I live in the direst of poverty. My parents are unemployed, my siblings are starving and ill, and I am not expected to live past the age of forty-seven. With statistics like these, you might expect that I am from Somalia or Afghanistan. But I live right here in the United States. Didn’t see that one coming? Not surprised. Most Americans forget we even live here, only reminded by the mascots of occasional football or baseball game in Washington, Atlanta, or Cleveland.
My tribe has existed in the Black Hills for thousands of years, before any white settlers had ever even dreamed of building ships capable of crossing deep oceans. The elders in my tribe speak of the arrival of Wasi’chu. Wasi’chu sailed to our land centuries ago. As we greeted them with open arms, bearing gifts and knowledge of the land, we were recompensed with death and destruction. Slowly but surely, my people were annihilated by disease and murder. Treaty after broken treaty has resulted in the remnants of my Lakota tribe to call a small patch of land home. Centuries ago we had no boundaries, just land that could be made our own. Now we have a tiny plot of land—Pine Ridge Reservation. And it is not somewhere you would want to live.
The conditions that my family lives in are horrible. That much is clear. America has turned a blind eye to that poverty. But what is more of a travesty is that America has turned a blind eye on how my family got into this poverty. Why did Native Americans need to be wiped out? Couldn’t we have existed in harmony with whites just like other minorities do today? Most certainly we could have. Students are taught of tales of cowboys and Indians, and learn about brave native heroes like Pocahontas, Geronimo, and Squanto. They aren’t taught about how the tribes of these brave people have been nearly wiped out. Why won’t America answer to its crimes?
I am writing to you today to answer to the crimes of your forefathers in the form of a formalized apology to all indigenous peoples living in America today. You did not cause the massacre at Wounded Knee, nor did you break the treaty of Fort Laramie. But you must recognize that my people have been done a disservice. We have already tried legal action to win back the Black Hills—lands that should be ours. If you will not hear that plea, hear this one. Just let my people know that America is not blind to its past ills.
A Proud Lakota
The proposed nation of Lakota: