Tn the day after the 2020 presidential election, a CNN graphic dominated my Facebook news feed. Illustrating voter turnout, it included the phrase “something else” to refer to voters who are not white, Latin, black or Asian.
Many Native Americans, quick to unite around a reason to laugh, responded with their own graphics and memes, playfully and sarcastically congratulating each other.
In reality, however, people were angry with yet another case of erasure – and the chosen phrase, which promoted Indigenous invisibility on the national stage when there were so many stories that could have amplified it. importance of Native American participation in the electoral process.
This year, a record six Native Americans were elected to Congress.
Indigenous voters have also played a crucial role in the Democratic Party’s success in major swing states. Flipping Arizona, which has turned blue for the second time in 70 years, can be credited to the state’s aboriginal vote. The approximately 67,000 eligible voters in the Navajo Nation ran for Biden at a rate of 60% to 90%, which far exceeded his lead of 12,813 votes in the state.
CNN’s insult was particularly ironic given that it is also Native American Heritage Month. Beyond stories of voter turnout, it’s time for mainstream media, cultural and political institutions, and all Americans to consider ways to increase engagement with Native American peoples and nations. Research by the nonprofit IllumiNative finds that 87% of state-level history standards do not cover indigenous people in a post-1900 context and that 78% of Americans want to know more about indigenous peoples, contemporary cultures and histories.
My own desire to facilitate these reflections and expand the space for Indigenous narratives led me to pursue an oral history project with the non-profit organization Voice of Witness. Over the past three years in cities and on reserves and reserves across the continent, I have listened to and published the stories of loss, injustice and resilience of Indigenous peoples in the continued struggle to protect the land, indigenous rights and life. From the intergenerational legacy of residential schools, to the impact of environmental destruction on fishing, hunting and traditional ways of life, to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, I hope these stories of resistance will be transferred to American schools. and public discourse. They offer alternatives to over-narrated tales such as the absolute and historically inaccurate Thanksgiving tale.
There are so many more stories to hear and a lot more work to do. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Remember, we all occupy tribal lands. You can learn about the traditional territory you live in using the searchable map developed by Native Land Digital. Research the indigenous peoples who historically occupied the land, who do so now, and the history of how it was stolen.
2. Make a Land Reconnaissance to raise awareness of the presence of Indigenous Peoples and to recognize our continuing relationship with the land. For a guide on how to observe this practice, visit landacknowledgements.org. However, don’t let recognition of the land be a symbolic gesture. Know your story and remember that recognition must also be a commitment to act for a more just future.
3. Read the work of Indigenous writers such as Tommy Orange, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Lee Maracle, Terese Marie Mailhot, Vine Deloria Jr, Louise Erdrich and N Scott Momaday to find out how Indigenous people represent themselves and their cultures, histories and communities. Indigenous lives are often only covered if individuals are part of the 4 Ds: drumming, dancing, drunk or dead. Indigenous writers offer more balanced representations of our lives.
4. Advocate that your local school boards include Native Americans children’s literature, history and perspectives in the program, especially those of local tribes. If you are a teacher, add more native content to your curricula. As the United Nations declares, a lack of respect and resources for indigenous cultures can lead to a critical education deficit. Start with these free lesson plans exploring colonization and contemporary Indigenous experiences.
5. Even if your formal education has not made room for indigenous knowledge, it is not too late. Search #NativeTwitter to find Indigenous users, opinions and events. To follow @ IdleNoMore4, @WinonaLaDuke, @The_Red_Nation, @repdebhaaland, @repdavids, @NDNCollective, @jnoisecat, @CrystalEchoHawk, @SimonMoyaSmith, @apihtawikosisan and others.
6. Support your local Indian center. You can find them in Los Angeles, Toronto, Denver, Winnipeg, Chicago, Oakland, New York, Victoria, Minneapolis and many other cities in North America.
seven. Donate money or time to native-led programs and organizations. For example, you can support the work of the National Resource Center for Indigenous Women to end the crisis of violence against Indigenous women, girls and Two Spirit; or the work of the Bear Clan Patrol, a grassroots initiative that promotes safety and support for the Aboriginal people of Winnipeg. Check out the Native American Community Response Fund to support those who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
8. Strip! Avoid banks, like Wells Fargo and Chase, which violate Indigenous treaty rights by funding environmentally devastating fossil fuel developments. Visit the Indigenous Environmental Network for an overview of the case for divesting from fossil fuels, tips on how to contact CEOs and executives, and steps to divest and reinvest.
9. Campaign and vote for indigenous candidates at all levels of government – we need greater representation at local, state and national levels. Also demand more from currently elected governments; advocate for policies and laws that support Indigenous communities. Add your voice to the movement for the appointment of Representative Deb Haaland as the First Native American Secretary of the Interior.
ten. Learn about the Land Back movement, which aims to restore land stolen from Indigenous nations. If you wish to repatriate land, cultivate relationships with local indigenous peoples and organizations involved in land return. If direct repatriation doesn’t make sense where you have access to land, support the fight by selling the land you own and donate the income to the movement. You can also make a donation for the movements of property taxes or property returns.
History as it has been taught to most North Americans too often excludes Indigenous peoples, their treatment and colonization. as peripheral to the history of the continent. By making this story more widely accessible and amplifying contemporary Indigenous voices, we can change the narrative for future generations – and avoid any reference to “something else”.
Sara sinclair is is the publisher of the Voice of Witness oral history collection How We Get Home: Voices of Indigenous Peoples in North America. She teaches in the oral history master’s program at Columbia University