Open Letter to White People at Standing Rock

By Miriam Schacht (RoteZora)

I wrote this note while staying at the Two Spirit Nation camp within the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock about a week ago. I originally drove out there to help someone else out, but without the intention of staying, because I take seriously the critiques that suggest that white activists have been taking over the protests. However, I stayed much longer than I intended because it turned out that there was important work to do as a white accomplice–work that addressed precisely the issue of white activists at these camps and these actions. Part of the necessary work of white accomplices is to lessen the burden on people of color. At camp that meant I was asked by Two Spirit folks to give white visitors “allyship 101” or “Two Spirit 101” lectures; this letter is my attempt to keep that work up, and keep taking on some of the burden, even when I’m not at the camp anymore. As requested, I’ve sent hard copies to the folks at camp (there’s barely any internet access there), but I’m also re-posting it here. 

Read this, please, with an open heart. If you start feeling defensive, take a moment to reflect on why that is before returning to reading.

The first and perhaps most important thing to understand is that this protest is not about you. Yes, we are all affected by what happens here, and we should all serve the earth as stewards and protectors. But this camp and this resistance is first and foremost Indigenous. This movement comes out of countless thousands of years’ relationship with this land. It comes from 500 years of colonialism that tried not only to take this land, but to eliminate every Indian person on it, and when that didn’t work, tried to kill off the cultures of the hundreds of Indigenous nations of this continent. This movement comes out of centuries in which Native sovereignty has been ignored, during which Indigenous nations with thousands of years of history have been reduced to “domestic dependent nations.” This movement comes in response to the centuries of genocide that have made the United States what it is today. It comes from hundreds of Native nations who live within the country that stole their land and stole their children and stole their culture and keeps on trying to steal everything they were and are. It also comes from the prophecies of many different tribal traditions, as well as an ancient and contemporary relationship between the people and this land.

For these reasons and many more, this protest is fundamentally Indigenous.

indigenous
Indigenous protesters, faced by riot police

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What does this mean for white people at Standing Rock?

For starters, we are not and should not be the leaders here.

Native community structures, and especially leadership structures, may not look like what we as white Americans are familiar with. What may look, at first glance, like an absence of leadership is not that at all, but instead the presence of leaders who are humble, who don’t announce their leadership role, who understand that leadership is facilitating the will of the people around you rather than putting yourself forward. Many people here who are leaders probably don’t consider themselves that way, because Indigenous leadership is all about putting away your own ego and serving other people. Leaders might just as easily be cooking dinner or clearing trash as running meetings or heading an action. Trust that the community knows and recognizes who they are.

Instead of trying to lead, ask how you can serve. Do the work that needs doing, not just the work you want to do or that is most visible. Be humble. Accept corrections and advice. Make yourself useful outside of the spotlight.

That also means don’t charge to the front of actions unless specifically asked to do so. Do not simply do your own thing at an action. Don’t rush to be interviewed or filmed. The world has heard enough white voices and seen enough white faces. We do not need to be the representatives of this movement or this place. Even if the Native voices are quieter than yours–in fact, especially then–they should be the ones to speak. If a reporter asks you for a quote, ask them if they’ve spoken to Indigenous demonstrators. If they haven’t, facilitate that. Emphasize and understand that everything here is happening because Indigenous people and tribal nations decided to resist.

We as non-Native people are here for support, not for recognition.

Do things because they need doing or because you are asked to, not because you want someone to thank you. Do your best to bury your ego. This may be harder than you expect, because regardless of how much we might think we’ve left mainstream whiteness behind, we’ve grown up in a world where white people are always at the center. It’s hard to be on the margins; practice being on the margins here, behind the scenes rather than on stage. Understand that Indigenous people, like other people of color, are nearly always pushed to the margins and made invisible. See what that space feels like.

We’re also taught that we have a right to everything. All knowledge should be shared, all culture belongs to everyone, the world should be open-source. This in particular can be extremely difficult to unlearn, but it’s also extremely important. Don’t assume that you are invited everywhere. Especially when it comes to ceremonies, ask humbly if you are welcome instead of assuming, and always be willing to accept “no” as an answer. This is not about you personally; accept that fact with grace and understanding. Some spaces or events are for Native people only. Not all knowledge is for everyone. Not all ceremonies are open to all. Respect that.

Learn what the protocols and expectations are, and follow them.

We are guests here. Following the guidelines set up for the camp and for the actions is appropriate and respectful. This isn’t a question of following authority or being a rebel by disregarding it; it’s about respecting our hosts in ways that white society, in general, has never done. (In fact, if you value rebellion, consider that respect for Native protocols is the ultimate act of rebellion against the US government.)

20161019_161245-1
“This is a ceremony. Act accordingly” puts it beautifully and succinctly

If someone else fails to follow protocols–even someone Native, even someone local–don’t take that as permission to disregard them yourself. Respect the community that established these guidelines.

Understand that you are in a place where the expectations for behavior may be different than what you’re used to, and that’s OK–ask when you’re unsure. Some things to know: Elders hold a place of great respect in Native communities; listen to what they have to say, defer to their experience and knowledge, offer to get them food, give them your chair, let them go ahead of you in line. Ask if it’s OK to enter someone’s campsite. If folks are in a circle, don’t join until you are asked. Don’t add things to the fire unless you know what’s what–some things around the fire might be sacred medicine, and wood might be rationed for specific purposes. Be a part of things appropriately and with respect.

This note from the Sacred Stone Camp FAQ is also helpful:

When you are at Sacred Stone Camp, you are a guest of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota nation. If you are told to do or not do something according to tradition, please be respectful and comply. Photography is not allowed during ceremony or prayer. If you are a woman, you are asked not to attend ceremony, including sweat lodges, while you are on your moon (menstruating). Certain traditional events, items, and clothing are only to be attended/used/worn by Native people. Please ask before collecting sage, berries, or any other plant from the area. When in doubt, ask an elder or local.

Think of yourself as a student, not a teacher, and spend more time listening than talking.

Share your expertise if and when you are asked, but don’t ever assume you are the only expert in the room (or around the fire). Educate yourself as much as you can, and cut yourself some slack, too; learning means making mistakes, and everyone here will make some mistakes. Learn from your mistakes and they’ll become valuable experiences.

Recognize, too, that no amount of education gives you license to explain Nativeness to Native people.

Understand that you are not Native.

Non-Natives in this country have a long history of claiming a Native identity that is not ours to claim, whether it’s colonists dressing up as “Indians” for the Boston Tea Party, Boy Scouts holding supposedly “Indian” rituals in the Boy Scouts’ Order of Arrow, Grateful Dead fans calling themselves the Society of the Indian Dead, summer camps naming themselves after Native nations, or New Age practitioners laying claim to ceremonial and sacred Native practices. All of these are ways of claiming tribal identity without being Native, and all of them are colonialist practices that work to erase the continued existence of this continent’s Native people.

weallnative
Well-intentioned though it might be, this sign is not, ultimately, helpful. (Picture taken on a bus to a protest) 

Even if some people (even some Native people) tell you that we are all Native, understand that many others not only disagree, but see this viewpoint as a way for colonizers to appropriate Native identity–yet another way for whites to steal Native culture. For non-Natives to claim some form of Native identity reinforces the pain of colonialism for many Native people. Even if you are not wholly convinced by this, please understand that this can hurt people deeply. If, in spite of this, you still think that your right to claim Nativeness trumps the right of Native people not to feel hurt and erased by your behavior, then you should think about what your goals are and whether you belong in this camp.

It is true that we are all indigenous to someplace, and that there are indigenous European cultures that were wiped out by Christianity. This does not mean that those of us who are of European descent are not also colonizers on this land. Additionally, Christianity’s rise to dominance in Europe happened in a very different historical context well over a thousand years ago, and did not involve racial genocide; please avoid suggesting that it was in any way the same thing as what has happened with Native people on this continent.

Don’t make assumptions about other peoples’ identities.

For decades Hollywood has shown us what Indians look like. The problem is that some of Hollywood’s most prominent Indians were actually Italian…and some actual Native people couldn’t (and still can’t) play Indians in Hollywood because they don’t “look Indian.” That should tell you all you need to know about whether you can tell who is Native simply by looking. Native people today are extremely diverse. Sure, some look like Indians do in movies, but plenty don’t. There are blond Indians with pale skin, and black Indians with afros. There are Indians with straight hair, curly hair, no hair. They’re tall, short… you get the point. Nativeness isn’t always something you can see, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Carry this recognition into the rest of your life as well.

Remember to take care of yourself.

You cannot help others well if you are not trying to be healthy and balanced yourself. You will hear people talk about doing things the right way; taking care of yourself and keeping yourself in balance is an important part of that. Don’t do anything that goes against your values or beliefs, or that makes you feel unsafe. You deserve the same respect as every other person in camp.

Understand that genocide and colonialism are not just history; they are the present.

We are all part of a system built on genocide (and slavery, and more), a system that has benefited us as white people whether we want it to or not. There is no way to opt out of white privilege. Some parts of your identity may mean you are oppressed in other ways, but even if you are transgender or grew up poor or speak with an accent, you still have white privilege. Even if you are not from the US, you still have white privilege. You may choose to live in ways that challenge this system, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you can live outside this system. We have white privilege, no matter what. It doesn’t mean we need to feel guilty about it, but it does mean we need to take responsibility for our place in the world, and decide what to do with it. Acknowledge your privilege, understand it, and then put it to use to help break down this system of colonialism and white supremacy we all live in.

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42 thoughts on “Open Letter to White People at Standing Rock”

  1. This is wonderful, Carol. Valuable lessons for all non-native people regardless of where and how we are trying to make the world a kinder, gentler, more respectful place. I think non-native people want to help and this will make that help more effective and valuable. Thanks for taking the time and for sharing, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Diana. The credit for this important, masterful work goes to my friend, Miriam, who graciously agreed to post it here and join the blog as a co-administrator. Like you, she is a great fan of speculative fiction and a gifted writer and scholar. I know she will appreciate your feedback. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s an important message, Carol. There are people of all colors who care about the planet and want to help. There are also people of all colors who want to support the indigenous peoples of America rather than stand aside or turn their backs. Knowing how to help makes it so much easier to help and makes the help more effective. The post hinted that there is something happening that’s even bigger than Standing Rock, and I think that’s true. There’s change and growth in this crisis for all of us.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I so appreciated your honesty, critical insights and thoughtful approach to Miriam’s message, Diana. It’s not an easy point of view to convey and Miriam has done so with such clarity, compassion and eloquence. It’s a message I can’t deliver without being viewed as self-interested or “anti-white.” I am so, so, so grateful for goodhearted allies like Miriam and you who can say what I can’t for the sake of those whose voices and experiences are not honored. Yes, the Standing Rock Water Protectors are a powerful consciousness-raising and healing force if we take time to listen deeply and reflect. Protecting the water, earth, and all life benefits everyone.

          Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you once again for a wonderful post from RoteZora. These are such important lessons to learn. I shared the post with my facebook friends. Thank you for helping those of us who are not native understand what it means to help.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pertinent observations, Carol, in the context of mass migrations of people to settle in different parts of the world in groups creating territories and seeking to annex new ones in an incessant struggle for domination of one over the other and for control of resources. While this is the case with most communities, people need to transcend the tendency for group solidarity and identify the unifying features of shared humanity to dissolve barriers of tribe, region, nation, race and colour. Unfortunately what we see around us is the inclination to conquer and dominate, manifesting in conquests and elimination of tribes, slavery and flourishing fields irrigated with blood. The desired evolution of humanity is still slow in coming, yet registering strongly in art and music, theology and philosophy, shared ideals, advancement of knowledge and pursuit of collective welfare. The yearning towards humanism and realisation of interdependence of people everywhere is bound to result in transformative action. Let that infinite hope carry us forward.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think that it’s possible to identify the unifying features of shared humanity, as you say (which is vital), without necessarily seeing tribe, region, or nation as a barrier. I struggle with this, though, because in some ways, the very existence of groups implies an in-group and necessarily an out-group. But there are ways that this can be positive, depending on how we see the out group. Do we see them as less-than-us? or better-than-us? Or can we learn to see them as “different from us in ways that will help all of us be more complete people”? The example I think of from my own life (this is Miriam, by the way – I’m the one who wrote the piece above) is about immigrant communities–I’m first generation American, and that informs a lot of who I am, and it gives me a unique connection to other first-generation Americans, even those whose parents hail from different continents and cultures than mine. Learning what kinds of experiences we shared and where we differed was one of the really powerful parts of my friendships with other first-generation Americans (as well as, later, other people who grew up first-generation in other countries). All of us were strongly identified with our parents’ culture/nations of origin, and it was both our commonalities and our differences that made our interactions so enriching for all of us. Solidarity was a given, and not just when it came to immigrant issues (few things as readily highlight racial differences in the United States as comparing the experience of white and people of color immigrants, and so our shared experiences also made me more aware of how we were treated differently when it came to race, and that in turn highlighted the need to really stand together in solidarity). But it was also a given that we belonged to a range of communities, not all of which we shared. Maybe the key is that recognition that we belong to a range of communities, some of which are shared, some of which are not, and it’s through those shared ones that we can come to appreciate the importance and value of the ones we don’t share, including those we’re not even a part of. Maybe.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice connecting with you, Miriam, and due apologies for omitting to take your name by oversight while responding with my views. Waves of mass migration of people to regions of better climes and potential have occurred throughout history and will continue to be. Be it any country in the world, no region belongs to any group of people exclusively. Ultimately all parts of the world belong to all groups of people regardless of man-made barriers of nationality, region, tribe, race, caste and colour. The sooner such realisation expands human perspectives the better.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Hello Rajagopal, nice to “meet” you!

          I think we basically agree; I think it’s that I’m talking more about intangibles and you’re talking more about tangibles, if I’m reading you correctly (apologies if I’m not!). “All parts of the world belong to all groups of people”–indeed. Land and resources must be shared, and do not belong to any one person or peoples, and I would agree with you absolutely, with the one exception that I think sacred sites and burial sites need to be protected. (That right there is one of the big reasons I’m more Marx-ish than Marxist!) One of the big problems of contemporary global politics is that we seem to be fine with allowing the free passage of capital, while doing our damnedest to prevent free passage of people; we’re allowing corporations answerable to no one to buy up large swaths of land for exclusive and possibly broadly damaging use, while insisting that large numbers of people live on and support themselves from smaller and smaller areas of land. That isn’t tenable in the long run, and needs to change.

          I do think that in nations coming from a context of settler colonialism, like the US, Canada, Australia, NZ, and others, the conversation has to pause to acknowledge original Indigenous rights, and the invitation to open up the land to everyone needs to come from Indigenous peoples. (Which I think it would, far more readily than from the majority; from everything I’ve seen, North American Native communities have been far more welcoming to immigrants and refugees than majority-white communities.)

          Because of our specific history, we always run the risk of eliding the damage that colonialism has done in eliminating Native land use rights, forcibly removing Native people from land that they’ve lived on for thousands of years, and relegating them to reservations on, generally, the least productive land we could find. After all, a LOT of Native land in the US was parceled out to white settlers because the government decided it was “extra,” i.e. more than the Indians needed (specifically with the Dawes Allotment Act, though also piecemeal earlier and later). Because of that history, because of the way every use of land in this country is so intimately tied to colonialism, settler nations need to have a conversation about Indigenous rights and WITH Indigenous people first, because otherwise we run the risk of simply instituting what looks at Dawes Act Part II. It’s kind of like me coming barging into your house, taking over every space in it, putting you in the garage, and then deciding except where you are standing (or moving you into the closet), and then once bringing in a bunch of other people and saying that this house is theirs now. If I’d had a conversation with you first, we might well have agreed that these folks could live there because you had extra rooms, and you might even have made up beds for them and cooked dinner and welcomed them, but I need to have a conversation with you first. In Italy or Korea, it’s their house already; in the U.S., we need to have that conversation and make sure your voice is heard.

          (I like working with metaphors as a way to explain stuff; it doesn’t always work, but it’s my background in literature coming through!)

          When it comes to intangibles like culture or spirituality, though, which is most of what I was thinking about in the open letter above, I would say it’s a different matter, and not everyone has a right to them. For example, at the Sun Dance, every year, there are tourists who try to get in and see it, even though it is meant to be for tribal members and participants’ invited family/friends only. I think it is the right of the people holding the Sun Dance to kick those tourists out, especially in a context where white sightseers have long been in the habit of stealing or “borrowing” or digging up sacred items and sites.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Thanks Miriam for your elaborate response. I am on the same page about rights of natives and indigenous peoples. World over, colonialism has a similar history of forcibly displacing and annihilating native peoples and cultures and supervening it with their own, and these efforts have met with varying degrees of success, and, in some exceptional cases, failure. The restoration of status quo depends on the kind of resistance that the natives are capable of bringing to bear on the situation. In the US there was Martin Luther and others, in India there was Mahatma Gandhi and several others, in Africa there was Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda and few others. While in the US the colonialists were able to practically wipe out indigenous cultures, in other parts of the world their efforts met with only limited success. In Asia and Africa, the indigenous people countered all invasive designs with their greater numbers and domineering momentum of local arts and culture distilled over thousands of years of civilization. The examples are India, China, Egypt and Japan. The undivided Indian subcontinent (comprising present day Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan), which at one point of time in history was the richest region on earth, was virtually plundered by European colonial powers. They could take away much of the wealth but did not succeed in imposing the culture in spite of several hegemonic centuries; the Portuguese were in India for nearly 450 years, the British and the Dutch for around 300 years. That said, one needs to take a larger view of events in history, as people coming in always bring in greater skills, enterprise and social development. The English language with which I am communicating to you is a legacy of the British. There has been considerable devastation punctuated by periods of development even though these were mostly to facilitate colonial administration. On balance, I would like to think that centuries of interaction with colonialists strengthened and empowered us a nation, enabling us to presently draw on far greater depths of talent and versatility. I can see that in you, Miriam, and Carol, among the countless indigenous others in different parts of the planet. Best wishes…

          Liked by 2 people

  4. This is very necessary, because whites have been indoctrinated for generation after generation to react in a completely different way.

    But I believe, Carol, that once upon a time, all peoples would have been accustomed to this type of culture. And this is the culture that I hold in my heart and mind, when I speak of the individual in the collective.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m the one who wrote it, though Carol invited me to post it – figured I should point that out, as this is my own opinion. Historically, I think you are right, though I am wary of the potential suggestion that Native cultures are therefore somehow more historic / less advanced — I’m *not at all* saying you are suggesting this! but the formulation troubles me because that suggestion is very much part and parcel of how mainstream society views Native societies. For myself, a history that is so far buried beneath centuries, if not millennia, of social, religious, and economic systems that actively worked to replace it, is hard if not impossible to recover, and–again, for myself only–the work of doing that recovery is less intriguing than the work of defending what exists from Euroamerican colonialism and capitalism and culture, and in doing so working to change what that Euroamerican culture is. I think it goes back to what I mentioned in introducing myself–as someone who loves speculative fiction, I tend to focus less on imagining the past and more on imagining the future. Those two things are not, of course, mutually exclusive, either; I suspect we are approaching the same issue from two different temporal directions.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I can see what you mean.

        I was speaking in terms of my ancestors living a more sane life in the past, not that they were primitive or less in any way, in fact, I meant to suggest just the opposite, that perhaps, they understood how to live in ways we (White European ancestry) have been programmed/conditioned to forget, ways we need to get back to, if we desire a world different from the one we have almost destroyed now.

        I’m not so certain that any of us need to KEEP looking to the future, or at least not right at the moment. Perhaps, we White Europeans, in particular, need to go back and figure out where our ancestors lost touch with their humanity: life, love, compassion and true community.

        Sorry I didn’t take the time to explain yesterday!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Reblogged this on steelcityman and commented:
    Read this, please, with an open heart. If you start feeling defensive, take a moment to reflect on why that is before returning to reading. I couldn’t NOT reblog this post, written by Miriam Schacht (RoteZora) re: the suggestion that white activists have been taking over from the indigenous people at the STANDING ROCK protest. It certainly gives food for thought as well as feelings of guilt and shame at being white, American or European … try and put those feelings aside to be dealt with later, and read the full post with an open heart and mind ….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is an excellent letter. Even though I am a white man I totally agree with the things you have written here. This is how I have first felt since I first met Indian People when I moved from Virginia to Spear Fish S.D. at the age of 9 back in 1965. The group of people that are owed the most in this country are the Indian people. One of the things that I have never understood is how the Indian Tribes have their ‘Nations’ yet the Federal government can do anything they want to do on ‘India Land’.To me, these ‘Nations’ should be sovereign, and be treated by the U.S. government just the same as they do with the Nations of Mexico and Canada.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I love this. Yes, it’s “firm, but fair,” but it NEEDS saying. This society has such a reactionary bandwagon mentality mixed with the finders-keepers of online culture. Not only do they think they’re doing good by thrusting their voice and face at others, but they think it’s their right to do so because, well, they liked it, so it’s theirs, so nyeh. You state with eloquence and sincerity this is not such a place to do that and why. I hope your letter is read, and read often. I hope those who do mean well listen, and think. xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This piece encapsulates many of the vital and important issues around the whole question of genocide. Genocide, in all its forms, is indeed with us today. I’m astonished, when I speak of it, that people are often unaware that the wilful and stealthy destruction of cultural communities such as gypsies are as prevalent and as violent as well as the more obvious groups.

    If you will allow me, I would very much like to reproduce the final paragraph on my blog with a link back to the piece on your blog.

    Please let me know if that’s OK.

    All the best,

    RR

    Liked by 2 people

    1. By all means, if you still want to (sorry for the late reply!), repost the final paragraph! I really appreciate your comments–and absolutely, I think that Roma & Sinti (“gypsies”) are very much subject to similar pressures, and are one of the few groups who face similarly pervasive stereotyping. For both Natives and Sinti/Roma (and Travellers, I would guess), those stereotypes are so widespread and normalized that many people think they can use them as Halloween costumes, and also don’t necessarily realize that they are real people, who exist today, and who are immensely discriminated against.

      Like

    1. It’s such a delight to hear from you, Lorna. Thank you for such thoughtful comments about Miriam’s compassionate gift to promote greater understanding among people from different cultures. I’m grateful for her ability to speak with gentle clarity and eloquence about issues I can’t address without being seen as angry, self-interested, or anti-white.

      My draft manuscript is still waiting patiently as I focus on the onerous task of grading student papers. Yet the rewards of seeing students’ excitement when they finally realize they can “get” research, when they learn that their perspectives matter, make the work feel worthwhile.

      Like

  9. Reblogged this on Dolphin and commented:
    Beautifully written. Applause. Applause. And it is no understatement that white folks in camp were trying to take over, when it was not their place. I was embarrassed to be white at those moments. And this is not looking down the nose, but an acknowledgement of white folks not being humble and respectful. And it’s not about making someone feel small, rather, but a lesson to learn. We white folks have been taught that we have all the answers…but alas, we do not. Or we would not be in the mess we’re in right now. We have forgotten to be humble — that anything given to us has been given by the Creator. We have forgotten to take care of the Earth as God’s creation.

    As a side note~
    Just this morning, I was reading about the Iroquois and our Constitution. First, the name Iroquois is a French insult meaning “venomous snakes” — their actual name is Haudenosaunee (pronounced Ho-deh-no-shaw-nee). What Benjamin Franklin, et al, left out of the Constitution were two very important attributes of the Haudenosaunee’s democracy: women could vote and Clan mothers could remove leaders from office. Interesting how that never made it into the Constitution, eh?

    Another note on women and their diminished power came from a Native woman who was puzzled at the feminists of the 70s who sought to make women into men. She said her natural inclination was to bear children and nurture them…and yet the feminists were degrading that role. Her point was that she had strong women surrounding her, that also nurtured her as she was growing up. Yet feminists would have one believe that the two were mutually exclusive. Not so.

    At camp, I remarked to an older lady that I was in awe about being amongst so many strong women. I had not known that in my home state. She looked at me with interest. I said, “I’m from Indiana.” With a knowing answer, she said, “I’m sorry.” All joking aside, this could be said of any place in the United States…or the world…as the rape culture, a flag as to the contempt of women, is worldwide.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. Because often, white people have an easier time being called out by someone who shares their (our) experience. I’ve seen this frequently in my teaching, how white students respond very differently to issues of race when presented by white instructors or by instructors of color. And because this needed to be said, and it shouldn’t be an added burden on people of color to also have to take care of white people.

      Like

  10. Thank you for your compassionate explanations to help us better serve the natives at Standing Rock! May we assist them in their quest to protect the earth and the land which they inhabit.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m a 73-year-old white male and am still trying to clean out my childhood programming and enculturation. Maybe next lifetime….
    Native Peoples, we need you and your wisdom!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Oh, my goodness! Thank you so much for this timely post, Carol. I shared it on the FB page of a white friend of mine who is heading to Standing Rock right now. In fact, she has probably arrived by already, with her car stuffed with food, winter items requested, and money collected from our community here in Bellingham. I know she will be grateful to read Miriam’s words. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I got a thank you note from Standing Rock and then I read this and it made me cry. It didn’t seem like the veterans were coming to be Indigenous or to take over. It seems like they were coming for back up, and who knew, to receive forgiveness. They got i forgiveness. They cried. I cried reading it. It is amazing that good is arising despite all our differences in the onset of Trumpland, which should unite all of us, race, religion, and creed, against an evil that threatens us all.
    Check this out:

    http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-north-dakota-20161210-story.html

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comment. I too found the visit from the veterans (which happened shortly after I left) immensely moving–and completely appropriate. From what I could see, they weren’t making the mistakes I was addressing in this open letter. This was written in response to behaviors I saw some white people engaging in, and comments by Native people about the impact of these behaviors. It absolutely doesn’t mean that *every* white person there was behaving in ways that were problematic. Many of us were doing our best to behave respectfully and appropriately–and that also means that we felt responsible for calling out those who were *not* being respectful or appropriate. Many, many people needed to hear it; those who did not need the reminders understood how important it was for others to hear and understand this.

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