Over the last month, we have watched in horror as the unmarked graves of murdered Native American children have been discovered at former boarding school sites. With each discovery we are reminded of the lives destroyed, the families torn apart and the systematic effort to wipe out Native American culture across North America.
If anything, these discoveries will hopefully bring this horrific history back to the forefront so that we can teach our children an accurate picture of the history of this land.
Without an honest understanding of history, we are destined to repeat the sins of our forefathers. As William Shakespeare once wrote, “What’s past is prologue.”
The unfortunate reality is while there are no more Native American boarding schools, we as a society continue to marginalize and set in motion the destruction of our Native American neighbors and their communities. In fact, by almost any measure, it is clear that our Native Americans neighbors continue to be systematically oppressed.
How is this currently happening? The examples are too long to list so let’s focus on one current example. A great deal of press and discussion has occurred recently about the ongoing effort to build Enbridge’s Line 3. Most already know that Line 3 will transport Canadian oil through Minnesota to be sold across the globe to the benefit of the Enbridge corporation.
What many don’t know (or would rather pretend not to know) is this: Line 3 will literally barrel through sovereign Indigenous nations and in doing so will put those Native communities at risk. Line 3 will and is already putting massive amounts of groundwater at risk and in doing so threatens the health and way of life for many Native American people.
Line 3 construction continues to spit in the face of Native American treaty rights and effectively reminds us all that our Native neighbors are still treated as second class citizens. Line 3 construction shows that in spite of massive climate damage the oil it carries will bring, nothing gets in the way of money.
So, as elected officials from the governor on down to city council members shake their heads at the recent discoveries of Native American dead, they must be reminded that in a very real sense we continue our destruction of the Native American community. We may no longer have boarding schools, we may no longer openly take away a child’s native language. But we do continue to make policy decisions that openly harm too many. We must all understand our horrific history and demand that we stop injuring our Native American neighbors.
If our elected leaders want to embrace our Native communities, they can stand against Line 3. If we want to stand with our Native neighbors, we can tell those leaders that we demand nothing less of them.