The US and the First Nations

2020 has magnified long-standing structural racism in the United States. This has been most visible in regards to black Americans, as the legacy of slavery, violence, and repression over centuries have led to lower wealth and income, poorer health outcomes and access to care, higher levels of police brutality, and other injustices, now brought more strongly into the national spotlight by the pandemic, the killings of unarmed black men and women by police, the #BlackLivesMatter marches, and the removal of Confederate symbols.

There is hope that the United States is finally undergoing the kind of systemic and social change that will address the grievous wrongs against black people. I also hope that our country will acknowledge and redress the wrongs against the indigenous peoples of the Americas, who have suffered many centuries of oppression, violence, theft, and dehumanization at the hands of the United States government and society.

[A note on language: Generally, if I were referring to an individual, I would identify them by the tribe/nation to which they belonged. In this post, which is about all the indigenous peoples, I have decided to use the term “First Nations” even though it is more often used in Canada than in the United States. I hope that this term conveys the respect I intend.]

The First Nations have suffered many, many losses since the arrival of Europeans, from disease, violence, forced dislocation, theft, broken treaties, environmental degradation, attacks on language and culture, and more. People of the First Nations who live on reservations have high rates of poverty and chronic disease and sometimes lack access to running water, electricity, appropriate medical care, and educational and employment opportunities. There are also terrible problems with legal protection that have led to an alarming rate of murder or disappearance of women and girls.

This year has brought attention to the plight of the First Nations in two ways. First, COVID has afflicted some of the reservations very badly, as one might expect among communities that were already struggling. The Diné and Hopi Nations in the Southwest have some of the highest infection rates in the United States. Second, the public debate on removing statues of Confederate figures and/or slaveholders has broadened to consider those involved with oppression of the First Nations. This was heightened further by the president’s July 3rd speech and fireworks at Mount Rushmore. The monument there desecrates a site holy to the Lakota, who, by treaty, should have sovereignty in the Black Hills.

I hope that this greater awareness will result in concrete action to redress the centuries of damage done to the peoples of the First Nations. 2020 is increasingly appearing to be an inflection point in United States – and, perhaps, world – history. May the United States finally embody its highest ideals of equality, justice, and promotion of the common good.

One-Liner Wednesday: breathe

I can’t breathe.

George Floyd, Eric Garner, Elijah McClain, and millions around the world in solidarity or in suffering

Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/07/01/one-liner-wednesday-july-1st-spuds/

Badge by Laura @ riddlefromthemiddle.com

Poem by Patricia Raube about Michael Brown

Patricia Raube, who is one of my spiritual sisters and a Binghamton NY area Presbyterian pastor, has written a moving, insightful, and spirit-filled poem about Michael Brown. She has given her permission to share it with attribution.

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A Burning Bush

I hardly dare ask… I know we have no right…
But Michael Brown, I must ask this great favor, this unspeakable gift.

Trayvon was not enough, nor Emmett,
nor the whole host and holocaust of men of color,
(did we even notice Kajieme?)
enslaved, disposable,
less than human through the sites of a gun.

I hardly dare ask.

The hashtag is good– ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬
but I fear it isn’t enough,
won’t do the job we need it to do,

the enormous breaking down
of laws and structures and hearts
the massive dismantling of privilege unacknowledged
and assumptions unchallenged.

Oh Michael Brown. I know we have no right to ask,
the image is all too close
to the evil fires set again and again…
the symbol of hope, the cross of Christ
transformed into Satan’s flag of terror,
crackling and crumbling in a Missouri night.

I know we have no right to ask, But ask I will.

Oh Michael Brown, will you be our burning bush?

c. Patricia Raube 2014