My father grew up on the Reservation, the “Rez” as we call it now. He ate coffee grounds when there was no food as a child and sometimes wore rags for clothes. He survived poverty and more death than the average family has been exposed too. When I speak to him about it, he only tells the happy stories he remembers, but I see it— the pain.
Because he lived through that, I never had to endure the hardship of life without food or clothing. Truly, his life helped me understand the floor on the poverty scale and that inspires me to be grateful for every gift that comes my way.
The recent events brought forth in politics reignited a dead conversation: Native Americans and racism. Mainstream media was saturated with white-Black American relations. You might find the types of racism below common with each side. Let’s explore.
How it Manifests
From the right, racism appears active:
- I hate you because you are x race.
- You should not exist because you are x race.
- I am going to do everything in my power to deter your progress because you are x race.
An example: “You stupid Indian.”
From the left, racism is passive:
- I only care about you because you are x race.
- I care about you because you are x race, until you utter something to which I disagree.
- You are x race, you are supposed to think this way.
And another example: “I’m sorry I didn’t realize you are a person of color, I thought you were white.”
Each example I used has been directed toward me. The first from high school, the second during my 2017 Spring semester.
The Covington Catholic Incident
The boys of Covington watched a Native American man dancing and beating a drum, reacting like any outsider attending a Pow Wow. It sounds silly to the unexposed. It is incoherent and in another language. They did not know what to do. I was the exact same way at my first Pow Wow.
The Native man approached a group of young men to draw the spotlight, instead of inviting them to dance or chant along. If you have been to a Pow Wow, it is common for everyone to be invited to the arena to dance along. Elders are supposed to be peacekeepers, honorable and poised.
The Growing Issue
Like many, I too overreacted. Each subsequent video painted a much different picture than the first. Then the pieces fit, and I was wrong. Very wrong.
This issue has been cultivating for quite some time. It started with the mascot issue. After that, it became a movement to stop using Native American or Indian and to only say Indigenous, or, as my previous college professor insisted that I use, Amerindian.
The movement culminated in the rejection of Native American issues in favor of only white-Black American relations. Then there was the doubt as to Senator Warren’s ancestry. At the pinnacle of this, a group of young men, who likely have never seen or attended a pow-wow, are confronted by a Native man with a victim mentality— and we have the perfect storm.
Conservatism and Native Americans
Conservatism seldom appeals to Natives, especially my Tribe (Rosebud Sioux). Conservatism is all about the access to opportunity. There is little to no opportunity on the reservation.
Many conservatives say, “Just leave and go find opportunity elsewhere.” This is a mistake. Of my father’s many siblings, only he left. He left his family and way of life behind. It is no easy task to up and leave everything you know and love. Additionally, the perspective of Conservatives is tantamount to European settlers and every tragedy to befall the indigenous populations.
In order to change this, conservatives must find reputable conservative Native Americans to speak.
Culture and Native Americans
There are no well-known Native American business owners, actors, millionaires, artists, or industry-leading individuals out there to look up to. There are no globally recognized Native Americans in culture.
Much of the racism toward Native Americans is passive and internal. Some of the test of loyalty falls on your skin-tone or degree of Indian Blood. Skin-tone always comes first.
There is a video of Native Americans responding to what they think of the Reservation. It is almost universally met with some sort of pain. They’re right and it would be wrong to dismiss it.
Conservatives need to find a way to market to Natives seriously.
I would start by ceasing referring to Senator Warren as 1/1024. That little fraction for some is their entire identity in something beautiful. Opportunity needs to find its way onto reservations to combat the unemployment and alcoholism.
Most importantly, conservatives need to be loudest in pointing out true racism where found.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.