COMMENTARY: Find your own ocean…and, make it crab-free

by Feb 14, 2018OPINIONS




Parts of this column occur many miles off of the Qualla Boundary (aka Cherokee Indian Reservation), but the sentiments very much apply.

Years ago, we took my daughter to the historic city of Savannah, Ga., and, while there, we took a day and visited Tybee Island.  It was her first trip to Savannah, and we’ve returned many times as it is one of her favorite places.  A budding writer, she always says she is inspired by the city; inspired by the stone streets, inspired by the smiling faces, inspired by the Spanish moss, and just inspired by the life of the town.

During that first trip to Tybee, we went out to the beach area.  She wasn’t really into the ocean and didn’t have any interest in getting in except for putting her toes in the water once.  She touched the Atlantic Ocean and that was good enough.

Instead, she made her own ocean.

She found an area on the beach that had some standing water and played in a puddle for about an hour.  She made castles, and then destroyed them.  She played in the water, splashing around.  She just had a good time – in her own ocean.

And, one point that she made has stuck with me to this day.  Her little sand bucket had drawings of starfish and crabs on it, and she made the comment that crabs scared her and she wouldn’t let crabs come in her ocean.

Recently, there has been much discussion in the Cherokee community about crabs – not the kind in the ocean, but the kind who drag others down.

Throughout Indian Country, there is a phenomenon commonly known as the “Indian crabs in a bucket theory” which basically states that when one crab tries to climb out of the bucket to “escape”, other crabs drag them back in with the rest.  It is generally used in terms of someone excelling who, in turn, feels the pull of the crabs who put them down or demean them for excelling.

It is sad.

We have discussions on this almost every week, both at home and at work.  My take on it is that Indian Country already has enough enemies as it is, why create more?

The late Oscar-nominated actress Celeste Holm once said, “We live by encouragement and die without it – slowly, sadly, and angrily.”

Be kind to each other.  Lift each other up.  If someone in the Tribe and community excels at something or is proud of an accomplishment, no matter how big or small, give them accolades, support, and encouragement.

Too many times we see people who are quick to criticize but slow to congratulate.  They are quick to judge but slow to support.  Like I’ve said in several other columns, never forget the last part of community – unity.

Robert G. Ingersoll, 19th century orator and politician, once stated, “We rise by lifting others.”