President Biden sure is making up for lost time. At this year’s tribal nations summit, skipped over the previous four years by you know who, he signed an executive order for the US to take steps to protect tribal lands and address the epidemic of missing and murdered Native Americans. He proposed a ban on federal oil and gas leases on the sacred tribal site of Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico. And in his official White House proclamation for Native American Heritage Month, he listed more commitments the country will make to Indian Country.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker | The Red Power movement was just one aspect of the social revolution that swept across the American social landscape in the 1960s and ’70s, paralleling other ethnic nationalisms, women’s liberation, the antiwar movement, and the emergence of a new, rebellious, and predominantly white middle-class counterculture. Disenchanted with the conservative values of their parents’ generation and witnessing the increasing degradation of the environment, countercultural youth looked to other cultures for answers to existential questions they perceived as unavailable in mainstream American society.
After living through four years of an endless horror franchise, Joseph Biden gets sworn in today as commander in chief. Kamala Harris, in a historic moment for the US, gets sworn in as the first woman of color Vice President. And they have so much wreckage laying before them. No easy reset button will fix it or spirit it away. The pressure is on their administration to do right by a country reeling from a traumatic relationship with a white supremacist tyrant, and rightfully so. We reached out to our authors to ask what they want Biden and Harris to know, understand, or be aware of. On Inauguration Day, we share their responses with you.
Give yourself a round of applause for running the marathon and sadistic obstacle course that was 2020! Or a glass of wine. Recollect yourself and recuperate with your self-care regimen if you have one. This year ran us so ragged we may not be in any mood to look back in annoyance, exhaustion, or terror. But this is one of those car wrecks worthy of a size-up so we can take stock of the issues that blew up in 2020. That way, we can recommit to learning about them in the New Year to set the nation back on course to the society we want. The top read blog posts on the Broadside are a good, and hopefully less painful, way to do that.
Two things come to mind this Native American Heritage Month. Compared to whites, Native Americans have been hit hard with a higher percentage of COVID cases, not to mention severe COVID outcomes. On the flip side, voters of Indigenous descent in states like Arizona helped swing the vote in favor of President elect Joe Biden and Vice President elect Kamala Harris. (You’re fired, despotic Cheeto!) Their perseverance and commitment to a democracy that frequently forgets them attest to this year’s theme.
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker | Sociologist James O. Young writes that cultural appropriation happens when people from outside a particular culture take elements of another culture in a way that is objectionable to that group. According to Young’s definition, it is the objection that constitutes appropriation, as distinguished from cultural borrowing or exchange where there is no “moral baggage” attached. Native American cultural appropriation can be thought of as a broad range of behaviors, carried out by non-Natives, that mimic Indian cultures. Typically, they are based on deeply held stereotypes, with no basis at all in knowledge of real Native cultures.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker | Long before there was ever a concept called “feminism” in the US settler State, there was the knowledge of women’s power in Indigenous communities. The imposition of foreign cultures, and Christianity in particular, was corrosive to societies that were typically matrilineal or matrifocal, were foundationally equitable in the distribution of power between the genders, and often respected the existence of a third gender and non-hetero relationships. As Christianity swept over the continent, it instilled Indigenous societies with patriarchal values that sought not only to diminish women’s inherent cultural power but also to pathologize alternative gender identities, relationships, and marriage practices outside the bounds of monogamy, establishing a general pattern of gender and relationship suppression that constructs modern American society and reordered Native societies.
Now this is how you round off a year and a decade. Just look at all these books on all these Best-Of lists! Our authors absolutely killed it And they’ll kill it again in 2020. Let’s give them a round of applause into the new year. And while we’re doing so, let’s take a look at some highlights of the lists their books appeared on.
You won’t find corny-ass statements here proclaiming that the year 2020 will usher a time of clearer vision. Puh-lease. That’s tired. What’s worth saying here, however, is we need to keep our eyes on the issues that matter to us as we begin a new decade. Now that’s wired. We can get a picture of what matters by looking back at some of the top read blog posts on the Broadside in 2019.
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker | Second only to the Columbus discovery story, the Thanksgiving tale is the United States’ quintessential origin narrative. Like the Columbus myth, the story of Thanksgiving has morphed into an easily digestible narrative that, despite its actual underlying truths, is designed to reinforce a sense of collective patriotic pride. The truths are, however, quite well documented. Their concealment within a simplistic story inevitably depicts a convoluted reality about the Indigenous peoples who played crucial roles in both events, and it presents an exaggerated valorization about the settlers’ roles.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker | For many years now I have been studying, writing, and thinking about what environmental justice means for Indigenous peoples. In my most recent book, As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice From Colonization to Standing Rock, I take on the topic in very broad but specific ways. I see United States settler colonialism as a history of environmental injustice; in other words, colonization and environmental injustice go hand in hand for Native people.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker | The incident with the Covington Catholic school boys has been an astonishing exhibition of not only an intensely polarized country, but a dizzying conglomeration of issues. There were countless mixed messages contained in the assortment of video clips of Nathan Phillips and Nick Sandmann who appeared to be in a standoff. As an American Indian journalist and academic trained to analyze information from all possible angles and come to some kind of understanding of the evidence, I agree that much of the reactionary rhetoric and hateful response to the Covington students was misguided and outright wrong. The students did not deserve death threats.
You’ll notice a major recurring theme in the top read blog posts from the Broadside in 2018. Should it be any surprise? This year, readers were more than ready to come to terms with our country’s complex notions around racial identity and, most of all, white fragility. And we have Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility to thank! Dina Gilio-Whitaker extended the conversation of white fragility to address how settler colonialism manifests as settler privilege and settler fragility today. Her series on settler privilege went viral. Whatever the topic, we at Beacon Press can always turn to our authors for the critical lens we need to understand today’s most pressing social issues. Take a look at our other highlights of the Broadside.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker | Robin DiAngelo’s brilliant 2018 manifesto on white fragility was a much-needed truth bomb at a time when it’s more clear than ever that we are light years away from the “post-racial state.” Perhaps most important about the book was its clarity that racism is systemic and structural, that no white people are immune from it, and that their fragility about it is based on a belief that they are being judged as bad people (the good-bad binary). In this second part of a two-part series (see part one here), I take on the similar but very different concept we in Indian country call settler privilege and its companion, settler fragility.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker | November is Native American Heritage Month, when we as American Indian people get to have the mic for a little while. So, I’d like to take my turn at the virtual mic to talk about settler privilege, something you likely have never thought of, or have never even heard of. What you have undoubtedly heard of, however, is white privilege.
2017 has been ragged and turbulent, charged with a fraught political climate spawned by a divisive presidential election. 2017 witnessed assaults on progress in racial justice, backlashes against environmental protections, and more. When we needed perspective and lucid social critique on the latest attacks on our civil liberties, our authors were there. We couldn’t be more thankful for them. They make the Broadside, which reached its tenth anniversary this year, the treasure trove of thought-provoking commentary we can turn to in our troubling and uncertain times. As our director Helene Atwan wrote in our first ever blog post, “It’s our hope that Beacon Broadside will be entertaining, challenging, provocative, unexpected, and—maybe above all—a good appetizer.” We certainly hope that’s the case for the year to come. Before 2017 comes to a close, we would like to share a collection of some of the highlights of the Broadside. Happy New Year!
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker: By now it’s obvious that Donald Trump is acting out a twisted vendetta to erase every trace of Barack Obama’s eight-year legacy. The creation of the Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monuments are part of that legacy, which were efforts to protect vast swaths of relatively pristine and undeveloped land in southern Utah in one of his last acts as president. That’s one frame for understanding Trump’s recent reversal of the monument designation for most of that land—approximately fifty percent for Staircase Escalante, and eighty-five percent in the case of Bear’s Ears. Altogether, the national monument designation protected roughly 3.5 million acres of public lands.
With the anticipation of a mouth-watering feast and time away from the office to lounge with family and friends, Americans come together for Thanksgiving. It’s the holiday where conversations about our national origins abound. But much of the US’s widely accepted origin story is skewed by the lens of settler colonialism and has silenced the voices of Native Americans. With Native American Heritage Month, observed every November since 1990, we can reflect on the history and contributions of Indigenous peoples. “Writing US History from Indigenous peoples’ perspective requires rethinking the consensual narrative,” historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz tells us in An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. “That narrative is wrong—not in facts, dates and details—but rather in essence.”
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Since the days of the #NoDapl encampment, now nine months in the past, dozens of films have been released documenting the event. One of the latest is an offering from award-winning documentarian Brian Malone, titled Beyond Standing Rock. Malone has been touring the film and I recently had the chance to view it in Los Angeles, at the Autry Museum of the American West. What follows is my review of the film.
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-WhitakerIndigenous nations have for many decades negotiated with and litigated against the United States for its unfair and many times illegal dealings with them, dealings that have resulted in the massive loss of land and resources. Beginning with the Indian Claims Commission in the 1940s, the United States has paid out billions of dollars in settlements in acknowledgment of its depredations, with Native nations sometimes extinguishing their right to aboriginal title or status as federally recognized tribes in exchange.