author: annie trussler | op-ed editor
None of us are unfamiliar with the inhumane treatment that has been faced by Indigenous people for centuries. From the unfortunate moment that Christopher Columbus laid eyes on his pseudo-India, those who owned the land were made to suffer for their existence; this system has not died away. Treaties have been signed, residential schools have been closed, and still, those who knew this place as home are forced to claw their way to independence and a semblance of humane treatment.
I could say it is safe to assume everyone has heard of the Dakota Access Pipeline (or DAPL), but that, in fact, would not be a safe assumption; any controversy surrounding Aboriginal Rights is immediately kept in a stranglehold by news media, and held quiet until it is safe to win the affection of the public. For those of you who don’t know, and moreover, for those of you have chosen not to know, the Dakota Access Pipeline is scheduled to run directly through Treaty 1851 land, thereby successfully ruining the landscape, poisoning drinking water, and breaching treaty rights that Indigenous people are still viciously expected to uphold to this day.
Police have been deployed to the protest site, and have already begun to arrest peaceful protesters, fire into the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets, and shoot their horses as means to quell the uproar. I won’t go into the fact that anyone is granted the right to a peaceful protest, or the fact that animal cruelty is in illegal act, or the fact that ignoring treaty agreements has caused endless strife for Indigenous people: what would the point be? Would anyone listen? Indigenous voices have been shouting these injustices from the hilltops, but no one can be heard with a hand over their mouths.
I will, however, mention the irony of recurring world events. I will mention that while real, live, breathing, bleeding Aboriginal people are fighting for their human rights, Halloween-goers are appropriating Indigenous wardrobes to shotgun beers and piss on the sidewalk. If we were to ask the general masses, they would suggest violence against protesters is not racist, they would defend their vulgar costumes to their very last bong hit, but will cry discrimination when Indigenous people so much as look their direction.
It’s not my place to tell you all about this blatant outrage: there are Indigenous voices that should, and must, be heard, but if I am given the opportunity to use a public platform, and the privilege that I have, to make this tragedy known. As white people, and other people of color, it is our obligation to stand beside Indigenous communities. Centuries of genocide, famine, plague, rape, and dehumanization have not been enough to grant Aboriginal people the rights they deserve, so we have to act. All of us. We cannot erase the ugly crimes of our past, but we can assure future generations do not look back and mourn the same way.
I am extending an invitation for any and all Indigenous writers to submit their thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org, so that your words can be published for students to see.