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We stand in a time teeming with unprecedented events.
Historically, it is a time I see as radical disclosure. It is
not a landscape of beautiful scenic views, nor is it a
fictional depiction in a random story. It is however about
Greed has unleashed the Black Snake, also known as
the DAPL. As it crawls across Sacred ground, at some
point, it will erupt and spew across the land and into
our water, contaminating everything it touches. The
Black Snake in itself is a horrifying entity of threat.
However, the insatiable hunger for money and power continues to supersede this threat and any rational thought of protecting the environment.
Sadly, other serpent contamination is spreading, an infestation of hate, racism and denial conveniently known as alternative facts. The eyes of the world are watching as it continues to escalate elements of shock and outright fear, as well as inspiring empowerment and change. The onslaught of manic behaviors of racism and pure hatred are unfortunately closer to the ‘norm’ to most Indigenous people. Manifest Destiny and doctrines of hate have allowed elitist to lay claim in alarming ways for over five hundred years. Is this acceleration any surprise?
Look at the facts. Five hundred plus years of enforced occupation and atrocities committed against First Nations people, yet U.S. citizenship did not occur until 1924. Adding to the biased attitude, each state dictated the Native right to vote until 1957. The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 lent some protection, however it does not give Native people all of the guarantees of the Bill of Rights. Thirty-nine years ago in 1978, the creation of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was enacted to protect and preserve the traditional religious rights and cultural practices of our people. Now, in some circumstances, even that is debatable. Currently our First Amendment rights are at great risk. The First Amendment, adopted in 1791, protects and guarantees five of our most basic liberties. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and the freedom to petition the government, to right wrongs. This is the core of the Constitution, and challenging these rights is abhorrent.
Looking at the right to vote, the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, gave Black men the right to vote. However, the right to vote for women, including women of color, would not occur until 1920. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 meant to put an end to any election practices that denied the right to vote based on one’s race or ethnicity. The extension to the Voting Rights Act signed by President Ford in 1975 ended the discrimination against Native Americans, Spanish speaking Americans, Blacks, Alaskan Natives and Asian Americans. Prior to the 1975 extension, officials used a literacy test to disenfranchise minority people or those in a perceived lower class. The tests were widely used in the South, in attempts to prevent minority voters, in particular Blacks to have any access to power. The thirty-question test had a 10-minute time limit and the answers were subjective to the whims of the officials. A single wrong answer disqualified a potential voter. In 2014, a group of Harvard students attempted to pass the 1964 literacy test previously administered in Louisiana. None of the Harvard students passed the test, a test designed for failure.
It is offensive to realize the extent of exclusion of Indigenous people in regards to basic human and civil rights, including the right to vote. The insult is deep, considering the substantial influence by tribal governances and American Indian political theory on the formation of the U.S. Constitution. [American Indian Constitutions and Their Influence on the U.S. Constitution, Professor Robert J. Miller, Eastern Shawnee Tribe, https://amphilsoc.org/sites/default/files/proceedings/Miller_0.pdf
Radical actions are occurring and rarely without extreme consequences. However, the fanatical behaviors and misguided blame joining racism, bigotry, misogyny and greed are beyond repugnant. It lies in direct opposition to a free democratic society.
When did protecting the environment and our way of life become wrong? Why do those in authoritative positions see this as a criminal action? Is it wrong to want clean air and water? Is it wrong to believe we are all equal and deserve fair treatment, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs? Is it wrong to be angry about immigration, fences, selective facts, and media censorship? NO, it is not wrong. We deserve more.
Reprimanded many times as a child to stay quiet, in a likely attempt to keep me out of trouble, and out of the way of an alcoholic rage, I shut down. In the bigger picture, that action led me to believe my voice, my words were not worthy and for a long time, I stayed silent. There were consequences, painful reminders of my silence.
I readily admit the journey was slower than I would have preferred, but the lessons and experiences along the way were gifts of discernment and objective perception, at the very least. I owe a debt of gratitude for my late Elder for her wise counsel years ago, to speak out, to speak my truth with honor.
The events dividing this country have contributed to me in ways I did not expect. I can sum it up into three words … Galvanized. Reclaimed. Renewed.
Silent no more.