The other day I posted a Twitter link to this Guardian piece—"Biden killed the Keystone Pipeline"—by Nick Estes. A friend of mine who also shared it summed it up perfectly in saying, "The thing I mostly took away from this article was that it’s been relentless pressure from indigenous communities that’s actually made a difference."
Estes, the author, is a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and an assistant professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico. He is the author of Our History is the Future (Verso, 2019), which is brilliant. He is also a co-founder of the Red Nation and, frankly, a dude I refuse to die without having spent time with. The man knows his stuff.
Some other Twitter person responded to Clare's post, taking her, and Estes, to task for already being on Joe Biden's case after he's only been in office a little over a week. Which is fair, I suppose, depending on your perspective.
Except we, Indigenous people, have already been waiting 400+ years for this settler nation to get it right. My rage spiked, and I almost weighed in on the exchange but I took a deep breath and walked away.
Which brings me pause. There are enough new subscribers to this newsletter that maybe I better define where I'm coming from. I started the newsletter thinking it would mostly be a companion piece to the book I'm working on about the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians, with whom I am enrolled. And it remains that, sort of. There is some stuff from the book in these pieces, and some from here will likely show up in the book, I don't know.
Most important is that, being immersed in the story of my people, and federal Indian policy specifically for about the last 156 years and beyond, I've become pretty radicalized in ways I never really considered before. Which means there isn't a single thing that happens in the United States that I don't view through the lens of colonization, through the lens of a surviving people who are under the onslaught of a continued attempt at genocide. It is a genocide that exists in blood quantum requirements, encroachment on Indian lands for pipelines, fishing access rights, everything. And it is a wide lens because it includes colonial efforts ongoing around the world that get little play in American media. Why would it, when it is a mirror image to how things have always been right here?
As an example, let's talk about the inauguration again. Did you see the beautiful and moving land acknowledgement that opened the ceremony? Did it make you cry the way Amanda Gorman's call for unity echoed Biden's ongoing rhetoric? Did it give you hope?
No, it didn't, because THERE WASN'T ONE! You would think, in whatever focus group of marketing pros it was that got together to make sure and script that pageant to cover all the feel good liberal bullshit about fixing something that's been broken since boots first set foot on this continent, there would have been at least one of them with the awareness to suggest, "Hey, maybe we should throw a bone to the Indians." You'd think they could have found a citizen of the Nacotchtank people to say some words. The area of Washington, D.C. was only a thriving hub of Indigenous life before settlers killed them all, after all. But no.
It's just as likely that it was a deliberate snub because even today I am certain the federal government would prefer Indians simply go away and would rather not bring us up.
We aren't going away.
Which underscores why I think land acknowledgements are bullshit and, as I've said before, the liberal's version of "thoughts and prayers." They're meaningless because they don't do anything but show Indians what used to be ours but isn't anymore and nothing is going to be done to change it. And the next time I see some asshat on social media post a pic of themself recreating out in some beautiful spot saying, "I just want to recognize that this is the ancestral lands of the blah blah blah...." my head will probably explode. Because the rightful owners of that land, if they still exist, are probably moved hundreds of miles away and don't have the means or opportunity to be where you are, and probably for a generation or three risked death if they DID try and return. It makes me friggin' crazy.
Every inch of this American land is stolen land. Every. Inch.
I'm doing my best to relax, give this new administration time to get their feet under them. They have a huge mess to clean up. But I'm already getting frustrated in how they are letting members of both the House and the Senate get away with sedition, when if my people had swarmed those steps it would have been a bloodbath. Imagine an Indian guy just going around the metal detectors they’ve installed at the capitol. Bloodbath!
I'm already sick of all the white liberal people humping each other's legs every time Biden does something that is simply his damn job. “It’s so nice to have a president that….” Blech. Puke. There is copious lingering accountability to be addressed and Joe goddamn Biden is neck deep in it. We are not going back to anything that resembles the last 40 years of his political career, our only way is forward.
Indians are far more that "something else." No one is going to sweep us aside. I urge everyone, all of us trying to survive this current awful nightmare, to consider what it takes to be a good ancestor to our families in everything we do. To be good relatives to each other. I'm angry and old and tired and frustrated and I'm going to do my best.
In happier news, my friends from the Freeflow Institute just debuted their new podcast. The inaugural episode features a breathless saunter outside with ... me! You can DIG THAT HERE. It was recorded pre-pandemic and I remember it was fun. But that was a different world, wasn't it? I'm almost afraid to listen myself....