do you know how many anti-oppression activists have told me I’m the first Native they’ve ever met? do you know how many of those activists have been POC? do you know how many of them had to be sat down and taught what it means to be an ally to indigenous communities? I have had the great fortune of meeting some truly brilliant scholars and activists who work very hard in anti-racism struggles, but I can tell you 99% of them openly admitted to being totally ignorant to “Native issues” and many said it had never even occurred to them to learn about them.
I think so much of our ongoing struggles are embedded in this narrative of mystique and complications and otherness because of things like tribal law, the public imagination, and totally inaccurate education that most don’t have any concept of the magnitude of what Natives deal with, and think they can’t learn or don’t know where to learn and end up giving up and waiting for a Native to teach them. One of the most rewarding experiences I ever had was moderating a discussion between radical POC scholars on the introductory chapter of Ward Churchill’s A Little Matter of Genocide; I opened by giving everyone a pop quiz with some basic multiple choice questions of stats pertaining to “Native issues,” and overwhelmingly the entire class got almost every single question wrong. They were all so shocked by the answers that I think a sense of the issues really hit them for the first time; I had people come to me afterwards and say they thought about the stats and the photos and cried, and even had people contact me months afterwards to talk more. These are all college-educated, extremely conscious POC activists.
The point I’m trying to make is that (a) those moments of interchange and dialogue need to happen more often and need to be better facilitated (b) anti-racism activism clearly has a long way to go in the US. Our struggles are so interconnected that it’s really serving no one but the racist genocidal regime currently in power to ignore and marginalize indigenous struggles, as well as their relations to other movements.