Dependence within Independence

I wonder about the meanings of dependence on the day that celebrates independence (and my birthday): July 4.

Thoughts about independence are buried deep within our nation’s stories, including myths that our Indian ancestors roamed free and wild and independent, and that the settlers sought independence from restrictive nation-states.

Stories about independence weigh us down: we see ourselves through a mirage of ersatz independence.

Truth is, we are all, at our core, dependent.

I read that a leaf may fall from a tree, but the leaf is “still the whole tree.”

The leaf is inextricably tied to the tree: and to the ground for nourishment, to the clouds for rain, and to the sun for sustenance.

The writer continues with a metaphor of the ocean: “The wave is full of water, but it is empty of a separate self.”

Rather than congratulating myself over 65 years of independence, today I embrace the idea of dependence.

My body is part of the tobacco plant in my garden.

My blood is part of the fluid that waters the tomatoes.

I am connected to the souls who live in the houses surrounding my gardens.

How odd that settler stories of Native Americans are seared with independence when indigenous tribal knowledges and meanings stem from relationships with all beings.

The Osages, the Lakota, the Iroquois, the Dine—we all understand our interconnectedness.

In this spirit, today I celebrate relationships that give us life–whether we know it or not.


4 July 2018




About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in 4July, allmyrelations, american indian and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dependence within Independence

  1. lyndi2014lyndi says:

    Thank you for this post, Cindy. Good, good.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks! Enjoy the holiday!


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