Indigenous People Are More Than Background Noise
I Will Not Be Complicit In Erasing My People
Today is International Womxn’s Day, where the strength of femininity is highlighted throughout the world. From many cultures, we have a common provider - Mother Earth. Our existence as a people, as many people from multiple backgrounds would be impossible without Mother Earth. The majority of tribes on Turtle Island have long been Matriarchal societies since the beginning of time. Colonization from it’s very essence, has been an attack on the sacred recognition of femininity. It is the Tipi that represents the womb of Mother Earth. Severing Indigenous people from our Matriarchal roots reinforces White Supremacy.
As Indigenous people, we often find ourselves trying to conduct ourselves like Non-Natives in American Society. Sometimes the only way to further protect ourselves, our treaties, our culture, our heirlooms, our regalia, our intellectual property, our multiple gender identities, our languages, our water etc. is by joining the Eurocentric Education system. Getting a college degree and applying that degree has become quintessential in Indigenous Survival. Doing so helps protect our communities and even upholding Treaty Rights. We live in an age of “ The Woke “, where Indigenous people are often perceived by Non-Natives as overly dramatic or never satisfied. It is your American country that began in 1776 but our suffering that began in 1492. Reservation is a very sugarcoated description for a concentration camp. Native People have long been dealing with genocide, cultural genocide, the hair test, forced assimilation, rape, displacement and paper genocide. It is not only the introduction of smallpox on blankets that has plagued us but historical trauma and the ghosts of horrific atrocities done to us that are rarely ever acknowledged. It is very common for today’s people (even in inclusive safe spaces) to gaslight Indigenous people into never being centered on our own land. Often times we are expected to take a backseat in social justice movements and we are silently denied our humanity. Often times we are invited to these spaces only for the tokenization of having an Indigenous person sitting at the table. Yes, Native People have a fluctuation of human emotions and it is okay for Indigenous people to be upset about the atrocities we miraculously survived. Expecting Native people to need permission to be upset about what we survived, is having a Colonizer’s mentality. We are more than just spirit animals and convenient quotes encouraging us to stay quiet to maintain our peace. It is also important to note that many people of color often times are so colonized, that they reinforce colonization without even realizing it. In modern times, Colonization isn’t only maintained by European Americans. This is and will always be Native Land, from the top of North America to the bottom of South America. Regardless of the French, English or Spanish languages forced on Native people, this will always be Native Land. Let that truth echo through our Sacred Valleys.
If Non-Natives can find the importance of Land Acknowledgements, you can also learn to also be equally as receptive to Indigenous People’s Perspective acknowledgements. Yuè Clehona Begay , a Diné (Navajo) female Consultant, Artist, Advocate, Educator and Guest Speaker has also expressed the need for centering Indigenous people on our own land. “ Indigenous people were the last people in the U.S. to be legally allowed to practice our cultures and religious practices. In 2022, Indigenous people are barely experiencing a renaissance of modern culture, art and media. It is lifesaving to have indigenous people be centered “ expressed Yuè. We are so often expected to be put on the back burners and even when it comes to Indigenous art, it is often labeled as “ folk art. “ Even in such subcultures as the Indie Rock persuasion, there are music festivals in which attendees find themselves wearing headdresses and festival promoters use Ceremonial Tipis as V.I.P. lounges. At what point are Native People seen as more than just a people with natural or cultural resources to steal from? Have you not depleted us of our resources yet? This also applies to Non-Native fashion designers stealing textiles, cultural designs and intellectual property from Native People. The woke societies of the current times often address the issues of Gentrification but rarely acknowledge how everything from Native people, from medicine, to art and land has been gentrified. I myself happen to love indie rock but issues like these shouldn’t be so overlooked. When do we get to hear the term Indigenous Genius when referring to Indigenous people who created the syringe? When do we get to hear the term Indigenous genius when referring to the influence that Native people have long had on rock & roll, art, agriculture, medicine, wellness, the protection of natural resources and being eco-friendly for so long?
It is important to acknowledge that the Patriarchy is an attack on all beings feminine. When the Colonizers arrived and the largest Genocide to ever occur began, Two Spirits were some of the first to experience these atrocities. Many of our tribal communities began to lie about the existence of Two Spirit people to protect the Two Spirits in our Tribal communities. This lying about Two Spirits was so succesful, that many Tribal Cultures forgot the existence and Sacred roles that Two Spirits played in our tribal cultures. It is important to acknowledge that every tribe, even every band has their own distinct tribal cultures and customs. The Term “ Two Spirit “ was first introduced by Elder Myra Laramee in 1990. The term describes the oscillation of two spirits, two energies that both exist and drive a person in one physical body. This is a phenomenon recognized in many tribes with a name/s in multiple tribal languages, hence why an English translation was needed for general understanding. Impregnation via rape has been a long time common occurrence towards Indigenous Womxn, often times with one main goal: watering down bloodlines. Colorism has been applied to Indigenous people of “ The Americas “ in a very different way than other communities of color. During the 20th Century, a rule known as the “ One Drop Rule “ was applied to acknowledge anyone that has any bit of African ancestry as “ black” , completely denoting the justification of mistreating someone for being considered a person of color, even if they were white passing. Inhumane rules and mentalities such as these are an example of how cruel the Human Race can be. However, blood quantum and colorism when applied to Indigenous people has long been used to continue stripping Indigenous people of our indigeneity for having one drop less of Native Blood. Native People come in different colors, with different hair textures and we should always protect our people. This protection should always extend to our Afro-Indigenous siblings as well. These mentalities ensue, despite the fact that Indigenous people just so happened to survive genocide. Where is our Native American Holocaust Musem? We live in a society in which many people still look to Columbus with an heir of heroism. We live in a society that can’t even begin to comprehend Indigenous people and our difficult relationship with The Church. Look at what has happened just at Residential Schools. Can you blame us? Do you see an outcry for all of the dead Native children who were stolen from their families and never heard from again? Native American genocide is so normalized that the news of what has occurred at Residential Schools has been met with a desensitized silence. There are many stigmas that surround Indigenous people, one of which is that our lives are worth much less. That is why we rarely receive justice.
Indigenous people need more from social justice movements. We need more from POC spaces. We need more in places of education and higher learning. Indigenous people are more than just background noise. We should not be expected to be complicit in the erasing of our people. We need accurate history, empathy and understanding. Expecting Indigenous people to sit in on your organizations, panels, boards, discussions etc. should always be with the intention of hearing how American society can better meet the needs of Indigenous people on our Sacred Land.
by Marcy Angeles: Artist, Writer, Musician, Journalist & Public Speaker