Before beginning this post, I would like to affirm that the best sources to learn about Indigenous people is from an Indigenous person. I am not an Indigenous person, and I only write from insights that I have gained through conversations I have held. Unless I am given express permission to recommend an individual to approach, I encourage my readers to seek an authentic, indigenous source for themselves. My voice, and this post is not meant to take the voice and conversation away from the best people to hear it from.
A part of the Black Lives Matter movement I was to address today is how it advocates for all people of color. No one, and no people should be overlooked when it comes to addressing inequality. Today, I would like to shed some light on the Indigenous People of the World with some terms and phrases that I have only become recently aware of myself, relatively speaking.
All Native Americans are a part of Indigenous People, but not all Indigenous are Native Americans. Indigenous populations exist across the globe as natives and tribes of their respective countries. Areas such as Canada, Mexico, and countries in South America such as Brazil and Guatemala to name a few.
One of the things that bothered me as a child was the story where Columbus discovered “America.” Yet there was already a civilization of tribes living on the land that he ineptly named “Indians” because he thought he had circumnavigated the Earth. He failed to succeed in his voyage to actual India, and he didn’t discover anything because you can’t discover somewhere that already has people settled upon it. The most Columbus can be hailed for is being the spearhead of an invasion of the land.
Subsequent to Columbus came a bunch of “settlers” and “colonizers” who encroached on the land in North America. I emphasize the words settlers and colonizers because those are the terms used on European descendants in Canada and the United States (respectively) to describe someone who has benefited from the forced relocation and genocide of Indigenous people across the continent. Someone with that mentality, believes in the white washed, picket fence, dreamy American fantasy that it was good that the original colonists settled this land. Willfully ignorant of the bloodshed of innocent people.
A lot of people will probably criticize this piece saying, “Well, they turned to violence.” To which I would point out the hypocrisy of being so quick to defend their own homes with a gun, the parallel is exact. The next time you say that you’re proud to be an American, in the back of your mind I want you to know the reality that what you’re actually saying is that you’re proud of undeserved privilege.
I have been in contact with a representative of the “Indian Law Resource Center,” concerning the statistics of the abuse that Indigenous Women suffer in the United States alone. According to an article published on their website in October 2018, approximately eighty four percent of Indigenous Women in the United States including Alaska are the victims of violent abuse. Fifty six percent of Indigenous Women also have reported being sexually assaulted at a point in their lives.
What can these women do? Call the cops? According to the same article, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was delayed. Therefore, enabling criminals to assault victims with impunity. The hearing for the act also highlighted barriers of an unfair criminal justice system with discriminatory practices that makes it difficult for the Indigenous community to get justice for crimes against them.
The article link is posted here: https://indianlaw.org/safewomen/IACHR-Hearing-2018
Doing something is often the stopping point for a lot of otherwise sympathetic people. Because sometimes we’re at a loss over the staggering, and overwhelming problem. Imagine the frustration of an indigenous person, who can’t get justice themselves. Because of the situation with the coronavirus we’re facing now, we’re anxious and afraid to find out what the “new normal” is going to be. Imagine how it was for a free civilization to have to adjust to the new normal of captivity on what was once their own land in “reservations,” and having your children abducted and forced into conformity in the religion and schools of the invaders.
This, in a large way, is why Native Americans are having to reconnect with their roots and ancestry. As I often say, I’m just trying to add my voice to their cause, but I don’t do any good if I’m not listening too. Therefore, if you wish to help, then the first step is listening. Ask someone who is in the Indigenous Community to tell you their experiences. And listen without judging according to your biases and let your beliefs be challenged. Truth outweighs beliefs, even if the truth is ugly and beliefs are beautiful.
Another action would be to financially donate to Indigenous causes. Not to assuage guilt, but to merely do the right thing. The Indian Law Resource Center has a donations tab on their website: https://indianlaw.org/
Another way of helping is to use the privilege that you have been granted, to add your voice to the Indigenous community. Wherever you are in the world, examine the plight of the Indigenous community, and if you feel moved to do something then ask one or more of them what you can do to help.
Just as much as Black Lives Matter, so does Indigenous Lives Matter everywhere.