“The Indigenous Side of History” – by Nichole Beatty

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The Declaration of Independence was signed on August 2nd, 1776. The Constitution was written in 1787. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln became president of the United States. In December of 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery, making Abraham Lincoln a hero to many. In 1924,  Native Americans finally became citizens. In 1965 the Voting Rights Act was signed, prohibiting the discrimination of any voter because of their color, race, or minority group. 

The dates and facts previously stated are taught in schools all across the country. For most Americans, these dates are believed to be correct. For any non-indigenous person, these dates were simply the days of major events in our history. Facts. Things that most would never think to question. These dates were some of the founding moments of this country. However, for Indigenous people, these dates hold a completely different meaning. 

For Indigenous people, the Declaration of Independence was one of the first broken treaties. Just 30 lines below the famous saying, “all men are created equal”, are the words, “merciless Indian savages,” written by the same men that are now known as the founding fathers. The Constitution was perhaps the second broken treaty in the shared history of the settlers and the Indigenous people. The Constitution states the amendments of the American people. Of course, this did not include the Indigenous people until 1924, 137 years after it was written. This is the same Constitution the U.S. government continues to refer back to, to this day. The Constitution was written by white men, for white men. 

There is no doubt that Abraham Lincoln did great things for this country. For many people, he is a hero. However, he also had a detrimental part in the oppression of the Dakota Sioux people. The Dakota Sioux tribe was originally located in what is now Minnesota (before their relocation to a reservation). On December 26, 1862, just one day after Christmas, thirty-eight  Dakota men were hanged. This continues to be the largest execution to date. These thirty-eight Dakota Warriors were hung in front of their wives, children, sisters, and mothers. One week later, two more Dakota men faced mistrial and were hung; all of this being done on the orders of President Abraham Lincoln. 

As previously stated, the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, ensuring that there could be no discrimination based on color, race, or minority group of the voter. This act proved to be very beneficial for the Native people. This allowed them to be in control of who would lead their community. It wasn’t until the 2017 election, (perhaps the most detrimental election within the Native community) that problems started to arise. Most Native people continue to live on reservations. Most reservations do not or will not have any place for voting. This forces the residents to travel to voting locations off of the reservation. In previous years this was never a problem. However, in 2017 voters that lived on a reservation were turned away because of their address. Voting sites would not take the addresses of most residents living on a reservation. The bulk of the Native Community lives on reservations so thousands of Natives were refused the right to vote in the 2017 election. 

Although brief, these are only a handful of times history has told a one-sided story. Indigenous people in this country have had to fight against oppression for hundreds of years. There have been many setbacks and hard times of healing. Fortunately, the pain of a whole race seemed to only fuel the youth. Recently, the youth has taken a stand against the years and years of injustice. As the youth stands firm, they are demanding to be heard, their narrative told, and their fight to be seen.