US Has Selective Memory Regarding Violence

Harlan McKosato

There is a whole history of massacres against tribes that doesn’t really need to be documented in this story. The history of violence is something that is practically part of Native peoples’ DNA. It’s certainly part of our genetic memory, incorporated into our genetic code. What’s happening here in America is part of this country’s genetic code that is not talked about.

When there is a history of violence, bigotry and racism that is such an influential part of the past, and there is one group of humans that has dominated others, it makes almost perfect sense that at some point it will manifest itself into what we’re seeing today here in America, Europe and other parts of the world. When I watch or read news about what happened in Nice (France), Orlando (Florida), or Dallas it’s almost as if I’m witnessing a distant scene from Wounded Knee.

America has a lot of growing up to do. There is a certain sort of denial about the past here in the U.S., especially when it comes to  Native Americans. We are left out of the national discussion. Some may blame it on white guilt. If it weren’t for President Obama and the First Lady we would probably never be acknowledged by any national politician, unless it was someone trying to demean a political opponent by calling her Pocahontas.

I heard former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani speaking the other night at the Republican National Convention and he talked about people “living in fear” because of all the violence taking place across the country. He asked about what happened to “there is no white America and black America…there’s just one America.” What happened?

Imagine being a Native American when Europeans viciously and maliciously came after our lands and resources. Do you think tribal people lived in fear for their lives, their children, and other family members? Ever heard of the Andrew Jackson Indian-removal era and the Trail of Tears? Then came the U.S. Cavalry, who were infamous for attacking Native villages at dawn. Talk about living in fear.

It doesn’t seem like many Europeans and Americans were sticking up for the indigenous people who had lived here for thousands of years. What about when our warriors were ambushed during our tribal doings and our tribal ceremonies when they were vulnerable and were attacked without warning?

Let me be clear however. I am not sympathetic to Islamic radicalism. I’m not saying that any particular kind of violence is justified. I am just sick and tired of hearing the American media talking about how the Orlando massacre was the worst in U.S. history. That’s not true. That’s not correct. Why don’t they ever report about the massacres that Native people suffered? It bothers me sometimes when these kinds of thoughts come up in my mind – but they do.

In my opinion, warfare and massacres have only evolved into the 21st century. The U.S. has an ugly past that is barely recognized in history books or any major media. I’m thinking it’s the ultimate example of white guilt – “Let’s not talk about our violent history against Native Americans (and African Americans) and maybe it will just go away.”

I laughed out loud when I heard Donald Trump say (paraphrasing) that all violence against our law enforcement needs to “end immediately, and end now.” Does he have a magic wand? Does he not realize that the only way to slow down the violence is to have open and honest discussion about the violence and massacres that have happened here in our country over the past three or four centuries?

As far as Native people, many have healed through the prayers of our people and have let the hatred and the resentment towards white people go – others have not. But as long as we act as if racism and violence never existed until the last few years, it will just be prolonged. Let’s talk about it. That’s the only way we can find peace and not live in fear.

Harlan McKosato is a citizen of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma. He is the Director of NDN Productions, an independent media production company based in Albuquerque.

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smacmill's picture
Oh man, I watched a lot of both the recent political conventions. Mention of Native Americans is a very rare event. A speaker will go through the list of minorities that they are concerned about, and NA's are not on that list. Where I live, on the West Coast, the general population mostly thinks of NA's in terms of casinos and they gripe about how unfair it is that tribes get to establish them. They never ever wonder about the history of why this has come to be. They also carry very romantic notions about how tribes used to live, which drives me crazy. It's not easy having one foot with the ancestors, and one foot in the 21st century.
Squanto's picture
So well said and such an eye-opener. I've never associated today's violence with America's past, but there it is.
Alan S. Bias's picture
1607 Jamestown or 1620 Plymouth Caucasian settlement dates would be a much better starting point vs. 1837-8 Trial of Tears for those of us with Eastern Native ancestors...
Alan S. Bias