Originally posted by
freemanjud on November 28, 2021 18:19
Readings (select AT LEAST 2 of these 4, which pains me because all are eye-opening):
- Claudio Vaunt, “The invasion of America,” Aeon, January 2015.
- Erin Blackmore, “The Little-Known History of the Forced Sterilization of Native American Women,” JStor Daily, August 25, 2016.
- Tristan Ahtone, “Native Americans are recasting views of indigenous life,” National Geographic, December 2018.
- Susan Montoya Bryan, “Deb Haaland seeks to rid US of derogatory place names,” Indian Country Today, November 19, 2021.
Many people believe that indigenous folks have been erased from the story we tell about the history of the United States. America was discovered….by Columbus. Let’s be generous: let’s call it an “encounter.” Its first settlers? The British and the Dutch, let alone the Spanish and French. Before 1492, this land was wilderness, waiting to be “discovered.” Were there people here? Were they people or savages? How did we depict them, describe them, study them, remember them?
If you believe in ghosts, then Native American ghosts are all around us. And yet their descendants survived. They are here but how often do we hear their voices? Are we paying attention to them? We have much to learn from the Native peoples of this country, if we are willing to take the time to do so.
As you know, it is argued by many that what happened to indigenous folks in this country was genocide. The definition of genocide is the deliberate killing of a group of people because of who they are, what their identities are, often with the goal of eliminating them entirely. Yet on Beacon Hill, where a bill (S.327) mandating the teaching of genocide was being discussed by the Massachusetts Legislature in October 2019 (for a text of the bill, see https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/SD1441, and for coverage of the motives and the legislator behind it, see https://mirrorspectator.com/2019/10/03/bill-seeks-to-mandate-teaching-of-genocide-holocaust-in-ma-middle-high-schools/) , take a guess: which group was conspicuously not mentioned?
And believe it or not: this bill is still unresolved and has morphed into several new versions over the past few years. And references to specific genocides were ultimately omitted from the most recent draft: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/S2557.
Consider what we’ve looked at in class and the content of the readings listed above as you respond to the following questions.
- What do non-Native folks need to do, moving forward, to better understand the experience of indigenous peoples in this nation? How do we fully confront that history?
- How do non-Native folks address the stereotypes, misperceptions, the “twistory” that has been passed down among non-Native Americans about this population?
- How do we address the fact that indigenous people were murdered for who they are—the very definition of “genocide”? What apologies and amends do non-Native folks need to make, if any?
- How can non-Native folks become allies so that indigenous peoples become fully integrated members of society? What concrete actions can we take to move forward and build a nation with indigenous peoples?
Be very specific in your response, SPECIFICALLY citing examples BOTH from class and from the readings.
1. Education and increased awareness are key factors in better understanding the experience of Native Americans in the United States. As further described in Claudio Vaunt’s The Invasion of America, the abuse, mistreatment, and erasure of the indigenous people in America has flown under the radar of the general public for too long, conveniently replaced by a false rhetoric that insists on an amicable relationship dating back to the times of the Pilgrims. We as nonnative people must learn about and acknowledge the truth of this nation’s history, as it is far more violent than the made up fairy tale that we have been sold since childhood. Most people haven’t been made aware of the countless atrocities targeted towards Native peoples, including multiple wars- such as the Washita and Bear River Massacres- that carried the intention of wiping out entire Native tribes. Most people have no clue about how 25-50% of Native American women were forcibly sterilized in the 1970s, as explained in Erin Blackmore’s The Little-Known History of the Forced Sterilization of Native American Women. As a tragic result, indigenous people and tribes have experienced severely diminished land ownership and population size. Yet they are still here, persevering through it all, and people need to be taught the extent of which these innocent people suffered. There is a responsibility in the present day to further educate both ourselves and future generations about the truth of America and how it truly inherited its land.
2. The inappropriateness, misconceptions, and stereotypicalization of Native Americans within history, pop culture and the mainstream media needs to be drawn to a close. From offensive sports team names to generalized Halloween costumes to unrealistic depictions of Natives on brand labels, the trend of tokenizing and aestheticizing indigenous people for the sake of turning a profit is both rude and unjustifiable. For example, the video we watched in class focuses on the sports team named the Redskins, which references how colonizers would receive monetary compensation for scalping and killing Native Americans. The fact that this team has managed to keep such a name for so long is a true testament to how little people are informed about US history and how twisted the image of Native Americans has been altered to fit a more wholesome narrative. Damaging names such as the Redskins, along with name brands that utilize and reiterate Native American stereotypes, need to be confronted and taken down for good.
3. To address an occurrence as awful as genocide is never one that is simple or easily done, yet it is essential if we, as a society, want to be better and not repeat the mistakes of the past. As a bare minimum, the US government needs to fully acknowledge and apologize to the surviving Native tribes for their wrongdoings. To continue to be in denial of their actions would only continue their cycle of hatred and erasure. There is always a fear of bad image or discomfort when speaking about such heinous acts, but the reality is that the United States collectively committed these crimes and did irrevocable damage on these people, from their numerous massacres to their forced migrations and sterilizations, to their displacement of Native children in white homes. Not only should these acts be brought to the surface and labeled as genocide, they also should lead to some form of compensation, such as land distribution and reparations.
4. Firstly, non-indigenous folks can become allies to Native people by being fully educated and aware of the United States’ past actions and involvement regarding the diminishing of the Native American population. The history of indigenous people should no longer be lingering in the background of US history, it should be brought to the forefront and properly addressed. Schools should be enforced to teach a curriculum that is more historically accurate. There should also be some form of land redistribution, where tribes can retain some of the land that they lost over the centuries. Lastly, reparations could be given to individuals as compensation for everything that they have survived and undergone.