You’ve probably heard his name before. What image does it conjure for you? A brutal hate crime? A martyr? And if you have not heard his name till now, I’m sure that you have heard stories all too similar to his because there are far too many of them. Matthew’s is not the first, nor is it the last.
In the days leading up to Thanksgiving in Canada, you’ll often see social media flooded with more posts and memes about First Nations’ rights, land theft, and colonialism. That the indigenous peoples of Canada were here first is common knowledge, and that settler society has done harmful and racist things against First Nations people is well-known. But there is still a fairly large gap in the general understanding of what, exactly, happened—and about what issues First Nations people in Canada continue to face.
The United States of America has a unique government in many aspects. While democratic republics are common in our modern world, the idea was radically different from any government or nation that surrounded it during the time of its founding. Its radical approach to individual liberty went on to inspire the liberation of countries all around the world.
Before I dive into this topic, a quick disclaimer is in order: I am a white woman. I speak on these topics from an academic position, not from personal experience. I do have a BA in Native Studies, and owe a lot of my foundational knowledge about First Nations issues and history to my First Nations professors and their colleagues: Dr. Roland Chrisjohn, Shaunessy McKay, and Tanya Wasacase. I have built on this knowledge with careful research, and have made an effort to include more indigenous voices within those sources. The reason I want to write about these issues is because I feel it is important to use my voice to help dispel misconceptions and misinformation.
I grew up on a combination of Military Bases all over the United States, and in junior high my family settled in South Central Louisiana. Just before moving to the South we lived on a military base near Rapid City South Dakota. This was an enlightening experience for me as it was my first glimpse of prejudice.
The View from the Dumpster, About Clotilda, and My Original Intent
Up until the 1960s when you thought of Christian activists and protesters, certain images came to mind. Volunteers in soup kitchens trying to help the homeless, marchers asking for civil rights and women's suffrage, and if you went back even further, those who demanded humane treatment for society's outcasts, according to NPR. Before that, Christian activists were the men and women who deeply desired an end to slavery. After the 1970s, though, that tune changed. In the post-Vietnam era, Christian activists started staging more aggressive protests. They traded in, turning the other cheek for fire and brimstone, and with every generation the rhetoric grew more intractable, fearful, and hate-filled. This was the rise of the Christian Right, which has driven policies like opposition to civil rights for LGBTQ+ people, the restriction of abortion, and other attempts to combine their faith with the law of the land.
I will never forget where I was when 9/11 happened. I was just waking up.
This morning as I drove into work I couldn’t help but think of all of those who made it into work 18 years ago thinking it was just another day at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or were boarding United Airlines Flight 93. I wondered about how their week was going. September 11th, 2001 was a Tuesday; were they starting the week on the right foot or did it already feel like this week was ten weeks long?
My father’s parents settled in Allensworth, California as near as I can confirm around the 1940s. Granny Annie as we called her had a little white house with an outhouse in the back. The summer of 1960 we began our Tradition of visiting her every other Sunday. I dreaded these visits, because Granny did not have a TV, and there was nothing to do out there except count the tumbleweeds. I resigned myself to this Journey as long as we got home in time to see The Wonderful World of Disney, which came on TV at 7 PM.
Politics have existed since creation. A school of thought thinks that God Almighty himself is a politician, because he had long-term animosity with the devil himself, Satan, who was clearly not a demon until the 'war.' They said the two sides could have saved the situation by arranging the disputes between them. After this "Heavenly War," politics have been a part of humanity.
I love a good conspiracy, and YouTube is littered with documentaries that would make Oliver Stone weep. I should know, I swallowed up the 1991 Oscar nominated film like an apostle to scripture. But while my proclivities to be initially peaked hasn’t been diminished, I’ve become more discerning. Case Closed by Gerald Posner took care of the rest of my irrational leanings, and closed the book on JFK by simply presenting the known facts.