The Effect of Settler Colonialism on Indigenous Peoples
- 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?
I think the most important thing that we can do is just to listen to Native voices. Hearing the first-hand accounts of the unlawful and inhumane treatment of Native Americans in the video about the Penobscot in Maine as well as in “Bounty” was difficult to hear, but also eye-opening to the horrifying treatment of Native Americans both in the times of the first colonizers to even the mid- to late- 20th century when children were taken from their parents and sent to live with foster families and attend boarding schools where they were forced to give up their culture and way of life. Indigenous people are the only ones that can determine what is offensive and what needs to be changed so asking them what we as a society can do and actually listening to them and putting plans into action is a good place to start. Confronting our nation’s history with Native Americans will never be an easy feat, but to fully confront our past we must work together to make a more welcoming and inclusive society wherein Native Americans feel that they can be both fully integrated members of society while proudly retaining their individual cultures.
- How do we address the stereotypes, misperceptions, the “twistory” that has been passed down among non-Native Americans about this population?
I think the most important misperception among non-Native Americans that needs to be addressed is the notion that they aren’t here anymore or that their tribes were all wiped out when the colonizers came to the Americas. Amplifying Native voices and having better representation in the media will help tremendously with the lack of awareness around the mere existence of Native peoples in our country, and learning about tribal communities in the 21st century will help clarify our perceptions of Native Americans. Promoting basic respect for other humans is always a good place to start, and having accurate curricula in which Native history is included will help educate the younger generations which is far easier than trying to get older Americans to unlearn harmful narratives and stereotypes. The removal of Native mascots and other harmful public representations will also help with this so people don’t associate being indigenous with a caricature.
- 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?
I think addressing genocide is always a difficult concept to face, but nevertheless it is an essential one. In Claudio Vaunt’s “The Invasion of America”, he addresses the 1.5 billion acres of land that were stolen from indigenous peoples in North America, and how little many Americans actually know about our nation’s unsettling past. An extremely harmful misconception that is believed and taught is that Native Americans no longer exist, when this simply is not the case, and Vaunt argues that the huge increase in Native-identifying people is not only because of population growth, but growing cultural pride and more people reclaiming their Native heritage. There are a lot of wounds that need to be healed, and we need to make amends in terms of land rights and blood quantum testing. Many Native Americans living on reservations have to deal with extreme poverty, little access to water and other resources, as well as living on barren land that isn’t the ancestral land of their peoples. Giving Native Americans the land rights that they deserve is a somewhat complex measure to take, but an important one out of respect for the people and out of recognition of our nation’s actions of deporting them to reservations. Another amendment to make is the cessation of blood quantum testing. This process undermines people’s Native identity, and without this more people will be able to proudly identify themselves as Native without having to prove it, which will help strengthen both tribal communities as well as our country’s relationship with them.
- 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?
Non-indigenous folks can become allies by making efforts to respect and support Native American representation and culture in mainstream society. Like in the video we watched today in class, it is also crucial to foster neighborly relationships with tribes and respect them as distinctive cultural groups. The video about the Penobscot in Maine and the TRC demonstrated this well, and the actions of the Maine state government should be an example of how all states can recognize and make amends with their Native American populations. Giving Native Americans a platform to share their stories and sharing them with others will help spread awareness for all of the traumatic marginalization and mistreatment that indigenous communities have had to endure throughout our nation’s history. Teaching accurate and inclusive indigenous history in schools is an important step to take, however I think that education within home settings, across social media, and in mainstream media is even more important. Indian Country Today’s article, “Deb Haaland seeks to rid US of derogatory place names,” explains how Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has been pushing for, removing harmful mascots, names, and branding to help to end the view of native culture as something to capitalize on and the derogatory view of native peoples. Respecting Native identity without the use of blood quantum testing is another way to further respect the Native-identifying people in our country. Indigenous voices need to be heard in more than just an academic setting and this will aid in integrating Native peoples into society while still respecting their distinctive cultures.