By Anel Ceballos-Caldera, Nov. 16, 2021
As we uncover the bodies of young Native American children who died at the hands of forced white assimilation and while you’re eating with your family this Thanksgiving, do recognize that Native Americans view the last Thursday in November as National Day of Mourning. This is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native Americans, the theft of Native lands and the erasure of Native cultures.
Since the start of our education at the age of four, the United States has done a great job teaching us its version of Thanksgiving. These lessons include recalling countless stories about how the pilgrims and Native Americans “gathered together in peace to enjoy a huge feast.” This idea of Thanksgiving prevents Americans from holding the U.S. accountable for its continued maltreatment of Native Americans, which has led to the separation of their land, forced assimilation to American Culture and their exclusion in reservations.
It is a fact that we are living on Native American land and that European immigrants stole every last inch of it. The U.S. signed more than 370 ratified treaties, which helped expand U.S. territory. The majority of these treaties were broken and white settlers took over millions of acres of land from Native Americans.
Under the Indian Civilization Act Fund of 1819 and the Peace Policy of 1819, the U.S. adopted an Indian Boarding School Policy where Native American children were taken from their homes and placed in boarding schools funded by the federal government and Christian Church, according to The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. Children were prohibited from speaking in their native language, dressing in their cultural attire, forced to cut their long hair and received physical and mental abuse. Children lost identity and connection to being Native American.
Famously, the Indian Removal Act of 1830, authorized by President Andrew Jackson, removed and relocated thousands of Indigenous people away from every tribe east of the Mississippi in exchange for territory in the West. Subsequently, the Indian Appropriations Act of 1851 forced Native Americans to smaller parts of land called reservations. Native Americans were not allowed to hunt, fish or gather food. Any expression of indigenous culture was banned such as sun dance and potlatch. As if it was not enough to steal their land, Native Americans were forced to conform to white society.
The Dawes Act of 1887 was created to assimilate Indigenous people into American culture. The law focused on breaking up reservation land and identified Native Americans as individuals instead of a member of a tribe. The goal was for Indigenous people to act and work as settlers by adopting their clothing, beliefs and deny their Native culture.
Although this is our history and the past, these actions still effect Native Americans now. Reservations are cited as “comparable to Third World,” according to Native American Aid. Native Americans are struggling to secure basic needs like health care, housing, water and transportation. Due to the shift in western lifestyle and forced poverty, Indigenous people have higher rates of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Additionally, change is slowgoing and hindered. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. has made it difficult for Indigenous people to vote, especially for those living on a reservation. The majority of P.O. boxes can be over 40 miles away. Coupled with a lack of private and public transportation, money and car insurance it is close to impossible for most Native Americans to make it. This November, engage with your native community.
Here at CPP on Nov. 23, The Native American Student Center will host the event Indigenous Creations. Students will breathe creation, teach history and present their heritage. For more information, visit the website to learn more.
In your free time, research and understand the truth of this pivotal moment in history. Not one marking the beginning of comradery but of brutality. Don’t ignore our history and the brutality that Native Americans continue to endure. The last Thursday in November is more than a reminder: it is a call to action.
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