Monday, October 10, 2022

What If?


Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It’s a national story. It’s a local story. We are here because white settlers showed up and took land that was not their own. It’s a story of land theft and genocide. And it’s a story I didn’t know anything about until well into my adulthood.

It is hard to come to terms with the realization that the history you were taught as a child is false. Some people just won’t do it. It’s uncomfortable, and it’s hard work. Layers and layers of assumptions must be peeled away. The ideals you have been clinging to for comfort and reassurance all these years may be hiding things that are the stuff of nightmares.

All around us in Howard County is land that was known and beloved by others. It was the birthplace of cultures our ancestors did not care about or respect. As much as my whole world is tied up in this country as we know it now, I sit here this morning wondering about all the beauty and knowledge that was lost.

The land we call home was not a land absent of peoples or culture. It was not waiting to be discovered. What amazing things might have happened if settlers and colonizers had not interfered? 

That’s hard to sit with. It’s essentially asking oneself the question, “What if I had never been here?” What if my ancestors destroyed something which could have been far better than anything I can imagine?

All around us are people who are willing to ask these questions but also people who get angry even at the suggestion. I think it’s very important to understand that. If someone is unwilling to learn the truth about their history and ask themselves the uncomfortable questions, aren’t they merely continuing the cycle of harm against indigenous peoples and their memory?

And what does that mean about how they view the world at large?

Every time white people in this country wrap up their sense of patriotism with anger and aggression towards those who are different, they show their true colors all over again. Indigenous Peoples’ Day brings out a lot of that. 

We cannot undo the harm that was done. But we can actively value people who are different than we are, and be willing to learn things we do not know.


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