I saw something recently that annoyed me. It was an excerpt from a history book that described the European occupation of North America and its bloody history in bland terms. To whit, it stated that Europeans asked the native peoples of the continent to move. The levels of wrong this statement perpetuates cannot be counted by me, a bisexual white woman, but I’ll try to quantify it.
First, there was no “asking” involved. Any native that tried to fight back against their European conquerors was slaughtered. They were driven out of their lands with blood and guns until, eventually, they were “gifted” a portion of their ancestral lands by the United States government. As if the lands their ancestors lived and died on didn’t belong to them by default.
This new narrative erases the bloody history of Europeans thundering across a land that belonged to others first. Men, women, and children were slaughtered. When Natives stood up, they were cut down. As far as I’m aware, the Wounded Knee massacre is the deadliest in United States history. Assigning that dubious title to other mass shootings erases the trauma faced by our Native precursors.
We, white people, marched Natives across the land. The Trail of Tears didn’t get that name because the Natives quietly agreed to go. They were forced at gunpoint, often with only what they could carry, to march to new lands across the country from where their fathers and mothers lived and died. Many natives died on that journey. It was a harrowing time for them.
We cannot erase our history with bland words and blanket statements. We must fight to keep the worst of the worst in our history books. It may be shameful, it may make us uncomfortable, but it deserves to be known. We shouldn’t celebrate it in any way by glorifying it, no, but we shouldn’t cast that past aside.
Happy belated Indigenous Peoples Day, everyone. Remember the native lives that were taken to give us the country we now reside in.