This week, as some people in the United States celebrated the mythical 'Thanksgiving' dinner, Indigenous Peoples held a National Day of Mourning and continued their resistance to defend the land and water. As Native American, Matt Remle, writes: "Despite colonial efforts to exterminate, terminate, relocate, and assimilate Indigenous populations, Native communities continue to resist efforts to both desecrate Unci Maka and strip Native peoples of their languages, spirituality and communities." Settler colonialism continues to this day in the United States and around the world as do resistance efforts to reclaim what has been lost, including land, access to sacred sites, clean water, culture and sovereignty. Remle makes the point that non-Indigenous people benefit from this resistance. Around the world, Indigenous people are leading the way to end exploitation and build a better future for all of us.
On Monday October 10, when the nation celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day, D.C.-based peace activists transformed a prominent statue of Queen Isabella I of Castile by dressing her in traditional indigenous garments. The statue stands in Washington, D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood at the entrance to the headquarters of the Organization of the American States (OAS). Queen Isabella sponsored Christopher Columbus’ 1492 expedition that led to the extermination of millions of indigenous peoples, laying the foundation for Spanish colonialism and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The statue was gifted to the OAS in 1966 by the fascist leader of Spain, Francisco Franco. General Franco clearly looked to Queen Isabella as the embodiment of his own ideals, and of the right of Christian Europeans to rule as dictators over other peoples.
In 2019, 25% of Native Americans over the age of 25 had an associate degree or higher. When compared to 42% of all those over the age of 25, the gap is evident. Coupled with challenges that many Native higher education students face — including financial instability, the need for support in more ways than one is apparent. From the research done on the matter to the strides made in tuition assistance and how institutions of higher education can go the extra mile in creating a more inclusive academic environment, here’s what you should know. With regard to Native Americans and higher education data, one Forbes article notes that “Only 36.2% of Indigenous students entering four-year institutions of higher education in 2014 completed their degrees in six years, as compared to 60% of all other undergraduate students in the U.S.” While this highlights the fact that the matter isn’t a new issue, understanding the challenges behind low enrolment or graduation can largely be found in financial matters, according to newer research.
There used to be a time in occupied America when only whites were allowed to write, read, and publish books. In fact, when Europeans started occupying the continent in 1492, one of the first things they did was burn the thousands of existing books Indigenous people had written in an attempt to destroy peoples' existing relationship with books and their contained knowledges. According to those initial colonizers, destroying the written ensured we lost access to writing, to our ways of thinking, and to centuries-old acquired knowledges on mathematics, medicine, astronomy, maps, history, plant science, poetry, literatures, and even tax-records. Only four books survived the first 100 years of the occupation, in the entire continent.
How will you feel if someone promises to remove an injustice you have suffered for years, but in the end leaves you suffering even more than before? Something similar appears to be happening to tribal communities in India in the context of the Forest Rights Act 2006. They were promised by the government that the historic injustice caused to them in the context of arbitrary classification of some of their land as forest land during colonial times will be corrected now. To realize this they were asked to file claims for the land cultivated by them but whose legal ownership was stated to be that of the forest department, hence leading to frequent harassment and eviction attempts. After a decade of such attempts the picture that emerged was that that several hundred thousand tribal households may face eviction from a big part of the land earlier cultivated by them!
In the United States, the public and politicians are moving in opposite directions on climate change. Grassroots environmental activism is spreading on the local state, regional and national levels, while Congress generally continues with a “business-as-usual” approach, rejecting the foremost way to avoid the worst consequences of global warming: the Green New Deal. While the Green New Deal remains aspirational in the U.S., it has been adopted by the European Union, and scores of countries around the world have committed to pursuing its goals. Among the many organizations in the U.S. fighting for environmental sustainability and a just transition toward clean, renewable energy is Native Movement, an organization dedicated to building people power for transformative change and imagining a world without fossil fuels.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic on September 26, 2020 during the General Debate of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves said that [...] the international campaign for reparatory justice, widely promoted by governments across our Caribbean Community and by social activists within the industrialized metropoles, must form part of any serious efforts to achieve the sustainable development agenda […]. On November 3, 2020 during the "Peacebuilding and sustaining peace" debate organized by the United Nations Security Council the President of the "CARICOM Reparations Commission" Hilary Beckles [...] called on the Council to acknowledge the global reparatory movement, adding that while most crimes against humanity were committed in past, the current century will be one of peace and justice […].
In Washington state, nestled in a habitat corridor linking the Cascades to the Rockies, in the heart of the Tunk Creek Valley, there’s a conservation story that is closely tied to the peoples connected to this land—and continues to breathe with the transfer of Indigenous lands back to the original stewards. It takes place on a large ranch, owned by the Figlenski family for over four generations, who have their own stories connected to the valley. As generations of the Figlenski family began to pass away, Ernie Figlenski knew he’d only let go of the property under the conditions it would still be intact as well as healthily managed—unlike some nearby properties that have been broken apart and transferred without preservation in mind.
In 1901 the soon to be first president of the American Anthropological Association wrote that “through observation of a typical [Native American] tribe,” it was clear that “the savage stands strikingly close to sub-human species in every aspect.” An outgrowth of the pseudoscientific theory of racial and cultural hierarchy, William McGee’s words in American Anthropologist, anthropology’s flagship academic journal, echoed racist 19th-century views that justified mistreatment of Indigenous communities and propped up arguments for eugenics. In the decades that followed, anthropologists continued to support racist agendas, appropriate cultural knowledge, and steal material objects and human remains belonging to Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas in the name of scientific research.
For over 50 years, the Daybreak Star Cultural Center at Discovery Park has been a space for local Native Americans to connect and celebrate their culture. Whether gathering to attend their annual powwow or Indigenous People’s Day celebration, or perhaps visiting art exhibits or attending one of their many cultural events throughout the year, Natives of all ages, and from multiple tribes across the nation, have shared laughs, stories, tears, traditions, artwork and meals with one another at Daybreak Star. The cultural center has earned a special place in the hearts of many. The Daybreak Star Cultural Center is headquarters to the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 1970, when a collective of over 100 urban Seattle Natives reclaimed Indigenous land near the Magnolia neighborhood, which would then become Discovery Park.
“I cannot sign anything that would permit extractive research”, a Nicaraguan Miskitu scholar- activist told us in response to our request for consent to use the information he shared and demanded a commitment to right relations. “I have given you not just my words, my analysis, my history and my experience, but that of the Miskitu communities I walk with. What do you offer us in return?” He needed a guarantee that we were not “extracting knowledge like others extracting timber and land from Miskitu communities.” After he spoke, seconds passed, seconds that felt like forever. We replied in our own way about our individual and institutional practices, highlighting our broader commitments to co-research, resource sharing, and non-extraction with other Indigenous and marginalized communities.
On Wednesday, March 9, the government of Denmark paid an official apology to the Inuit children from Greenland who were part of a failed 1950s social experiment conducted by the Danish government. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Wednesday officially apologized to the six Inuit people still alive among the 22 Inuit children of Greenland who were sent to Denmark as part of the social experiment by the Danish authorities to make those children “model” Greenlanders and to assimilate the Indigenous culture. The Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community of the People) party in Greenland congratulated the Inuit people for their decades-long struggle for justice and dignity which forced the Danish government to finally apologize and offer compensation.
Over the last two years, there has been much discussion of a national “reckoning” on race. There can be no complete reckoning without strong analysis and substantive action to address the economic marginalization of Native Americans in 21st century America. Through years of intentional governmental policies that took away their lands and resources, American Indians have been separated from the wealth and assets that were rightfully theirs. Today, we see a consistent lack of information on Native Americans and their socioeconomic issues.
America’s original sin of settler colonialism and indigenous genocide has left an indelible mark on the country to this day, especially on the remaining members of Native American tribes. Our revisionist retellings of this critical part of our history also continues to harm all of us and the land on which we live. Tribal leaders like Greg Sarris, who is serving his 15th term as Tribal Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in California, however, understand that to chart a sustainable path forward, America needs not only to acknowledge its painful past but also root its future plans in indigenous knowledge. This is part of what the Sonoma State University professor and novelist powerfully explores in his upcoming memoir, “Becoming Story: A Journey among Seasons, Places, Trees, and Ancestors.”
The negligence of our nation’s history has allowed for the continued racist representation of Native Americans, specifically when discussing their representation as mascots in amateur and professional sports. Several scholars have chosen to raise awareness to the ongoing misrepresentation and racist imagery that is present in amateur and professional sports by arguing against the allowance of such images, claiming such representation to be a by-product of a postcolonial society that allows for cultural imperialism, where the idea of Native American lives and presence are simply a thing of the past and not of the present day. The continued misrepresentation and racist portrayal that has plagued Native American communities simply reinforces a false image that does not fully and adequately reflect Native American cultures, peoples, epistemologies, and complexities.