NOTE: This Indigenous Peoples' Day, we wanted to take a moment to amplify an indigenous perspective. The following was written by Cinqala, one of the teammates in our Eugene location.
Though it feels at best superficial and at worst dismissive to talk about the Indigenous experience on a day designated by a genocidal colonial government, it would be worse to ignore it completely.
That's why instead of a shallow post designed to coddle white folks and check a diversity box, I'm going to take this opportunity to remind those who are still profiting from Indigenous suffering about a few of the lies they are told by teachers, politicians, parents, priests, and corporations.
Before I begin, if you're not Indigenous and this writing and the language that I use make you uncomfortable, please take time to sit with your discomfort. Consider why having your privilege challenged makes you upset, why you feel that Indigenous people need to use coddling language to describe our experience.
Firstly, the Indigenous peoples of turtle island are not just ancient civilizations. We are still here. Though what has been stolen from us is indescribable, we are still here. Still singing, still dancing, still passing down stories and teachings. The genocide failed and continues to fail despite unceasing efforts.
We will never stop fighting, never stop surviving, never stop thriving. The myth that Indigenous people are a people of the past is a continuing tactic of colonization. We have been here, on this continent, for at least 100,000 years and will be here for the rest. We are not a People to be referred to in the past tense.
Secondly, we are not all the same People. There are hundreds of tribes across turtle island and each tribe has its own history, culture, and beliefs. Lumping us together into a single synthetic race with cherry picked attributes is a way to dehumanize us and continue to destroy culture. When colonizers are allowed to think of Indigenous peoples as a collection of stereotypes it allows them to discount tribal histories and traditions that don't fit into the fetishized ideal of the Noble Savages.
Take the time to learn about the tribes whose land you have stolen, whose blood you live knee deep in. Consider the ways that their traditions are deeply entwined with their lands and histories and the active ways that colonization and genocide continue.
Thirdly, the continent called North America was not an untouched wilderness spotted with small Indigenous encampments when white colonizers invaded.
This land is shaped in every way by Indigenous hands and has been for countless generations. Ecosystems of all kinds were carefully planted and maintained. Food forests and cultivated fields of seasonally harvested plants stretched the width of the continent, all carefully entwined with hunting grounds, villages, cities, and trade routes. Part of the lie of "untouched wilderness" comes from the near billion Indigenous people who had died from intentional exposure to European diseases prior to large scale invasion. Another part comes from colonizers being unable to comprehend or respect any civilization not based on rampant resource extraction.
Next time you hear the rhetoric of 'returning to untouched wilderness' or 'keeping everyone out of the wild' consider who is behind it and how such lies and misconceptions don't just hurt Indigenous people but also hurt the land. Many of the ecological issues facing the USA today are a direct byproduct of colonization and Indigenous tribes not being able to maintain our ecosystems. Massive droughts, forest fires, disappearing keystone species, these are all direct repercussions of Indiginous peoples knowledge and traditions being ignored and forbidden.
The #LandBack movement is not just about reparations or giving Indigenous peoples back what was stolen from them. It is also about giving us control back over our lands, our ecosystems, the same land and ecosystems that our ancestors tended with such care and knowing that we cannot be separated from it without disaster. Land Back or Die Out. It's that simple. These are just a few of the lies that are upheld about Indigenous people, and I am only one Indigenous person writing about them.
I encourage you to educate yourself and consider the ways that you profit and perpetuate colonization. Take time and effort to find ways that you can give back to Indigenous communities in more than just words. Give back your land, give back your wealth, give back your privilege.
Today and every day is Indigenous Peoples Day.
Philamayaye for reading. - Cinqala
Cinqala is a person of mixed Lakota and Romani descent who splits their time between As You Like It and doing community work. They write for their own joy and, in the past, competitively and can usually be found in the kitchen, the woods, or wherever there's mischief to be made.
To learn more about the lands we reside on and the Indigenous peoples that inhabit them, we recommend:
- Native-land.ca : the interactive map from the image on this blog that will help you explore what Indigenous lands you stand on.
- NDNHistoryResearch : Journal of Critical Indigenous Anthropology and History focused on the tribes of Oregon and the West Coast.
- Many tribes also have their own websites where you can learn about their history, read their stories, and learn how to support their people.
- Our Eugene location is built on the homelands of the Kalapuya people, and our Ashland location is built on the homelands of the Shasta, Takelma, and Latgawa peoples. Today, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians include many living descendants of the ancestral peoples of this area. We encourage YOU to take initiative to learn about the land you reside on, and to join us in advocating for the inherent sovereignty of Indigenous people.