A chilly, windy, soggy few days. Birds are flocking the feeder.
We participate in a few European-American dominated discussion groups, all of which have now moved online. In each I find that whenever I try to bring Native issues and experience into the conversation I am met with literal silence. Inevitably the conversation is immediately shifted to something else. It appears impossible to place the actions of the present government, and the fears of many group members who identify as liberal, within a historical context. Following our last meeting with a group, I wrote the following letter to that group. I have made minor changes so that the ext makes sense in this context.
Thank you, Everyone, for last night’s thoughtful, civil conversation. Certainly we live in challenging times.
In many places it is now customary to acknowledge the Indigenous communities who are the caretakers of the land on which a meeting or gathering is held. I want to take a moment to notice that we are all uninvited guests on the traditional, non-seeded lands of the Wampanoag Confederacy, a group of tribes who’s very existence is currently under attack by the federal government.
May I share some thoughts from last evening? I understand your desire to find a viable candidate for president, and I agree that many governors appear to be better candidates that either of the current front runners. While some governors of both parties have certainly acted with great thought and courage in the present crisis, they have not uniformly done so in regards to the way the virus has impacted Indigenous people. Not only are Native people disproportionately becoming ill, but some states and provinces have withdrawn crucial medical staff from Indigenous jurisdictions. Additionally, Federal support, which is pledged via treaty, has not been forthcoming. At the same time, state and Federal governments have used the crisis to launch renewed attacks on tribal lands, and sovereignty.
As a person who carries both Native and settle culture and genes, I am often bewildered by the shock many express at our county’s current state of affairs. My father used to say that even though he was a lifetime military man, he wanted me never to trust the government, and to be aware that minimal acknowledgement can turn in an instant into genocidal intent. It turns out he was correct.
When we fail to put the events that impact European America into a broad historical context, we inadvertently support the genocidal structures that are the root of law in this country. It is not just us who identify as Native who are impacted, but all people of color. (Right now things are particularly difficult for Asian Americans, especially those of Japanese ancestry.) It is easy, is it not, to become so worried about our privileged that we forget those who do not share it. It is easy to forget that the country is built on slavery, genocide, and the theft of other’s lands and cultures.
There is a pan-Tribal prophesy that says that until the country addresses its genocidal history with Natives, African-Americans, and Hispanic peoples, things will continue to worsen. Perhaps we can now begin to build a vision of a country that owns the suffering on which it is built and is committed to remembering and setting right that which has happened.
Thank you for allowing me to share.
Sadly, while there was an active discussion, no acknowledgement was made of my comments.