The truth is not always pretty. In fact, I believe that the truth is often grisly and uncomfortable. Why write this? Steering away from the hideous isn’t my style, especially when it involves something I have strong feelings for.
This isn’t going to be a cute post. I want to open a festering wound that holds an ugly American truth. You have to open a wound and scrub it before you can get true healing. The situation with the North Dakota Oil Pipeline and the struggle the Native Americans are experiencing is a symptom of a much larger and deeper issue.
What’s the big deal? This pipeline would carry 470,000 barrels of oil a day from the oil fields of western North Dakota to Illinois, that’s good business. Why are members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and members of many other nations fighting this? This is land nobody cares about right? So what if it goes through ancestral hunting and burial land?
Let’s put this in perspective. What if the same groups wanted to run these pipelines through the Arlington National Cemetery? You better believe the shit would hit the fan. Nobody would stand for it. The nation would be enraged and the media would be on it like flies on roadkill.
“But that isn’t the same, it’s a completely different scenario.”
How is it different? Special land, some might say sacred, that we use to honor and pay tribute to those that have gone before us. That sounds pretty similar to me. But there is one big difference between the two; we care about Arlington.
Is that ugly enough for you? We, the people, don’t care. It’s just a bunch of angry Native Americans that are looking for an excuse to act out.
What if I told you that we’ve been conditioned to ignore the plights of indigenous people?
History is written by the victor, we all know this. What if the Axis Powers won World War II? The Holocaust would have been swept under the historical rug much like the American Indian Genocide.
Is that an unfair correlation? Am I comparing apples and oranges? The Holocaust ended with the death of over 6 million Jewish people. It’s horrific, and I’m certainly not trying to downplay that atrocity. But there are some pretty daunting numbers with the American Indian genocide. Between 1492, and the late 1800’s when open warfare against the Native Americans ceased, conservative numbers estimate that more than 10 times the number of indigenous people who called this land home were killed.
“But that’s not what I learned in school!”
Don’t plan on looking at old text books to see what you learned in school, because that’s all bullshit.
After the Holocaust, many of the surviving Jewish people were given the option to go back to their homes. Native Americans were never given that option. Many of them now live on tiny portions of what had once been vast amounts of land, and many were forced to move to areas none of the white illegal immigrants wanted to have.
Oops… Did I use some sensitive language there? Yeah, I said it; white, illegal immigrants. My ancestors were also illegal immigrants. It is what is is. If this offends you, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. The truth is ugly.
“It wasn’t that bad…”
It wasn’t huh? We killed them. Slaughtered them. Take a look at the “Battle of Sand Creek”. A US volunteer cavalry with 675 brave men attacked a Cheyenne and Arapaho village, killing and mutilating an estimated 70-163 Native Americans, two-thirds of which were women and children. I hope you didn’t skip over the word mutilated.
The cavalry was led by U.S. Army Col. John Chivington, a Methodist preacher. He was officially quoted as saying; “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! … I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heaven to kill Indians. … Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.”
Then there was the Cultural Genocide. We often get our shorts twisted in knots when we see injustices outside of our borders, people not being able to hold on to their systems of beliefs and cultures, but we conveniently forget that this is exactly what we did to the Native Americans under the guise of helping these poor people grow and develop and join the modern world.
Many of the masterminds behind the Holocaust were tried for war crimes. Did the Native Americans ever receive anything similar? No. As the conquerors and authors of the history books, we sugar-coated everything, swept what we could under the rug, and continue to give the Native Americans insultingly minimalist reparations for what we’ve done.
Don’t believe me? The Supreme Court developed a distinction between aboriginal title and recognized title; interest could not be earned on awards based on aboriginal title. What does that mean? The federal government paid $5 million in 1975 for lands worth $5 million in 1865.
I’ll wrap things up because I could keep going and going. The problem is that we, as a nation, continue to not care about the plight of the children of this land we call home. Native Americans continue to receive minimal consideration. The American population as a whole is conditioned to ignore the acts perpetrated against them.
As has happened countless times in our history, the Native Americans are being taken advantage of and mistreated, their lands violated, but we the American people are more concerned about our reality TV shows and the admittedly ridiculous antics of the circus that is the Republican party presidential candidate.
The ugly wound that is apathy to the Native American people needs to be fixed. It won’t be easy because most Americans are adverse to discomfort. Well, this shit has to stop. It’s about time that we stop looking around the globe for causes we can easily support from our couches and our mobile phones, and start looking at the cause right in our back yard that deserves our time and attention. Most of us are immigrants to this land, we should respect and defend those that were here first.
As a side note, I am proud to say I have Native American blood running through my veins. It isn’t much. Very little in fact. But it is there and I’m proud of it.