The Nation Must Come to Terms With Its Violent Past With American Indians

The Nation Must Come to Terms With Its Violent Past With American Indians


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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Thanks to House Democrats, particularly Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee and legislation she’s been shepherding this year, the nation has finally begun to have a long-past-due conversation on its history of chattel slavery–particularly how to make that history right for the descendants of slavery through reparations.

However, we have another history we need to make to make right just as much: our deeply shameful past with the nation’s population of American Indians.

First, I suppose I ought to establish my bona fides on this particular topic. I’m married to an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe who also formerly worked for an agency of the federal government which deals with American Indian concerns.

And, to start with, as my wife would tell you, the generally preferred identifier is “American Indian,” not “Native American.”

There also seems to be a pervasive misunderstanding among many Americans who believe that the nation’s American Indian population receives regular payments from the federal government based on their ethnicity.

That’s false; they don’t. They may receive funds from the tribe to which they belong, but that’s not universal. And the amount certainly is not uniform.

However, what remains of the nation’s indigenous people should receive financial compensation from the federal government. No question.

You are talking about a class of people who unquestionably have been subjected to genocide.

From Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears, to Wounded Knee and more, the bloody, deadly history is clear.

Sadly, the legacy of genocide is not only in the past. It’s nearly 2020 and 2 million Americans still don’t have running water. And American Indians are 19 times more likely to be the ones to be without running water.

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