Letter to the Editor: Things to consider during Native American Heritage Month

By Kale Kanaeholo | November 29, 2016 5:37pm

November is Native American Heritage Month.

So this holiday season, as you sit around the table enjoying your meal with family and friends, avoiding the talk about this year’s election, don’t forget about the people who were affected by the first immigrants to the Americas.

Native Americans were here long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. They had established tribes and a profound understanding of the resources surrounding them. They believed that no one “owned” the land, but that it was shared amongst those who lived there.

At the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, the Lakota and Dakota peoples are being persecuted and punished for standing up for their way of life.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, a multibillion dollar oil pipeline which will run through four states including North Dakota, in their view, holds a sizable threat to not only the landscape, but the water table beneath the surface. The residents of Standing Rock, and those protesting with them, are being tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, hosed with water in below freezing temperatures and blockaded from their own land.

It’s a shame that the nation that believes “all men are created equal” treats the indigenous population as less than.

Native Americans are also continually reminded that their culture is exploited for the benefit of the invader. We see this with professional sports teams: the Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Indians, the Florida State Seminoles and many others which have appropriated Native American culture for commercial gain.

The lands of various tribes comprise most of the continental United States. The idea of Manifest Destiny, which arose in the nineteenth century, drove the desire to conquer. Even in the Pacific, Native Hawaiians in Hawaiʻi were affected by the imperialistic agenda of the United States.

To understand the present, we must recognize and acknowledge the wrongdoings of the past, or else they’ll continue to haunt us into the future.

Lest not forget Sept. 11 and Dec. 7, 1941, but do not forget the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Trail of Tears, the Indian Appropriations Act of 1871, the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, the many Native American boarding schools established to assimilate native children into “white, American society” and other laws enacted to rid the land of the “savages.”

Kale Kanaeholo is a junior history major and can be reached at kanaehol18@up.edu.