This Wednesday the JMU’s D.E.E.P Impact organization gave an informative presentation to educate on the history of oppression and violence Indigenous people in the United States have faced and still face today. The presentation covered many different topics including the history of Indigenous people in the U.S and the oppression and barriers they still face today. It is important that we listen to everyone’s needs and fight for everyone’s equality; the Indigenous people of the U.S deserve to be heard.
If you are unfamiliar with the organization, D.E.E.P stands for diversity education empowerment program and their mission is to “influence meaningful change throughout the JMU campus community through the development of programs and services that heighten awareness, increase knowledge, and celebrate the value if diversity in all forms.”
To get involved with more D.E.E.P organization events: https://www.jmu.edu/deepimpact/
It is important to note just how close you are to Native tribes, because yes, they are located in other places besides Navajo Nation. There are several Native tribes right in the Shenandoah Valley that include the piedmont Siouan’s, Catawbas, Shawnee, Delaware, Cherokees, Susquehannocks, and the Iroquois. The Iroquois were the Six Nations tribe which included Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Seneca’s and later Tuscaroras. Long before European settlers discovered North America and tried to claim the land as their own, Natives were already living there in their tribes that were composed of “dynamic, diverse communities, each with its own distinct culture. “If you’ve taken a U.S history course than you know what happens next; It is heartbreaking to see the centuries of violence and oppression inflicted on these people when these settlers invaded their land.
To understand the history of Indigenous people it is necessary to acknowledge the five faces of oppression they have faced: violence, cultural imperialism, exploitation, marginalization, and powerlessness.
The violence that Indigenous people have endured include sexual violence and hate crimes. American Indians and Alaska Natives are 2.5 times as likely to experience violent crimes and at least two times more likely to experience rape or sexual assault crimes compared to all other races.
The marginalization (excluding act of regulating or confining a group of people to a lower social standing) happened especially around the time of Andrew Jackson’s presidency. He was a staunch advocate for white supremacy and was not only interested in Indian land for financial gain but he had personal interest in enslaving these people to prove his loyalty as a politician who advocated for the Southern states interest at the time. His called the “Indian Removal Act” became a way for him to destroy the Indian Nations, many American Indian women and children were targeted for killing and Andrew Jackson supported this to ensure that it would be the end of most tribes. During massacres, there were constant sexual violations of American Indian Women that demonstrated the colonial desire to control American women’s sexuality.
The powerlessness and Silence the Native people came from many different sources of oppression but one of most destructive and genocidal federal Indian policies was forced boarding school education for Native children. The government forcibly removed six-year old’s from their homes and they could not return for twelve years. Native boarding schools would separate families, children would disappear, and some would never return home and be lost forever. This started in 1869 and continued for one hundred years. Again, this was another program that was enacted to eradicate any kind of traditional culture, or family value they have. On top of the violence the children faced, any kind of culture and tradition or native language or religion was disrupted and lost. Multi-generational practices weren’t being taught.
It is essential that we know the history of Indigenous people so that we can work to better their future. Being good allies and talking about the years of suffering these Indigenous people have gone through and are still going through is hard to hear but it needs to be heard so that they can get the justice they deserve.
Today Indigenous people rank the highest for illiteracy rates, malnourishment, prison inmates, internal displacement, poverty, and illness. Their voices have been crying for help for years and we must do better to solve these problems because they are so clearly disproportionately affected by these factors than the rest of the population.
Some organizations to help Indigenous people are as follows:
- Survival International– helps preserve and protect Indigenous land
- International Indigenous Youth Council– to help the education gap and to prevent any Indigenous person from being denied education
3. And a great way to stay informed is through a project called Reclaiming Native Youth which discusses any misconceptions or myths.
The best way we can help is if we stay informed and find organizations to help us help the Indigenous community that has been neglected for far too long. Let’s keep the conversation going; let’s be the generation that ends the struggles and adversity Indigenous people face.