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Washington Post 'Redskins' Poll and Who is Native American?


Native family at an anti-Redsk*ns protestors in Minneapolis in 2014--Washington Post poll claims they and the 5,000 others Natives at this protest were an aberration in their community.
I have been pushing for more of a political definition of Native American identity in line with nationality for several years now. I think it is the fuzziness of Native American identity that makes it so easy to assume by others. It also causes a great deal of distress to Native youth. The fact is, any American can walk up to a Native person and tell them they are “not Native enough” to suit them. It happens all the time and this is traumatizing to youth and adults.

This identity “fuzziness” was purposefully done and is the result of hundreds of years of policy carried out by both colonial and U.S. governments to erase the political existence of Native American nations. These Indigenous nations because they have claims to the land and resources constitute a very real threat to the political integrity of the United States and any settler colonial state. So our true identity as pre-existing and persisting nations of North America is clouded as a matter of national policy.

This policy is evident in the denial of infrastructure to our remaining sovereign lands which drives Native families from their homelands to seek economic and educational opportunity. It can also be seen in the wholesale remove of Native youth from their families, both in the boarding school years and now, under the guise of foster care and adoption. The mass removal of children from an ethnic group constitutes an act of genocide under the Geneva Convention.

The pollsters could have also used the definition the United Nations and the International Labour Organization have outlined a few characteristics of an Indigenous person:

● Descended from the pre-colonial/pre-invasion inhabitants of a region.
● Maintain a close tie to land and both cultural and economic practices.
● Suffer from economic and political marginalization as a minority group.
● A group is considered Indigenous if it defines itself that way.

Native protestors at a Washington Redsk*ns game in Santa Clara, California
The survey would also have had to provide proper line of questioning to be certain that the respondents’ understanding of Native American identity is what the pollsters mean. This was not done and the Post editor who answered our questions before The Nation article came out stated that he did not believe anyone would lie about their identity, so they certainly did not structure the survey for that contingency.

I think this whole poll brings to light very clearly the nature of misrepresentation of Native people in the United States. It also shows how far apart we are that '9 out of 10’ would seem remotely credible to the Washington Post staff.

Jacqueline Keeler
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