I recently published an article on the five things every non-Native should consider before they travel to Standing Rock. Within an hour of it going live I received vile vitriol from white people who claimed that they supported Standing Rock. I was accused of being hostile, aggressive, giving the middle finger to non-Natives, and a racist. These people were angry that they weren’t thanked by the people of Standing Rock for giving money or going to the camps. They were angry that I told them how to behave as allies. They were angry that I demanded that they abide by the tribal leadership and that of the camps. They were angry that I told them to give space to the Native People to process our feelings about this struggle and the many others we’ve faced due to genocide. Basically, they were angry that I called them out on their settler and white privilege instead of coddling them and dropping to my knees to kiss their feet on the very land they enjoy living on due to our people’s destruction and loss.
The same day I was being inundated with verbally violent attacks for my words, the North Dakota government was using chemical warfare on our peaceful Water Protectors. They were outfitted with semi-automatic guns, Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) and helicopters. Law enforcement arrived with an empty bus in order to transport the dozens of our people that they intended to arrest. They impounded cars, confiscated phones, and erased videos of this abuse. Our people had their hands in the air yelling “we’re unarmed” in the hopes that the police wouldn’t shoot them in cold blood for peacefully protecting the water and Native lives. Thankfully, some of the Water Protectors were able to send out videos and photos of these atrocities. Watching these videos cuts deep and hurts me in a way that no white person can ever understand.
Two days earlier on the 26th, President Obama met with many of our tribal leaders at the 8th annual Tribal Leaders Conference in DC as a show of support for the Native community. However, Obama has remained silent regarding all of the abuse we have suffered at Standing Rock. Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton has not commented on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). At the 2016 Democratic National Convention the Democratic Party adopted the strongest pro-Native party platform ever, but the party and the majority of its members have also remained silent during the attacks on our lives. Despite all of this, I’m the “racist” who needs to be sensitive of the needs of every white savior in ameriKKKa.
It is not my job, nor that of any other Indigenous Person, to coddle the feelings of non-Natives. Indigenous People have literally been hunted in the “Americas” for 526 years by white people at the hands of the state. It’s estimated that 4,000 of my Cherokee ancestors died on the Trail of Tears so that the U.S. government, i.e. white people, could further the colonization of our lands, and subsequent slavery of Africans. There’s no way of knowing how many of our women were raped by the U.S. military during the forced removal. Every time I use a $20 bill I have to see the mass murderer responsible for my people’s suffering. Andrew Jackson not only went unpunished for what he did, but is celebrated and is part of the backbone of the U.S. Economy. That’s what racism truly is.
On a daily basis we are being harassed, bullied, raped, kidnapped, sexually trafficked, incarcerated, and murdered. Our children are stolen from us and placed in foster care merely for profit. We have epidemic proportions of suicide, alcoholism, diabetes, food insecurity, starvation, homelessness, high school dropout rates, and a great deal more, all due to colonization and genocide. I spent roughly 10 years working in U.S. politics. I watched non-Natives, including those who call themselves feminists, progressives, and Democrats, stand idly by and ignore our plight. I watched them fetishize us. I watched them actively discriminate and spread hatred about us. I’ve interacted with non-Natives who think going to Standing Rock is some sort of cultural learning experience, activist adventure, or even a vacation. One non-Native activist had the audacity to say to me that “As long as they fed me I’d go. I’m tired of being in DC.” As if Standing Rock is a spa for him to escape the stresses of his daily life.
I’ve heard similar stories from other Native People who were asked questions such as “Will my purse be safe?” or “Are there port-a-potties there?” These questions have not only missed the mark on allyship, but are utterly offensive. If you need a red carpet rolled out for you, a mint on your pillow, and a wall safe to keep your valuables from us “injuns” then you’re not an ally; you’re a racist!
Despite all of the grim and truthful statistics I cited in my article, the so-called allies that read and bashed it decided to focus on their hurt feelings instead of focusing on the importance of what is occurring at Standing Rock, as well as to Native People across the U.S. They were exactly the people I was speaking to in my article. This issue is not about them and their delicate, settler privileged feelings. This is about the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. This is about the people of the Cheyenne River Sioux Nation. This is about part of a larger movement for the rights of all Indigenous People in the U.S. and across the globe. I will not apologize for not sugarcoating our reality in order to make these settler and white privileged people feel better. Frankly, I have neither the time nor the patience. I’d rather use that energy to save Native lives.