Why Don’t Native Lives Matter?

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Lucy Hamilton, a Native American attends the Why Don't Native Lives Matter presentation on Nov. 18.

The congregation at Trinity Episcopal Church on November 18th was not a traditional service. Instead, Gina Ricketts, COCC Native American coordinator, and Justine Lowry, Native American art director, asked the general public, “Why don’t Native Lives matter?” in a two-hour  presentation.

In 1493, the Doctrine of Discovery declared war on all non-Christians and allowed European settlers to “lawfully” take away land from Native Americans. It was one of the first of many laws that oppressed the native people to become what they are today, according to the presentation.

November is National Native American month, and many people are unaware of the history of the Native Americans. According to the presentation, The Christian Law of Nations established the indigenous people as “heathens,” “savages,” and in turn “not-human,” deciding that America was a God-given right.

In the presentation, George Washington was attributed with saying “Savages are wolves. They are animals.”

The native culture did not recognize ownership in quite the same way as the United States culture. In 1823,  the court case Johnson v. McIntosh established that a title of land that has been discovered and conquered belongs entirely to the conquering nation. This belief was solidified when Native Americans were not granted “the legal right” to the land that they had lived on for centuries, according to the presentation.

“Laws say Native lives don’t matter,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts believes the media has not portrayed the true identity of the Native American.

“This picture is ridiculous. You will not find Native American men gathering herbs and boiling them in a cauldron while wearing a ceremonial headdress, but this is an image we are comfortable with. It depicts the mystic Native American,” Ricketts said.  

Gina comments on the photo of the young native woman in a traditional buckskin hyde, “I look at this image and wonder… Who is this woman?”

The term “Indian giver” describes another falsity about the native Americans. The term is used to  describe someone who gives something and then decides to take it back. It is an untrue and disgraceful term, according to the presentation.

America would not be the way it is today without Native Americans. They helped the European settlers during the winter and offered food such as corn, beans and squash. No people in the world consumed food like this before the Native Americans, according to the presentation.

In the presentation, John Trudell, a political activist, was attributed with saying, “We are all from the tribe of human beings.”

Why do Native lives matter? What part do they play in your history? For more information about the Native American Program at COCC email Gina Ricketts at rricketts@cocc.edu.

 

Daneille Meyers | The Broadside
(Contact: dmeyers@cocc.edu)

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