ONE YEAR AGO: Backwater Bridge, Standing Rock & Police Brutality

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It was on this day last year that water protectors and protestors at Standing Rock were doused with water in freezing temperatures and shot at with rubber bullets.

I recently tweeted that indigenous people cannot trust institutions, because they are such a key part of our generational trauma, and the events at Standing Rock were a reminder of this for modern times.

My father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Native American police officers hired by the government to police other Native Americans. When I was young, I didn’t understand what that meant, and I’m still trying to understand it today as an adult. At Standing Rock and throughout the history of the United States, the BIA have played a crucial role between tribes and the government, often in negative ways. It’s important to have conversations about police and systematic brutality toward Native Americans in the United States today, and what happened at Standing Rock one year ago is a clear example of human rights violations on a broad scale.

According to this article, Native Americans suffer brutality at the hands of police at very high rates–higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.. Recently, a fourteen year old boy, Jason Pero, was shot by police. His story is just one of many, many that go unheard, justice never reached. Even in the CDC article mentioned above, we suspect that the numbers are higher than reported, because so many don’t even get reported. So many voices are not heard.

And if we aren’t outraged by this, something is wrong–something has been wrong for a while now. In our education systems we have to begin teaching our children the true history of our nation, and we have to teach them how to celebrate the individual tribes and cultures that make up this country.

In our churches we have to have conversations about our history, about boarding schools and the idea of salvation that first began generations of genocide and abuse and removal.

And we have to protest when indigenous men and women are shot, when indigenous women go missing, when human rights abuses take place. We have to make it a point that we do not forget Standing Rock and everything it stood for and continues to teach us.

I sat on my couch for days watching live feeds, and every moment was both teaching me who I was and completely wrecking every part of me. I saw the reality of America, of what it used to be and what it has become, all in front of me, in real time. Backwater Bridge and other episodes of police brutality toward indigenous peoples in America today should be a serious wake up call– a wake up call to the church, to our school systems, to the way we talk about our history.

If we do anything today, let’s make sure we’re having conversations.

Let’s make sure we’re asking questions of institutions that put profit over people.

Let’s make sure we’re paying attention to the cries of a forgotten and silenced earth who should never be silenced.

Let’s make sure we’re listening to those who have been oppressed in so many ways.

Let’s make sure this never happens again.

 

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