I’ve pondered this article by Gyasi Ross and his problematic conclusions all day. Here’s my humble response.
I agree that there is a “brain drain” happening when young people like myself go off to school and get an education–whatever that means. But does that necessarily mean we are “buying” into some sort of program of assimilation? Or, I would pose the question like this, is Ross’s conclusions another attempt to draw unnecessary distinctions between on- and off-reservation for young people?
I don’t think that’s a fair or very understanding dichotomy. First, most reservations were created under the auspices of prisoner of war camps. Natives were never meant to leave and leaving often meant (and still does) violent retaliation. Now the rhetoric is that we’re supposed to “turn reservations into homelands.” Yes to tribal sovereignty, etc. but what about those who were violently removed from their homelands? Better yet, what about homelands that have been dispossessed of us that we still cherish? I’ll fight for treaty land and against KXL even though that treaty land has been dispossessed and stolen. I’ll live in places that are not reservations, but does that make them any less Indian land or homelands? I hope not.
Second, I’ve always enjoyed Ross’s articles, whether I agree with him or not. But he drank the Kool-Aid on this. I was taught that what little remaining land and autonomy we still possess is to be defended at all costs. More importantly, we have to be good relatives to each other, whether we live on the reservation or not. We’re a free people if we want to be. Confining our identities to essentialized notions of reservation Indians is just plain wrong. What about treaty lands? What about the fact that half our populations live in urban settings? Hello! Are they any less Indian?
My advice to young Native people: you know who you are. You know where you came from. Forget all the bullshit about not being enough Indian. I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Ask us life-long students if you have problems or questions. That’s what we’re here for. You’ll probably end up somewhere that’s Indian land or at least Indigenous land. Fight for that space. Make the space Indian when everything says it shouldn’t. You belong there as long as you’re accountable to its original inhabitants. Above all, you belong where you are right now. So be in the right now. But don’t ever forget your home or your nation. If you do, we’ll always be here for you. And thank you and we’re proud of you wherever you may land.
the cool water laps the grey rumbling concrete
buzzing turbines churning life blood into power
this damn dam
past stories now submerged by the cruel machine
overwhelmed fallen trees emerge from this river
pantomiming the living as their lifeless limbs reach for the sky
defiantily proclaiming, “we are still here, you damn machine.”
the spoiling machine hears not the protest of the trees
its metal veins pump, churning out its vital pulses
ruining the ichor of the other, the river and its relatives
like this machine they call the Big Bend Dam this river too has a name
an ancient name forsaken, merely a rumor for some
her antediluvian epithet
the old ones still call to her softly
“Mni Sose,” they whisper
“we know you. we remember.”
sometimes she answers
her tear ducts swell at her shores
she faces her ruiner
her immortal appendage
interrupted flows, she continues
a disrupting, calming current
By NICK ESTES
As the mass demonstrations and opposition to the construction of TransCanada’s 1,200-mile Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline project mount, key concern has been paid to the serious environmental and social risks the KXL pipeline poses. The recent State Department publication of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL Project (EIS) has raised important objections as to the validity and potential outcomes of the construction or non-construction of KXL. But what is at stake? More importantly, what does the EIS say about the current and future world of oil-dependence? If we take look a close look at the EIS, we can begin to understand that much more than construction of pipelines is at stake if we are to begin to imagine an oil-free future.
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