A Personal Respons to Warren and Brown


Believe it or not, inside this building are both artifacts from Native cultures across the Americas, and demonstrations of continued Native cultural and legal resistance. Powerful metaphor, eh?

Today I have a cold. I can’t hear and can barely see. This has brought me to thinking more about the Senate Race in Massachusetts, and about politics in the United States in general. I don’t usually write about politics; maybe the cold has created this deviation from the norm.

So what is it that I am thinking? Just this. Neither Elizabeth Warren nor Scott Brown has been willing to talk about the core issue raised by Warren’s claim to First Nations heritage. That issue is the genocide which underpins the wealth of the United States. While Warren has continued to defend her assertion that her grandmother was Cherokee, she has, to the best of my knowledge, refused to talk about the many families who were never enrolled, who gave up tribal status, or who were disenrolled. Each of these categories holds a set of stories about greed, assimilation, and the ongoing practice of genocide against First Nations people in the U.S.. Some of these institutionalized abuses of power were a direct result of politics within the Cherokee nations, yet most were a direct and well planned assault on Native people by the United States government. Anyway, it’s as though she, and Brown, have this strange cold-like condition where they can neither see nor hear the reality of colonial history.

Add to these activities the U.S. and state government’s continued taking of Native land

Decades of Genocide in South Africa displayed in photos at the International Center of Photography, NYC. Photographer not recorded.

lands, both tribal and individual (often through legal fraud), and concerted programs of urbanizing Native people, and the absence of discussion becomes even more flagrant. The reality is that more than half of all Native people in the U.S. do not meet the government’s criteria for inclusion as Native. Moreover, many of these families either chose to pass as white for generations, or while actively practicing their Native traditions, were routinely listed as “white” by census takers. It is entirely possible that Elizabeth Warren has relatively recent Native ancestry and can’t prove it. That happens all the time.

Of course, Warren could have used her considerable clout to aid Native individuals and communities in Massachusetts and throughout New England. She could have written extensively about Native issues or offered to work on behalf of Native legal and cultural causes. Yet she apparently did not. Neither did Scott Brown. Oh, and then there is the sheer racism visible in his remark about Warren not looking Native. The truth is that many of us Native folks don’t look like Natives are supposed to look. We even draw flack from some of our kinfolk from out West for not looking Indian. The simple truth is you are likely sitting beside a Native person at the theatre, on the train, or at dinner in your favorite diner. We are everywhere.

Sadly, the mainstream media have mostly ignored the genocide issue in the campaign,as they have climate change, and race and class based discrimination. That does not make those real life, everyday experiences go away for millions of people. It does make us invisible. But, at least in the case of Native people in the U.S., isn’t that the point?


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