For the past couple of months I have watched with horror as the battle between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Dakota Access Pipeline unfolds in North Dakota. As someone who has studied Native American history, I still find myself taken aback by all of it. How can this be happening in the year 2016? I have also vowed to start doing the right thing, to not just study Native American history but to speak out and do what I can to help make sure the abuses of the past and present are not apart of their future.
Unfortunately, the battle between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Dakota Access Pipeline has been skewed as a controversial political issue. I will concede that a couple political parties do seem to be more anti-pipeline and pro-environment than the others. I cringe as I use the word political as an alarming number of politicians have not stood up for Native American rights. But politics is not what this post is about.
Fold3 offered free access to their Native American Collection of records from November 1 through November 15. Word of this quickly spread. Tweets about it were widely shared. It’s natural of course for genealogists to be excited about free access to records that are normally available for a fee. Leading up to and during Native American Heritage Month I have also seen several people tweet, discuss, chat, and otherwise post about Native American genealogy as a way to “honor” that heritage or as a tie into this designated month. I could not help but notice that the majority of those doing these things were also staying quiet about Standing Rock. As I saw these tweets I could not help but wonder how many of these people even know about what’s happening at Standing Rock? How many have dug deeper to learn more about what is happening or have gone beyond what is presented by mainstream media?
Much of this reporting is slanted against Native Americans and in some cases this so called news is flat out wrong. How many think of Native Americans when they hear the words racism or civil rights violations? How many are aware of just how awful Native Americans have been treated for hundreds of years – how Natives have been systematically pushed off their land, exterminated, stripped of their rights, and forced to assimilate? Moreover, how can you appreciate someone’s past and remnants from that past but not show concern for their present lives or their future?
Some might argue I’m reading too much into things, but, I find it disheartening to see so many of those who were talking about the special access be so mum about Standing Rock. I see this as sadly representative of the way that Native Americans have been marginalized by our society. I would like to believe that most Americans, regardless of whether they are pro-pipeline or anti-pipeline, ARE pro-Native American rights. It seems that leaving Native Americans out the narrative of our day to day lives has rather become a habit – a habit in dire need of breaking. People who have withstood so much yet continue to stand with such strength and hope against the proverbial Goliath deserve so much more than a passing glance.
I would have loved to seen the special free access to Fold3’s Native American Collection and Native American Heritage Month used as conversation starters in the genealogy community. We know that when the community bands together we can and do make a difference. I watched, I waited, and I did not see it happen. Support for this fight needs to be public, not tucked away on private Facebook pages. This battle can only be won if more people are willing to speak up.
I am asking each of you to take some time to hear the Native Americans side of what is happening. To help you do this at the bottom of this post I have included a list of recommended Facebook pages to follow. You will also find a list of recommended books that explore various aspects of Native American history that are usually only assigned reading in graduate level classes.
Thanksgiving is only a few days away. Personally, I have mixed feelings about the holiday. I enjoy gathering my family for good food but do not believe giving thanks for your blessings should be confined to one day let alone on a day that perpetuates a false and misleading historical narrative. Nevertheless, take it as an opportunity to discuss what is happening at Standing Rock with your family and friends. Discuss what you can do as individuals and as a group to show your support. Please send your love, prayers, and blessings to the Water Protectors.
#StandwithStandingRock #NoDAPL #WaterisLife
Recommended Facebook pages- please note I prefer to follow them on Facebook as opposed to Twitter. More posts seem to go to Facebook than Twitter.
You can also visit the site: http://standwithstandingrock.net/
Special thanks to fellow historians Marcia B., Freda B., Laura E., Robert F., and Ashley S. for helping me put this list of recommended books together.