trigger warning for painful history // disclaimer: I write this from a place of privilege. I am not speaking for any communities, but rather on what I wish I would have learned while going through school. This post should encourage you to do your own research rather than having folks relive their traumas in telling you about historical events.
I understand that feeling of helplessness. We were not here when our friends and neighbors’ ancestors, and even our own ancestors, were met with horrific injustices. We cannot change the past. So many of us spend each waking minute trying to aid others and rectify it, but a handful of folks may ask why they have this responsibility when they, personally, did not cause pain in the first place.
The art of storytelling can be useful, but also harmful when used to desensitize and/or sensationalize historical events. Keeping this in mind, this is likely unintentional. In school, we were taught about wars, depressions, inventions, endemics/epidemics/pandemics, and more as though they were some faraway tales. Our teachers had us focusing on the pilgrims in their fight for freedom while they were committing Indigenous genocide. We were all taught that slavery was bad, and that racism is bad, but we were not provided with action steps to ensure that these atrocities did not continue. We sat next to our peers from different backgrounds, who could’ve had very different lives at home, and took notes on events that literally made their families suffer. Knowing what I know now, I wish that my classmates and I were pushed to question and be more critical of this.
Perhaps the worst part is that everything is processed from Americanized and western viewpoints, and the United States was always seen as the hero in events that happened both domestically and internationally. Every lesson had a heavy coat of sugar. Every issue was provided with a resolution as though it was eradicated completely in modern day. Influential people were placed on pedestals without addressing the involved nuances. Given all of this, can we really ponder why we expect every situation and person involved to be perfect?
Furthermore, little content regarding events that were happening in other parts of the world was included. Relations between countries to the East, refugee crises and displacement, and more were rarely mentioned. While this is disappointing, it is also relieving because these would have been explored from, again, an Americanized point of view. They would have been explored from a colonizer point of view. They would have been “othered.” Higher education allows for more opportunities, but these opportunities are choices. These topics are shaped by those who teach it. Like I have mentioned in previous posts, one can be grateful for the life they have here, or anywhere in the west, while understanding that this light is accompanied by a lot of dark.
We cannot occupy the spaces we do without recognizing the land on which we stand. I have spent too much of my life sitting inside of buildings learning about these events, playing outside, shopping, and eating at home and in restaurants to not be conscious of this now. Gender justice, reproductive justice, educational justice, environmental justice, medical justice, and so much more cannot be achieved without including every community. The Indigenous community is often forgotten. Indigenous women are often missing and murdered. The land on which Native folks live and treasure is constantly in danger for the sake of someone else (frequently corporate, frequently white). We must also recognize that these injustices have occurred worldwide. Indigenous folks are treated horribly wherever one might look.
Obviously, thoroughly processing history rather than overlooking it comes with painful pills to swallow. Feeling the joy one needs to feel, or taking a few moments to unwind one’s mind, is essential. Happiness does not need to be removed from awareness. A large part of processing history is reminding oneself to do their best to take care of someone else who has, and whose ancestors have, faced much worse when they are in the emotional, mental, physical, and financial space to do so.
Once you are ready to hold yourself and those around you accountable, I urge you to invest your time, money, and other resources into your BIPOC & LGBTQ+ communities. Your pills are minuscule compared to the horrors that these folks have faced. This post is tailored to those who live in the United States for the most part, but I know that some readers may reside in other countries. Someone around you needs help. The time is long overdue to learn about it.
Most importantly, ask these communities what they need rather than assuming. The savior complex is very real and we should all be careful to not slip into it. I cannot speak for the Indigenous community, but I hope that what I have listed below helps. If any Indigenous folks read this and would like to add/remove/edit a resource, please reach out to me!
resources for Indigenous folks & those looking to help (thank you to those of you who assisted in compiling these resources – some were also shared by influencers on Instagram over the long weekend // this list is non-exhaustive, just a few ideas):
– reminder to stay tuned to news and social media for mutual aid efforts
– donate to Honor the Earth and support them in their efforts to stop Line 3
– Minneapolis American Indian Center has resources such as the Golden Eagles Program
– Native American Community Clinic
– visit Pow Wow Grounds in Minneapolis (takeout currently available)
– Urban Native Era
– Birchbark Books
– Indigenous films & documentaries: Gather, Boy, Princess Ka’iulani, The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open, Whale Rider, Rhymes for Young Ghouls (Mi’kmaq), Angry Inuk, Mekko (Seminole-Muscogee), Indian Horse, Lorena, Light Footed Woman, Mahana, Smoke Signals
– books: Whereas by Layli Long Soldier, Our History is the Future by Nick Estes, Waterlily by Ella Cara Deloria (check out this list from Penguin as well on must-reads)
– music: search “Native American Music” on Spotify to support native artists along with these playlists called Indigenous Peoples’ Day is Every Day, Indigenous, and Native American Heritage Month (these are just *some* suggestions – so much more to find)