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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

5th Annual March Against Genocide - Genocide Awareness Month

Here is a nice summary of some of the speakers comments from Sundays Genocide Awareness March.

Below is the transcript of what I said (it is also on the YouTube link)

Thank you all for coming out. So much of what the previous speakers have said ring true for the indigenous people of North and South America. I am a testament to the survival of 500 years of genocide on this land that many of us have benefited from. I wanted to dedicate my talk today to the ancestors because if they hadn’t survived, I wouldn’t be here today.

And, when we speak our language, even if only one word, even if it’s not perfect, our ancestors hear us.

Good day sisters and brothers. My ancestral linage is Arawak from the island that we called Yurumein and my name is Claudia Fox Tree. I am happy to be there and I said this 4 times to honor the four directions. I offer my deep appreciation to the celestial cosmos (the universe). I offer deep appreciation to the moon. I offer deep appreciation to the earth mother (who is our existence). I offer deep appreciation to the air (the lady which gives breath from the center – sometimes she gets made and gets known as the hurricane). I offer deep appreciation to fire. Water is life (it has sacred breath)

I’m gonna be speaking on my own experiences but also the experience of people who are like me. Who share the same historical trauma and struggle of being indigenous people whose ancestors first figured out what they could eat on this land, what they could use for homes on this land, and for clothing on this land, and who held the bones of every single one of our ancestors.

It is important to recognize that this land we are standing on is indigenous land. The Wampanoag, Nipmuc, and other Massachusetts nations first walked, lived, and named everything on this land that they called, “Shawmut,” and we call, “Boston.” While my nation, the Arawak, isn’t not from here, I have been embraced by the local indigenous people and we have a shared history and culture as “first contact” experiences.

I wanted to… I’m so glad that you did the Pastor’s (Martin Niemöller) piece because I was thinking of that as I was preparing my notes for today and how is it reflective of indigenous people. And so, here it is.

First they took our land… Then they took our bodies… to work their plantations and pan for gold. Then they took our food source… retooling the land for the invasive plants/animals. Later, slaughtering the buffalo. Then they took our religion… and forced Christianity on us. Then they took our children… until 1978, and now our children continue to be taken and put into foster care.  Then they took our language… by not allowing us to speak it. Then they took our lives… The term “Final Solution” was not coined by the Nazis, it was the Indian Affairs Superintendent, Duncan Campbell Scott from Canada. Then they took our women… who are raped, murdered, and disappearing at alarming rates. They are murdered over 10X the national average and raped at 2 1/2 times the average. Then they took our image… for sports team names, for butter and milk products, to sell cornstarch, and so much more. Then they took the rest of our culture… by appropriating parts of our language and pieces of our culture, our words are no longer associated with their original meanings – think of these words: Winnebago, Sequoyah, Pontiac, and Apache. By taking our clothing and using it for costumes on Halloween, we become a “single story” via a single image. By taking our headdresses, our own warriors are mocked after earning each feather. That would be like taking the medals that service men win/are awarded and wearing them as a costume. I wear my regalia today as a visual representation that we are not one single story, that we have a lot of diversity among all of the nations that are represented in the indigenous Americas.

What they couldn’t take by physical and cultural genocide, they took by paper genocide. For example, in the Caribbean, the first census that was taken had the category of “Indian,” the next census only had “mulatto.”

BUT WE HAVE SURVIVED, even though… 90% of all manuscripts written about Native people are authored by non-Native writers. Our schools teach almost nothing about treaties, land rights, and water rights. There is nothing about the fact that tribes and nations are still fighting to be recognized and determine sovereignty. Only 67% of mixed blood multiracial Native Americans finished high school, compared to the national average of 80%. Indigenous youth have a suicide rate 3x that of their peers (males are 8x greater). Indigenous people face issues of mass incarceration and policing and are the MOST likely minority to be killed by police per capita. The federal government is still stripping Indigenous people of their land. Exploitation of natural resources threatens not only Indigenous communities, but all of us. Indigenous patients receive inadequate health care. We continue to protest pipelines running across the land, protect national parks, and fight for enforcement of treaty rights.

But we are taking action… Reclaiming our history, people, and culture. Reclaiming our images through our own artists. Resisting and being noticed, like at Standing Rock. Teaching our culture to the next generation. Staying active on social media and participating in indigenous/tribal organizations. And relearning our native languages.

And, we can’t do it alone. We need the help of our allies… If you have a town that has an indigenous Native American mascot, say something. If you play against “colonials,” that’s another team, then you celebrate the destruction of our culture. Tell five people, today before you forget, that you care how damaging racist mascots and how they’re affecting indigenous populations.  If your alma mater has a mascot, write a letter. Tell them you will not make any contributions until they change their mascot. Instead donate to an organization such as the National Congress of American Indians. Or, join MCNAA, the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness.

With your help, we can help the tribes fighting to be recognized in today’s battles for land rights, water rights, and against stereotyping.

Hahom, Seneko kakona
Thank you, abundant blessings.