Native Americans – we’re an eloquent bunch. With proper syntax and diction, we can describe to you exactly why Columbus Day is a sham; why the Keystone XL pipeline is an imprudent and foolhardy endeavor; and, course, why little ol’ Danny Snyder, the owner of the Washington football team, continues to rigidly stand on the wrong side of history. Alas, the following are just a few examples of what you, dear friend, would NEVER hear a Native American say:
1. “That Christopher Columbus – what a great navigator, huh? I’m really glad he discovered America.”
Never mind that he was a slave trader for the Portuguese, or that he hanged 13 Indians at once (one for each of the twelve apostles and one more for Jesus Christ); or that he and his men would test the sharpness of their blades on the flesh of innocent indigenous men, women and children. Unfortunately, on Columbus Day, what matters most to many is that he was of Italian parentage. Columbus' heritage, though, has been the subject of much debate of late.
2. “Do you think we were a little too hard on Custer?”
Posterity has remembered General George Armstrong Custer for the bloodthirsty bigot that he was. Yet, little is it known that following his decisive death in 1876 at the hands of Native Americans who would not go gentle into that good night, the Seventh Cavalry -- Custer's men -- exacted indiscriminate revenge on said Native Americans on December 29, 1890. History has remembered that day as the Wounded Knee Massacre. Soon after the carnage, an estimated 300 frozen Native American bodies (around 200 were women and children) were dumped into a pit and 20 U.S. soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry were awarded the Medal of Honor. Those medals have yet to be rescinded.
3. “Why don’t they just count us with the Asians anyway? I mean, the Bering Strait Theory and all.”
I think it's important here that we define the word 'theory.' According to Dictionary.com, a theory is "a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact." So, there. Next time someone says, "Hey, you Native Americans are immigrants too, you know," you can remind them the definition of a theory. And if that's not enough, you can tell them that Dr. David Reich, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, confirmed the Bering Strait Theory remains just that, a theory. "I think that it’s a hypothesis about history, but no, it’s not fact," he said.
4. “Well, if you ask me I don’t think they took enough land.”
The Inter Caetera (the 1493 papal bull which justified the theft of indigenous land). Manifest Destiny. Divine Right. The Doctrine of Discovery, i.e. Johnson v. McIntosh. Westward Expansion. The Trail of Tears. All of these are the tools by which the invaders of Europe aggressively stole more than a billion acres of Native American land. Take a moment and watch this comprehensive Upworthy video on the expansion of European settlement and the mass reduction of Native American land between 1783 and 2010.
5. “That Martin Sensmeier is pretty fugly.”
OK, so I'm pretty confident no one has ever said that. And since we've just gone over some pretty heavy subjects, let me leave you with this: after all that Native Americans have suffered, after all the lies and false nationalistic holidays, especially in autumn, and after all the ugliness and privilege of those would utter, "Get over it. It's in the past," just remember that, right now, somewhere, Martin Sensmeier is probably shirtless and looking just like this.