“Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.” — George Erasmus, Dene Nation, co-chair of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples
As I stated in my platform pillar Directly Addressing Division, I believe diversity is our greatest strength and division is our greatest weakness. The diverse groups of people in America lack a common memory. The history of our nation is told in tales spanning from revolutionary greatness to nonstop genocide depending on which group each person is born into. I think to form a new common memory, we need to begin by recognizing all of our history.
While I personally believe Americans at large are deprived of many freedoms, we still experience a massive influx of people from other wealthy countries who choose stay in the US because they feel the freedom here is actually real. The freedoms we do have should be recognized as an enabler for world-changing innovation and still serves as an important beacon for politically developing nations.
Despite how much I criticize our voting mechanics, the invention of modern democracy happened on this soil. The three branch system and the division of powers through a republic was quite revolutionary at the time and jumpstarted a global shift away from dictatorship. Even though only a single-digit percentage of Americans could vote at first, the concept of political progress was revived for the first time in arguably two millennia.
However, this democracy has never existed without the background of suffering. The settling of lands, both in the lower 48 and in the states and territories abroad, has always relied on the destruction of the peoples who originally inhabited these lands. The death toll of this American legacy measures, conservatively, in the millions across this continent alone.
“In light of the UN language—even putting aside some of its looser constructions—it is impossible to know what transpired in the Americas during the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries and not conclude that it was genocide.” — David Stannard on the 1948 United Nations definition of genocide
While the majority of our appetite for violence has extended through endless wars into regions we don’t even intend to add to our collection of territories, it’s not unreasonable to claim that the domestic genocide of natives continues today. In 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls in the US, with only 116 of them being logged in the Department of Justice federal missing persons database. Murder is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women. Because data collection on this issue is severely lacking, we know embarrassingly little about who the perpetrators are, but it is suspected that about two-thirds are merely acquaintances or even strangers to the victims and about half are non-indigenous even though 71% of American Indians and Alaska Natives live off federally-defined tribal lands in urban areas. Combined with historic lack of action from law enforcement around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-spirit people (MMIWG2S), this suggests that the systematic murder of indigenous people is still baked into the operations of this country.
There has never been a national recognition and conversation about our mixed history and we’re struggling to have a dialogue about our current collective experience even under the communal threat of COVID-19.
“…we need…a conversation I would put on par with the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that happened in South Africa, in Rwanda, and in Canada. I would call ours Truth and Conciliation because reconciliation implies there was a previous harmony…” — Mark Charles, dual citizen of the United States and the Navajo Nation, former US Presidential Candidate
A conciliation is necessary. I will actively fight for solutions like the repatriation of native lands (including ending resource extraction on them); active legislation protecting indigenous peoples and the Native Silent Majority from discrimination; ending state violence against indigenous peoples, especially women, girls, and two-spirit people; providing resources and support for protecting indigenous peoples, especially women, girls, and two-spirit people, from settler violence; building and maintaining clean running water supplies to indigenous peoples in accordance with tribal consultation; repealing the Indian Appropriations Act of 1871 and related legislation like the Dawes Act of 1887 to once again acknowledge Native Nations as independent and contract with them through treaties; and otherwise comply with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that the US has already declared support for. However, the true healing we need requires a deeper, cultural connection to be made across the full diversity of all those who share Turtle Island, our home. Creating this new shared memory will require shifting our societal incentives from polarity to consensus, but it will also require a desire to open our hearts with unconditional kindness.
This conciliation may take a generation
Maybe two, three, four, or more
But what we can’t afford in this conversation
Is to cease peace and make war