Equality, sovereignty, self-determination, decision-making and change for communities are myths for many Native Americans because the delivery of the message has always been from the same people who put us here. The analogy of “Indian in the cupboard” is from a stereotyped political Native American, who would agrees on traditional token messages from political campaigns pushing an agenda for a single vote. Not a lot has changed for Natives since 1889, when Lewis and Clarke murdered the first Blackfeet of Montana. My ancestors were the “Original Protectors” of what is now called Montana, they never had the ideology of owning land, air or water. They lived in a “communal balance” between natural resources, animals and their people. A special election for the Montana Federal House Seat will happen in the next 90 days. The 13 tribes of Montana will be the deciding vote. I see two white men, who will debate on who is more Montanan from 4rd generation to 7th generation, all while some Native Americans are still 1st generation Americans/Montanans with parents who were once free to their tribal nations. I am a 3rd generation American citizen on paper and Montanan. My grandparents were not papered citizens by the government’s standard because they were born in tipi’s and spoke the languages that the creator gave them. The next question from the two candidates will be an argument about land access and who wants to restrict access to lands in Montana. The Irony of this epidemic issue, is that both political parties have applaud the creation of the Keystone Pipeline. This pipeline will run through traditional lands and create restrictions of land access to tribal members and non-tribal members that reside in that region. I am not one for being poverty porn driven, so how do we change the narrative in Montana?
We start by remembering who we are as a people. That the resilience of our ancestor’s flow through our veins. It wants us to thrive not just to survive. Empower yourself through asking compelling questions and be humble in learning your traditional ways. Do not follow the Plastic Medicine Man who only is ceremonial when money is involved. Rather, go to sit at the drum of an elder who sings from the heart or head to the grandmother’s house who teaches language from her heart. Just make a effort to change your community. Support the female veteran who hosts community meetings based on the hard talks about meth and youth suicide in our communities. Again, just make the effort. Rather than putting down the Native who comes back to the rez to make difference, stand with them and guide them. Support other tribes directly by standing on the front lines in the face of oppression. Face the same oppression that your ancestors faced for you to be here today. Support the youth who wants to leave the rez to see the world, let them know that they will always have a home when they return. Support each other and love each other, it’s simple, its who we are as a people. This is the start of the narrative but somewhere within that change happens. How is change started is the next question?
I don’t have a formal education, I am not smart enough, I don’t know politics, I will sound stupid, I will wait till I am older, it’s not my problem, I am from the rez, I can’t change anything; these all excuses that I have heard from people throughout the years. I never had any skills at first either. There was no one speaking for our people or any leader acting. I forced myself to become educated on the issues through google and other sources. I started to see common trends such as;
Native American men are incarcerated at four times the rate of white men; Native American women are incarcerated at six times the rate of white women
88% of violent crimes committed against Native American women are carried out by non-native perpetrators.
Native American Youths are 30% more likely than whites to be referred to juvenile court than have the charges dropped.
On some reservations in Montana there is 40-60 unsolved murder cases
I could see the faces of people in my community, who I lost to murder and cases were never solved. I thought about friends, who I will never see for years because they were lost to the profit prison system in Montana. Friends that confined in me about being raped by someone who was still free or white cowboys that told me they didn’t have to follow the law on the rez. Nor did I ever hear politicians mention in their political campaigns meth usage by 12 year olds, meth babies, unsolved murders, non-native perpetrators uncharged, modern-day land grabs, protection rights to clean drinking water, Indian health Service that is underfunded by 50% or the lack infrastructure for Native Communities. So, I headed to and spoke at state legislative hearings, I founded my own nonprofit, I held rallies against anti-Indian groups, I held rallies against the governor of Montana for sending Highway patrol to Standing Rock, I stood face to face with my fellow Native Brothers & Sisters against the United States & the State of North Dakota, I supported my youth members who rallied against racism at Polson High School. I just did it because Facebook shares can only do so much. There is nothing special about me, I am a full-time Business Analytics Student with a family and not much money. All I have is my ancestor’s that live through me. So, when will you make that change?
Now, not tomorrow but right now is the time for you start. Go to political rally’s, google, google, google, Netflix social justice movies, dances with wolves (jks), google, Facebook, twitter, attend city meetings, host meetings, talk to a non-native about native issues but whatever you do don’t be the Indian in the cupboard. The Indian in the Cupboard is the same as a native puppet, who white people tell what is good for them. They only take the Indian out of the cupboard to create racial valorization. Almost like saying, I have an Indian friend so I know what’s good for all Indians. DO NOT BE THAT INDIAN. Be the native who is knowledgeable, connected to your community and understands that change starts by saying no. Tell politician’s or political parties, that you know what is good for your community and what works. We don’t we need a white savior mentally that hinders progress. So, before you use words like sovereignty and self-determination check your white privilege because I am not your Indian in the Cupboard, I am going to ask you what you mean in detail with percentage changes, evaluation metrics, timelines, and exact systemic change plans. This Native has never been an “Indian in Cupboard” type and there is a whole network of us in Montana, so prepare to speak to a generation of Natives that are the realization of our Ancestor’s Dreams.