My International Women’s Day hasn’t been very exciting if I compared it with my posts of 2020 and 2019. Actually, it was very dull until I listened (while processing books) to a webinar about amplifying the voices of Native Americans. The speaker, Savannah Romero, member of the Eastern Shoshone Nation, walked us through the false narratives, the invisibility and the erasure of native peoples. She is the manager of partnership and programs at an organization called IllumiNatives that has the mission of increasing the visibility of, and challenge the negative narrative about Native Nations and peoples in American society.
While doing my weeding, I was impressed about the lack of literature that portraits Native Nations and peoples in a positive and real way, and how hard is to find own voices in the mainstream. Usually the literature are either romanticized non-native visions of indigenous people, with inaccurate information, and somewhat naive or racist, or portrayals of Indigenous people as part of historical fiction but not contemporary figures and influencers. These include two Newbery Awards, The island of the blue dolphins by Scott O’Dell, that my son had to endure in 5th grade, and Julie of the wolves by Jean Craighead George, both not recommended by Dr. Debbie Reese of Nambé Pueblo in her American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) website. Another book that she doesn’t recommend and we have several copies of is Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen. I remember it was very well received when it was published in 2001. It was a 2007-2008 Oregon Battle of the Boks title.
The part that struck me the most of Romero’s presentation was that a significant percentage of Americans thinks that Native Americans are part of the past and don’t exist anymore. They don’t know about their Nations, their laws or history, and the only thing that they relate to “Indians” is mascots of football teams or costumes for Halloween.
The other thing that got my attention, was the fact that the percentage of indigenous women that are battered and sexually assaulted is higher than in any other race/ethnic group and nobody knows about it.
I always thought that invisibility was the worst punishment that somebody can give me. Ignoring my existence is saying that I don’t matter at all, my existence is not good or bad, is nothing. As Romero pointed out “invisibility, [the nothingness of the other] is the modern form of bias against Native Americans.”
I was so happy to come across this webinar and IllumiNatives. They have a Guide for Allies and a Guide for Native Peoples. I encourage you to explore their website. They provide a wealth of resources, lesson plans, reports and other wonderful information.
After all, my International Women’s Day was a day of discovery and learning.