Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy Indigenous People Day!

Happy Indigenous People Day!

Doesn't quite roll off the tongue like Happy Columbus Day, but Indigenous language in this country doesn't exactly roll off our tongues either, so maybe it's just as well we have to work a little harder to say it. 

Now, there's all sorts of stuff about the real Cristoforo Colombo/Cristóbal Colón/Cristóvão Colombo/Christopher Columbus you may or may not the first name on the list above is the name he was born with in 1451 Genoa, Italy. We think. He may or may not have been Jewish, but his voyages were probably funded by wealthy Jews in Spain. And it's also pretty certain that one or more of his crewmen were Jewish fleeing Spain on the day the Inquisition was enacted.

But none of that changes anything that happened once he got here. This guy opened the door to exploration of a New World, and doing what Europeans do best, he planted a flag in the name of the Spanish Crown and declared ownership over land he clearly had no legal right to gift to anyone. 

Cristoforo lived and died; his work was carried forward by many others: Pizarro, Cortez, DeSoto....just to name a few...and none of those guys entered into any negotiations with the people who lived in their own world on their own terms. Living their own lives. Speaking their own languages. Worshiping their own gods. Doing the same stuff people in Europe did to protect their own and raise their kids. Sure, they had fights with the neighbors and there were local wars, but for the most part, their lives were no different from any other community in Europe, Asia, Africa, or anywhere else human lived. 

Cristoforo did not discover this new world, he merely ran aground on it. And the rest is disheartening history.

Across South, Central, and North America, there were attempted and all too often successful attempts at ethnic cleansing and genocide. Governmental archives in every single new world country are littered with documents that suppressed, robbbed, humiliated, or destroyed indigenous lives. These ballsy newcomers took their land without so much as a by-your-leave and forced millions of indigenous residents to leave their traditional homes. I suppose Dr. Ben Carson, Cavalcade Clown, will chalk this up to the Native Americans not being armed before their economic and physical holocaust. See, the Second Amendment didn't apply to them...any more than any other part of the Constitution. 

I don't like the Washington DC football team being called the Redskins. That's just disrespectful. The Fighting Sioux of North Dakota was referred to the local Sioux tribes for a referendum, but the name was retired in 2009. Generally racist logos (see Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves) also need to go. It's time to own up to our own apartheid, shameful past in regard to our own Indigenous Peoples. And this applies to Central and South America as well.

Abuses directed solely at native populations have not stopped. Reservations remain in the United States, and there are still too many anti-Indian laws on too many books. The first step in owning our participation in the wholesale genocide of our own local populations is to ditch Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous People Day. It's a small and insignificant step, but it's a first step.

What no Black American would ever tolerate, we ask our Indigenous peoples to not just tolerate, but accept as the status quo. We think we're helping when state legislatures permit tribes to open casinos.  That is nothing more than a band-aid and a lousy one at that. 

If We, the People want to do something hand-in-hand with the many Indigenous tribes, we should be spending a boatload of money on restoration of language and the preservation of indigenous cultural heritage. Minnesota and Montana are just two states that offer language immersion programs for native language. There are federal laws about providing instruction in Native American language, but it's not even close to being enough.

There can be no meaningful conversation about multi-culturalism in these here United States, unless it begins with and strongly includes the condition of ALL indigenous tribes. They are the ones relegated to ghettos. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, there are currently 334 reservations in operations, and about one-third (700,000) Native Americans live on the "res." Of that one third, approximately 28.4% live below the poverty line.  The graph on the left gives you a pretty good idea about housing on the res. 

So here's the thing: a website called THE STATE OF WORKING AMERICA - POVERTY cites the following statistics:
Among racial and ethnic groups, African Americans had the highest poverty rate, 27.4 percent, followed by Hispanics at 26.6 percent and whites at 9.9 percent. 45.8 percent of young black children (under age 6) live in poverty, compared to 14.5 percent of white children.
That statement seems wrong. Something is missing. It may be close, but it's wrong. And it's wrong because it reinforces the idea that Native Americans are invisible....because they are. 

I know it's not a popular or even a readily acceptable idea...but their lives matter, too. If we're going to have the conversation about the other, then our indigenous population must be included in this conversation. Not to do so, would be apartheid in the classic sense of the world.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day
You cannot be invisible unless you are giving yourself permission
to be invisible. And even then, it doesn't always work. 

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