Honor the indigenous

To the editor: 

When I say “we” I mean European-Americans, because this is what I am. Tom West says there is no need to have an Indigenous Peoples Day to honor the people we conquered. Really, why should we? They were obstacles to our goals. We outnumbered them. We decimated them. We won. Let’s celebrate science.

But the survivors of our arrogance and violence are still here. They are not the people of old Hollywood movies. Those movies are myths that assuage our guilt.

We do not teach our school children the extent of our violent past. And for many years, we tore indigenous children from their families, sending them to boarding schools to try to stamp out their languages, customs and ways of thinking. This was a non-violent way of killing a people. We have stopped doing this.

Some would justify a war by saying we brought Christianity to these people. But my Christianity tells me to look for God in the other, not to kill him.

This land was not empty when we arrived.  It was being used for hunting and gathering. Our ways of farming and keeping animals allowed us to crowd in. Our germs killed whole tribes of people. Our new laws, backed up by superior weapons, pushed the first people to the fringes.

Democracy can be a simple majority rule system; or it can honor every person’s rights. We have freedom of religion. We have civil rights laws. What is next? Are we ready to face ourselves? Are we able to face the people we nearly destroyed?

By honoring the conquered first people, we would be saying, “You are real, and human, and deserving of respect.” But the first people already know this. We are the ones who have something to learn.

Debra Bellman , Grey Eagle