I’ve been away for about a week in South Dakota. My lala’s memorial happened on Friday so it was great to be with my family in Lakota country. However, the posts, and organizational emails of non-violent direct actions kept me plugged in with what was about to happen Friday night and Saturday. While trying to comprehend my own feelings about this memorial, while trying to be there for my family and enjoy the celebration of my lala’s life, my mind was also in Charlottesville over the weekend. Here are just some of my thoughts as I am still trying to process what occurred.
White Supremacy has always existed. This isn’t breaking news. For some, that may be the case.
To abolish it, is for America to acknowledge and recognize the wrong in what’s been done in our history. This is Trump’s America, now. This is action, behavior, and true colors showing, no longer blanketed by the bullshit and naïve thoughts that racism doesn’t exist anymore, that it ended with the Civil War or that it ended during the Civil Rights Movement. Many people praise the actions of people like, Martin Luther King Jr, John Trudell, Amanda Blackhorse and Dorothy Height, for their voice, and courageous actions, yet when confronted with situations where minorities, people of color are targeted and hurt, they remain silent, which is just as bad. So what we saw in Charlottesville, is nothing new, when you look at the big picture. Yes, it was crazy, disturbing, and heartbreaking to see, in 2017, but it seemed to wake a lot of people up. YES, wake up! Open YOUR eyes. While what happened over the weekend was horrifying and tragic, the same happened in Standing Rock, but racism and inhumane treatment came from North Dakota and the federal government. Treaty violations, militarized police, tear gas, mace, rubber bullets, water hoses in freezing temperatures, tanks, dogs, and more…. violating human rights and on the wrong side of justice. In the wake of the elections, and then Trump becoming President, more hateful words and actions arose towards my family, friends, me, and water protectors. What was happening was wrong. However, more allies came.
Let me set the record straight, this isn’t an attack on all white people. I don’t blame all of you for what happened in Charlottesville, let alone in our history. The root of the problem is way beyond that. The amount of support myself, my family, and friends of color receives is amazing. My inner circle, is representative of all sorts of backgrounds, and I LOVE IT. My family raised me to see no difference in who we are as beings. I love everyone. I was raised traditionally. I grew up in South Dakota until I was 10, where it wasn’t until I was older, that I realized that it was definitely one of the racist states I’ve been to/lived in, and my parents tried to protect me from that. Then we moved to Maine, where I was out of my element, away from my family, away from my roots, and just a Lakota girl in a rural community that had some generational racism and just pure racism. I’ve had inter-racial relationships, where rude, ignorant comments were made about our relationship. It’s there, whether it’s out of ignorance, or plain and simple racism. Racism has been there, white supremacy is there, where both are able to exist from the protected bubble of complacency and naïve thinking that people have created for it.
The race card gets played a lot, or the fact that I am Native American, an Indigenous woman, gets placed on me before I have a chance to use my voice. I’ve been accused of being an Indigenous woman with some sort of “white woman wrong doing to me” that I have an axe to grind apparently, all because I have a strong voice and didn’t appreciate the gravity of the situation that was happening before me. My only excuse was that I felt disrespected and that communication was lacking. That can’t be used as an excuse and it’s a bit disturbing.
I’ve always been open-minded and have always had a big heart, which I’ve learned to be a bad thing sometimes because it gets taken for granted a lot. Yet, I always forgive and continue to see beyond that. It’s the complicit behavior in these terrorizing, inhumane, racist actions that need to stop that shouldn’t be forgiven, but we are humans, and we want a future that is better. So we keep fighting back, we keep putting ourselves out there with a big heart, trying to change the world. It’s more non-racist white people that need to stand up though. As Gyasi Ross mentioned over the weekend, “white racism is a white problem and it should be 100% non-racist whites who put their lives and freedom on the line to shut racists down.” Indigenous people, people of color, minorities are fighting every day for acknowledgement, existence, respect and equality. They are on the frontlines fighting back and risking their lives against a system and against wealth that is targeting them. With more allies coming forward and seeing the injustice happening on social levels, but also on government, corporate, and institutional levels as well, we can truly work towards abolishing racism.
But this also brings me to mention that racism and segregation happens within our own racial groups, against each other, and against those who have wronged us. That is a behavior that must change as well. For Indigenous People, we have to be open-hearted. While the difficulty of that notion may be thwarted away due to generational trauma, forced assimilation, forced relocation, massacres, and termination efforts, we have every reason to be weary and have distrust in the government, and non-Indigenous people. But we can’t hold onto to the past. We shouldn’t forget it, but we shouldn’t have that be a driving force in our inability to move forward and strengthen our own circles, and relationships with non-Indigenous peoples. I’ve had many comments made to me by Indigenous men, saying that I am letting my people down by dating a white man, that I am committing genocide, that I am unworthy of being a Native woman. It’s outrageous the comments I receive sometimes and it used to really bother me. Ninety-eight percent of the time they assume that I am dating that person in the picture, well, who the hell cares. That is my business. Comments I’ve seen friends and family go through of “not being native enough, not being dark enough, they must not be full blood” and so forth happens a lot, and it’s not right. These inter-racial group attacks and racism, among our own, is creating another divide within our own, where we are often sometimes holding ourselves back from progress. We must find a way to work together and help each other.
Indigenous peoples have been fighting white supremacy since time immemorial. We were free of it pre-1492. It’s 2017 and we are still fighting for our treaty rights and fighting to exist. When Indigenous lives are acknowledged and respected, while being held accountable for the atrocities that happened to them, which is the very foundation of America… then the rights of all lives matter. Don’t forget how this country was created. From Indigenous genocide on a variety of levels, slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynching, police brutality, KKK, a history of systematic racism exists.
If what you saw over the weekend in Charlottesville made you upset, angry, sad, hurt, and outraged, GOOD. Feel that, because that’s what I feel when I see people being targeted, and the wrong people being protected. That’s what I felt every day, watching my relatives in Standing Rock fighting against big money, and corruption, yet, the wrong people were being protected, and peaceful, unarmed protectors were targeted. Like I said, feel that. And do something about it. Don’t sit back, don’t be complicit. For those that know me, I organize for what I believe in. Label me an activist or whatever, but I organize to protect and defend what I believe in. In no way am I asking you to do the same as me or the lovely souls I work with for justice on a variety of issues, but all rooted in protecting the people. I ask that you don’t remain silent, when you see something happening, don’t turn the channel, don’t turn your head away, or change the topic, talk about it, send letters, call your representatives, etc. Many people, some who are my friends, and people I organize with for social and environmental justice, were there that Friday night and Saturday. Many people from all backgrounds and groups were there to fight back. Doesn’t matter the color of their skin to me, they were there to defend and protect against White Supremacy. They were there to stand up to racists, to stand against those in polo shirts, khaki shorts, confederate flags, the KKK and neo-nazi’s. For all there this weekend, thank you. Lila wopila tanka.
Facism and white supremacy will not survive. We will fight back. The fight for sustainable and just solutions for a better future is something we can do, right now.