“They’re making the decision that it’s better to be dead and gone than to be alive in what we have here, this life, the one we made for them, the one they’ve inherited. And we’re either involved and have a hand in each one of their deaths . . . or we’re absent, which is still involvement, just like silence is not just silence but is not speaking up.”
This passage from Jacquie Red Feather’s chapter in Reclaim occurs during the “Keeping Them from Harm” conference she attends. Absence and silence are actions that can influence lives. Every decision, even one to not act or speak, has important reverberations on other people’s lives. This is a powerful statement about ethical responsibility, particularly in the context of historical trauma, as it insists that inheriting trauma does not excuse passive behavior.
“She regrets that they happened. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t cause them to happen. She figures she must deserve it in some way. But she couldn’t figure it out.”
In this passage from Return, Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield struggles with the psychological burden of trauma and tragedy. Bad things have happened in her life and, even though Opal did not cause them, they make her feel badly and she concludes that there must be an explanation for her suffering. The repetition of “figure” in the passage points to the ways that rationality fails in the face of injustice. She cannot figure out why she suffers because suffering is often not fair or logical. This is another way that inheriting trauma prevents characters from finding happiness in There There.
“And don’t make the mistake of calling us resilient. To not have been destroyed, to not have given up, to have survived, is no badge of honor. Would you call an attempted murder victim resilient?”
In this passage from the Interlude, the narrator suggests that to celebrate someone or something for its mere endurance is to offer a negative definition of that person or thing’s existence. The comparison to an attempted murder victim underscores the role of agency in resilience. The choice is all attributed to the murderer, while the victim is understood only by what he or she avoided. By posing this as a question, the narrator asks for engagement and response. Orange directly questions cultural assumptions by making a distinction between having endured trauma and thriving.