Features

A Summary of Our History

-Angniq Woods-Orrison-

You are on my stolen land.

You’ve most likely gone your entire life without knowing how much blood seeps in the very places you’ve walked, played, and loved. You’ve done this by refusing to learn the oppressive history of your country, by failing to acknowledge your privilege, and by perpetuating the cycle of my colonization.

When the first pilgrims came to our land, they were not advanced like us. Natives were one with the land. We built great systems of trade and governance. We lived a completely renewable, eco friendly lifestyle, never overharvesting or falling into forms of consumerism. We cared and loved for one another, showing great respect for the youth, elders, and all forms of life.

You saw us as beastly animals with land for the taking. A land that you fail time and time again to take care of. We fought for ourselves and this land. In response, you killed us, dismembered us for jewelry to show how inhumane you were, scalping us alive (A PRACTICE THAT WAS NEVER OURS), burned our fields, shot our animals to near extinction, tore our towns and cities down to nothing.

During the 20th century, boarding schools were implemented throughout the United States in hopes of eradicating Native culture, or as Capt. Richard H Pratt concisely stated: “Kill the Indian, and Save the Man.” Children were taken from their homes starting at the age of 4. Parents and family members lacked the power to object, and the children would stay in these schools into their late teens. The children were taken out of their regalia, forced to cut their hair, prevented from speaking their language or practicing their culture, telling us implicitly that we as a people were culturally inferior. Children protested in silence, speaking in their language with one another, or attempted to runaway. More frequently, children were abused verbally, physically, and sexually. The last generations to face this brutal treatment are now aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

The trauma faced in this recent history became intergenerational when survivors of this cultural genocide never healed from their experiences.

Native Americans and Alaskan Natives face the highest rates of poverty, abuse, depression, rape, and suicide. As the generations continue to become more empowered and educated in both the traditional, cultural, and western ways, we fight back stronger against the governments that try to kill us off. The government does this by continuing to break the pathetic treaties they wrote, enacting laws to “protect” Indigenous people, and creating a body count in hopes that we lose our identity completely.

In short, if you want to be an ally of Indigenous people, follow the following recommendations:

  1. Do not buy phoney “Tribal” or “Native” inspired crafts. Yes, I know you cannot merely erase the dream catcher tattoo from off your back, but please in the future refrain from clothing and dressing yourself in caricatured artefacts of Native American culture.
  2. Do not support mascots such as the Redskins, the Braves, or the Indians.
  3. Realize that Pocahontas was actually kidnapped and murdered as a child, and no one except Indigenous people have confronted Disney on their whitewashed films.
  4. Do not tolerate the words ‘Eskimo’ or ‘Indian’, instead learn the tribes name or use Indigenous/Native.
  5. Educate yourself on the horrors of your history and how the actions taken have founded today’s government. A great starting point is Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s book ‘An Indigenous People’s History of the United States’, the library currently has a copy.

Categories: Features, Opinion

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