Indigenous people should have more representation

Aubrey Carr / Contributing Writer

The National Organization for Women at FIU will be hosting an event celebrating Indigenous women on Oct. 22 at the Graham Center.  Audrey “Drey” Aradanas, President of NOW at FIU, described the event as “a forum for all students to attend for us to understand and learn about the experiences of Indigenous women.”  

She said these women “face violence [and] racism” among other issues that “rise out of both sex and ethnicity.”  Aradanas explains that sex and ethnicity are not mutually exclusive in terms of oppression as they “overlap and intersect to create an identity,” thus influencing how societies treats minority groups such as Indigenous women.

Violence has been a huge problem in the female indigenous community. According to US Government statistics, Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted compared to other American women.

Native peoples – beyond Sacagawea – do not receive the representation and recognition they deserve.  If not ignored, they are met with an ignorant form of cultural appropriation. While some appropriation in the world is necessary for civilizations to move along, others are uneducated and disrespectful.

When we think “native,” we think of the first Thanksgiving.  We think of baseball teams with caricatured mascots. We think of the song “What Makes the Red Man Red?” from Disney’s Peter Pan.  Society sees images of of buffalo hunts, tepees, face paint and wild horses – a disillusioned history without much more context than the invasion of the Americas and the Trail of Tears.

Many seem to forget Wilma Mankiller, the first female Cherokee chief, who was elected in a democratic fashion in 1987 and 1991 and later awarded the Medal of Freedom by former President Bill Clinton.

The symbolic and powerful eagle feathers are often forgotten and appropriated by non-Natives.  In terms of representation, spiritual practices and folklore of hundreds of tribes are homogenized and stripped of their unique attributes. This information is not brought up in mainstream American education as much as it should.

Americans miss out on a lot of information when Indigenous people are overlooked, underestimated, or stereotyped. What is lost is replaced by warped images and outdated practices.

Albuquerque, N.M., Anadarko, Okla., Portland, Ore., St. Paul, Minn., and Olympia, Wash. have replaced this past Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Many other cities are following in their footsteps.

Indigenous Peoples Day is more respectful of the native peoples than immortalizing in a holiday a man who accidentally stumbled upon a region and systematically tore apart its civilizations.  Aradanas is extremely enthusiastic about introducing Indigenous Peoples Day and agrees “we should be honoring indigenous peoples” instead of Columbus.

NOW at FIU is aiming to educate and empower with the upcoming Indigenous Women event. Hopefully, this event will educate those who attend so that they are encouraged to learn about the history of the indigenous people and make a more equal world with them in the present.

Education is the first step toward equality and support for the Indigenous women and the Native community as a whole.

[Image from Flickr, resized]

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