By Jon Waterhouse with Mary Marshall
So. We come to the close of Native American Heritage Month.
In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution of Congress designating November “National American Indian Heritage Month,” and it has been so designated by every President and Congress since.
And yet, look at where we are today. Shockingly, we are reliving history! The worst parts of history!
The Native Americans of this country are fighting as “Water Protectors” against something we should all be fighting against: polluted water (get the background on Standing Rock). This fight goes beyond Standing Rock to places like Flint, Michigan and possibly to your own home town. In this month set aside to honor Native Americans, we have witnessed these proud People arrested and held in chain-link cages like you would use for animals. As they have gathered peacefully and exercised their constitutional rights, they have been shot with projectiles, percussion grenades, and sonic weapons. They have been tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, beaten, and assaulted with water cannons in subzero temperatures—by a fully militarized multi-state police force.
This treatment of Native Americans is a national disgrace.
What is their crime you ask? The same crime it’s always been. They were here first.
A quick review of history will tell you that as the European immigrants and their “manifest destiny” moved across this vast country, they encountered Native Americans. Driven by their greed, these new-comers demanded the original inhabitants step aside, and so conflict ensued. As the immigrants’ demands for more—always more!—land, gold, oil, etc., grew, so did this conflict, and it continues to today at the expense of honor, environment, health, and human rights.
This is happening right here in the good old U.S. of A. Are we—you, me—proud of this?
Native American men and women have defended the United States during wartime in greater percentages than any other demographic. And even though they were not allowed to be citizens until 1924, their intense patriotism has shone like a beacon. Once again, through their determination to protect the waters and lands of this country, they are showing us what true patriotism looks like.
It is time for the citizens and leaders of the United States to take a step back, take a good long look in the mirror, and ask, “Is this how I honor someone? Do I continue the legacy of genocide, cultural destruction, and broken treaties that began so long ago?”
If the answer is yes, ditch the Native American Heritage Month because it’s clear you don’t mean it.
If not, then there’s another question. Do you “Stand with Standing Rock,” alongside the Native Americans, as honorable warriors for human rights and the protection of the planet?
Please think about it.
Next, let me introduce you to Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe. Brian has been a friend for many years, but more importantly, he is a strong defender of justice. Here are his words on Standing Rock.
As always, thanks for reading.
—Jon & Mary