It’s strange being invisible. Even though you feel like a fully formed person, made of blood, bone, thoughts and feelings, people forget you exist. You wake up, make your coffee and read the news, and there it is. Rick Santorum reminds you that your homeland, your ancestors who farmed, hunted, fished, governed our communities, formed economies with neighbors and traders, and taught their children to respect everything around them, are seen as a “blank slate.”
Native Americans have been erased from history since the first white settler arrived. Native peoples ― if we’re recognized as existing at all ― are constantly reminded that our role was simply in providing the land on which this place called America was formed.
There were times when we negotiated and signed treaties to protect what we had. The places we called sacred were soaked with the blood of our people, slaves and indentured servants to form this country. We signed agreements and shared environmental knowledge, and yet we were murdered, tricked and forced into giving up our homes. The devastation of this loss is still felt today.
But instead of acknowledging that the founding of America was not all fireworks and flags, people like Santorum, a former U.S. senator and now a CNN contributor, create a story that suits them. They rewrite the Great American history as one in which no one lived in this place before white people came. It’s a deliberate strategy to whitewash the violence that was committed against our people to create the United States, and it is a not-at-all-subtle way to ignore the agreements the federal government made with our peoples centuries ago. But despite living in near anonymity in our own ancestral homelands, we haven’t given up our fight today. We continue to fight for the federal government to keep its promises, follow the treaties they signed with us, and work with tribal governments to protect our land,