- What do we need to do, moving forward, to better understand the experience of Native Americans in this nation? How do we fully confront that history?
Moving forward, America must uplift the voices of Native Americans throughout discussions regarding this nation’s history of indigenous genocide and its current affiliation in the disadvantages against the Native American population. Native Americans are rarely seen in government positions, boards, high-paying jobs, etc, yet their culture is fetishized and exploited throughout this nation. Their experiences are muffled as professional sports teams use derogatory terms or practices like ‘Redskin’ or the ‘Tomahawk chop.’ Indigenous identities have been simplified to simple images, caricatures, or clothing that are plastered on food packaging, sports logos, mascots, Halloween costumes, and every other form of consumerism. However, we rarely hear Native Americans’ experiences in this nation let alone the history of colonization and mass genocide. Native Americans should be given platforms in all fields ranging from healthcare, law, property, education, and so much more. They should be given the due attention and space to educate this nation on indigenous suffering both past and present; We’re not told the entire history of this nation in our own classrooms, where we’re owed the truth of what truly happened on this land. The rewriting of school history books is vital to spread awareness of Indigenous experiences and their history with colonization in the past and modern-day. Moreover, the first step in better understanding Native Americans’ experiences is by having their tribes be federally recognized. The government refuses to acknowledge a great majority of Native tribes primarily on account of their dwindling numbers, a factor Native Americans had no control over as they were hunted, forced into residential schools, enslaved, and forcibly sterilized. The sterilization of Native Americans is nothing new according to Blackmore’s article, “The Little-Known History of the Forced Sterilization of Native American Women.” Although the Indian Health Service was created to provide Native Americans healthcare, IHS doctors forcibly sterilized thousands of Native American women in the 1960s and 1970s. This is a prime example of Native Americans not being given a say in matters that involve their well-being.
- How do we address the stereotypes, misperceptions, the “twistory” that has been passed down among non-Native Americans about this population?
Addressing the stereotypes and misperceptions regarding Native Americans will have to begin by acknowledging the white-washed history we’ve been fed by past white and racist generations. Additionally, we must address the presence and significance/history of these harmful stereotypes and derogatory terms that society has become desensitized to. For example, the sports team, ‘Redskins’ is extremely offensive considering ‘redskin’ referred to the scalps of Native Americans as they were bounty hunted throughout the states. History classes should dedicate weeks to this nation’s history of prejudice and irreversible mistreatment of Native Americans. States should incorporate school-wide discussions held by Native American speakers so that there’s no bias or minimization of severity. These discussions could consist of acknowledging whose land we occupy, societal pressures on Natives, as well as their culture and language, all of which are lacking recognition. For example, Deb Haaland addressed the use of derogatory words in naming places/sites throughout the U.S, a normalized habit throughout American history. In order to further address the importance of these place names, Deb Haaland selected a panel of tribe representatives to make up an advisory committee dedicated to reviewing and recommending changes to other derogatory geographic and federal place names.
- How do we address the fact that Native peoples were murdered for who they are—the very definition of “genocide”? What apologies and amends do we need to make, if any?
Of course, this nation owes Native Americans an apology, one that frankly shouldn’t be accepted considering how long it’s taken for the acknowledgment of Native mistreatment both past and present. Moreover, the term genocide shouldn’t be used with quotation marks when we talk of the millions of Native Americans purposefully eradicated by an entire nation. They were deliberately targeted and killed because of their culture and ethnicity considering the nation’s aim of eradicating who they thought were ‘barbarians.’ Natives were not simply killed, they were tortured, hunted, mutilated, torn away from their families, abused, and their livelihood was stolen. Before the arrival of Columbus, Native Americans owned 2.5 billion acres of land, now they own 56 million acres, 2.2% of the original land. Therefore, I advocate that the United States return most of the land to the Native American tribes with proper access to affordable food, clean water, and free of any chemical spills and other threatening factors. Moreover, offensive usage of tribal names or derogatory terms in naming sites/vehicles/military equipment/products should be prohibited nationwide. Deb Haaland has already made a step towards this specific issue as she declared “squaw” a derogatory term thus shaming the use of such terms in U.S place names.
- How can non-indigenous folks become allies so that Native peoples become fully integrated members of society? What concrete actions can we take to move forward and build a nation with Native peoples?
We must help spread awareness of Native American experiences as well as give these people a say in matters that concern their well-being, ancestry, and everyday life. We’ve seen some progress in terms of providing platforms for Native people, for example, Maine’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They aimed to reveal the truth behind the ‘Native American Child Welfare Act’ by recruiting Native speakers as well as several allies. What made these people allies was their acknowledgment of their privilege and image as the perpetrator as well as their desire to educate themselves on Native Americans’ treatment by the nation. Moreover, it is arguable that integration into a society dominated by white people and void of proper amends to Natives is part of the problem. As stated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, ‘integration was eradication’ as Native children were taken away from their families and denied their culture and identity. Many today have no knowledge of or fear their Native American heritage as society continues to support anti-Native behavioro. For example, thousands of Native American women were sterilized by a healthcare system designed to serve them, people are denied their native identity because of their blood, and harmful stereotypes continue to falsely define Native Americans. Therefore, non-indigenous people along with society should take concrete steps not to integrate Native Americans but to welcome them, to accept and learn from them as this nation should’ve done thousands of years ago.