions. The small Tibetan force, consisting of 8,000 troops and militia, was defeated. After two days, Chamdo was taken and Kalon (Minister) Ngapo Ngawang Jigme, the Regional Governor was captured. Over 4000 Tibetan fighters were killed. Myths and legends are the integral part of both Tibetan and Native American societies. Faith is an important part of their lives. The Navajo have a ceremonial and an accompanying myth that commemorate the gain of such a gift as the result of a battle with some Pueblos. The hero in the tale is a woman who journeys to the spirit world of with Snake Man, where she is initiated by the Snake Mans mother. After she has passed the tests provided for her learning, she is given particular rites to take back to her people. Along with this ceremonial, which is called Beautyway, is a companion ceremonial, Mountainway. Its hero is a woman who accompanies Bear Man into the spirit world and is also taught and tested. Like the Beautyway hero, she returns with a chantway or healing ceremony to give to her people. (Grandmother of the Sun: Ritual Gynocracy in Native America, The Sacred Hoop) The lives of the Tibetans revolve around their myths. Most of the decision regarding all realms of life is decided through oracles. Even the decision regarding Dalai Lamas fate was decided through the oracle. This was too grave a decision to be taken by the government alone: the advice of the gods had to be asked. In the presence of the Dalai Lama and the Regent two balls of barley flour were kneaded, their weights being tested on golden scales until they were exactly the same. Two slips of paper bearing the words Yes and No were rolled into balls and these were thrown into a golden beaker. The beaker was pressed into the hands of the state oracle, who was already performing his trance-like dance. He spun the vessel faster and faster, until at last one ball leapt out and fell to the ground. It contained Yes, so it was decided that the Dalai Lama must leave Lhasa. (Heinrich Harrer, Return to Tibet) It is a practice which many occupying powers, colonial administrations and totalitarian rulers have used and still use to break resistance to their rule and consolidate control over a particular territory. Hitler developed large-scale popular transfer plans and Stalin carried out many such plans with the tragic results we are seeing in the former Soviet Union. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized the president to negotiate exchanges of territory and appropriated $500,000 for that purpose. The Chaoctaws were the first tribe to remove under the provisions of the Indian Removal Act. From the white perspective, removal accomplished its goals: the U. S government protected thousands of Indians from the corrupting influence of civilization by moving them west and opened millions of acres of Indians land to white settlement. All this took place not according to the will of the Indians but the dictates of the white policy-makers. Although they exercised considerable agency in adapting to new circumstances, the Indians lost the power to determine their own future within the United States. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of removal is that white Americans used their power over Indians to inflict death and great suffering after which they congratulated themselves on their humanitarianism. Begun as early as 1949, when China started the invasion of Tibet, the transfer and control policy poses the greatest threat to the survival of the Tibetan nation and people. To encourage Chinese settlement in Tibet, the Beijing Government offers an array of benefits to its employees and the whole of the Chinese civilian population. As a result of Chinese population transfer, Tibetans find themselves marginalized in economic, political, education and social spheres.

The act of March 3, 1871, declared that hereafter no Indian nation or tribe would be recognized as an independent power with whom the United States may contract by treaty. Indian affairs were brought under the legislative control of the Congress to an extent that had not been attempted previously. Tribal authority with respect to criminal offenses committed by members within the tribe was reduced to the extent that murder and other major crimes were placed under the jurisdiction of the federal courts. The most radical undertaking of the new legislative policy was the Dawes General Allotment Act of 1887. By that time the Indian tribes had been moved out of the mainstreams of traffic and were settled on lands that they had chosen out of the larger areas that they had formerly occupied. Their choice in most cases had been confirmed by treaty, agreement, act of Congress, or executive order of the president. The tribes that lived by hunting over wide areas found confinement a threat to their existence. The three main political campaigns, under the generic heading of the anti- Dalai Lama campaigns, which have dominated Tibetan religious and cultural life since 1996 other patriotic education, strike hard and spiritual civilization campaigns. These campaigns aim to eradicate splittism and the influence of the Dalai Lama. The classroom became the site of war against the Native Americans. The whites were already controlling their lands and then they wanted to control their minds, hearts and souls too. By the 1870s most Indian reservations had a boarding school. In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, a major effort was made to create a true system of Indian education. By 1892 Congress had passed a compulsory attendance law for Indian children. The day school, the reservation boarding school, and the off- reservation boarding school were all to play a part in the emerging system. As soon as an Indian child entered a boarding school, he was subjected to a series of ordeals which, taken together, were designed to strip him off all outward signs of his cultural heritage. The schools intended to instill in the student what presumably was lacking in his native upbringing: self-discipline, habits of orderliness, and a respect for punctuality. English assumed a position of immense importance in the years of education. The school now took it upon itself to impose from without what the child lacked from within. The most pronounced assault on the Indians identity was the school effort to convert them to Christianity. The whites believed that the heart of darkness was the Indians heathenish superstition. The late Panchen Lama at the first meeting of Chinas Institute of Tibetology in 1988 said: The land which managed itself well for 1300 years, from the seventh century, lost its language after it was liberated. Whether we remained backward or made mistakes, we managed our life on the worlds highest plateau by using only Tibetan. We had everything written in our own language, be it Buddhism, crafts, astronomy, astrology, poems, logic. All administrative works were also done in Tibetan. (Tibet: Proving Truth From Facts, 1993) Education in Tibet is almost entirely in Chinese. A little Tibetan is taught in some schools but that does not make any difference. The curriculum is planned in such a way that it can only benefit China. History, world news, etc. are all Chinese interpretations. There is no access to any other reading material. It is not a free system of education: there are no diverse courses of study. In independent Tibet there were over six thousand monasteries and nunneries as schools and universities, fulfilling Tibets educational needs. In addition, Tibet had many lay schools run by the Government as well as by individuals. For the Chinese Government these traditional learning centers were the main source of blind faith and nurturing grounds feudal oppression. In the place of Tibetan monasteries, China forced the Tibetans in rural and nomadic areas to found independently- funded Peoples Schools. These schools served to create to create impressive statistics for Chinas propaganda purpose.

The confrontation with the imperialist forces created deep schism within the society. It undermined the tradition and tried to subjugate the cultures. The parallel between the experience of the Native American and the Tibetan shows that power seeks power and tends to always undermine the week. The white settlers tried to demean and destroy the culture and identity of the Native American in the similar fashion as Chinese is doing in the present day in Tibet. Communism then is just a mirror image of imperialism.

Works cited: Harrier, Heinrich. Return to Tibet. London: penguin Books, 1983. Hobson, Geary, ed. The Remembered Earth. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Lixiong, wang. Tianzang: Xizang de Mingyun (Sky Burial: The Fate of Tibet). Hong Kong: Mirror Books Ltd, 1998. Native American. Encyclopdia Britannica. Encyclopdia Britannica 2007 Deluxe Edition. Chicago: Encyclopdia Britannica, 2008. Prisoners of Tibet: 2006 Special Report. Dharamsala: Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, 2007. Sonam, Tenzin. A Stranger in My Native Land. Travellers to Tibet: A Selection Of Eyewitness. Dharamsala: The department of Information and International Relations (Central Tibetan Administration), 2004. Tibet: Proving Truth from Facts. Dharamsala: The department of Information and International Relations (Central Tibetan Administration), 1993.

Tsundue, Tenzin. Kora: Stories and Poems. Dharamsala: TibetWrites, 2003.