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Chance meeting inspires for life

Friday night I found myself at the public library and was lucky enough to stumble upon their exhibit of Native American culture.

The walls were filled with haunting artwork, interesting photographs, and there was even a table of free food. But by far the most interesting feature of the exhibit was the gentleman who was running the show.

Unfortunately, I never learned the man's name, and only talked to him for about 20 minutes, before a librarian poked her face in the door and asked: "Are you guys about ready to leave!?"

This man not only taught me a thing or two about the native culture -- which I suppose was his job -- but opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking.

I've always been very interested in the wild, sublime culture of the 1960s-70s, and have lately taken an interest in the way people view the world by looking within themselves. I've been reading Huxley and Nietzsche and opening the portals to the soul and all that good Eastern stuff.

And even now, I hesitate to say there's anything wrong with those perspectives. I think there are places within ourselves that we haven't discovered, doors of perception that remain closed.

But the man I met on Friday night helped me realize that maybe we could save finding ourselves for our free time, and spend more of our time trying to help others. Because there are people, entire cultures, that need it.

I was appalled to learn some of the facts that he shared with me concerning the sad and tumultuous Native American history. The broken treaties, the steadily tightening Native American policies, the countless Medals of Honor handed out during the decades upon decades of Indian Wars, the unsuccessful 1972 coup of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

When I asked him if he thinks the situation has gotten any better in the past 50 years, his answer was vague, cryptic: "In some ways, yes; in other ways it's worse."

What most alarmed me about my friend in the library's words was that it wasn't even the so-called activists, but Richard Milhous Nixon himself -- that bull-headed crook and liar and symbol of the notorious White Power Structure -- who made the most progressive change.

President Nixon founded the Environmental Protection Agency, pulled America out of Vietnam, and, made perhaps more Native American-friendly legislation than any other single U.S. President.

So now I'm going to start considering myself an activist, because it hurts me to see people like Richard Milhous Nixon taking credit for all the good things happening in America, not the people.

I want to learn more about the world, our country, and public policy. Hit the streets, call for an end to our Vietnam, Iraq -- it's been far too long already. Rally for the oppressed and beaten-down and savaged upon, so that they too might hear the chimes of freedom ring. Ask myself: what is right and fair and good? What is wrong and needs to be changed? Where do I start?

Now that I chanced upon that man in the library, who told me in 20 minutes a wealth of information that I never learned in any classroom, I'm going to give it my all and do anything I can to make the world a better place.

Nathan Kitzmann is a junior at Detroit Lakes School.