I grew up rural, so  I knew some of my neighbors didn’t have running water.  I thought of it as an amusing eccentricity of their families.   Then my family moved near Houston, and I was bused to Booker T. Washington Jr. High in the early 1970s as part of Texas school desegregation.  Suddenly there was a “click.” I got that there was something really wrong, and unequal, about our different lives.

About a decade ago, I spent some time on the Rosebud reservation, east of Pine Ridge. I knew life is tough for communities of color in the US.   But when I went to meet the Lakotas, I had NO. IDEA. that there were small third-world countries all over the US.

I met so many people without running water. Without heat. Without jobs. Without parents.
Native American women have the highest rate of partner violence in the entire US.  Most students drop out before finishing high school.

How did I not know their life was like this?

Watch this all the way through, if you can. You will learn some disturbing things.  You need to know them.

Columbus didn’t kill these people; but he started the slaughter. Don’t celebrate the life of a slave trader this Monday.

From the transcript:

“Statistics about Native population today, more than a century after the massacre at Wounded Knee, reveal the legacy of colonization, forced migration and treaty violations. Unemployment on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation fluctuates between 85 and 90 percent. The housing office is unable to build new structures, and exiting structures are falling apart.

Many are homeless, and those with homes are packed into rotting buildings with up to five families. 39 percent of homes on Pine Ridge have no electricity. At least 60 percent of the homes on the reservation are infested with black mold. More than 90 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty line. The tuberculosis rate on Pine Ridge is approximately eight times higher than the U.S. national average. The infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent and is about three times higher than the U.S. national average.

Cervical cancer is five times higher than the U.S. national average. School dropout rate is up to 70 percent. Teacher turnover is eight times higher than the U.S. national average. Frequently, grandparents are raising their grandchildren because parents, due to alcoholism, domestic violence and general apathy, cannot raise them. 50 percent of the population over the age of 40 suffers from diabetes. The life expectancy for men is between 46 and 48 years old — roughly the same as Afghanistan and Somalia.

The last chapter in any successful genocide is the one in which the oppressor can remove their hands and say, “My God, what are these people doing to themselves? They’re killing each other. They’re killing themselves while we watch them die.” This is how we came to own these United States. This is the legacy of manifest destiny. Prisoners are still born into prisoner of war camps long after the guards are gone. These are the bones left after the best meat has been taken. A long time ago, a series of events was set in motion by a people who look like me, by wasichu, eager to take the land and the water and the gold in the hills. Those events led to a domino effect that has yet to end.

Related posts:

“Pest control”–an old metaphor for racism.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!

One Comment

  1. I’ll probably celebrate October 12th* a bit. Not because of Columbus, but because it’s my birthday. Also, there’s a meeting of Copenhagen Sceptics in the Pub, so I may go and join in on that.

    *Which is Wednesday and not Monday, I know, but America just rounds off to the nearest Monday for some reason.

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