Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!

Happy Indigenous People’s Day! It is a good day to pass four overdue bills here in Massachusetts:

  • S.1877/H.2776 to change the MA state flag,
  • S.247/H.443 to end the use of Native American mascots by public schools, and
  • S.1811/H.2948 to protect Native American heritage.
  • H.3665 to officially replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in Massachusetts.

Our flag, which features a colonial broadsword held over a Native American, is the last state flag that still includes representations of white supremacy. Change is hard, but it’s not that hard. We’re supposedly one of the most progressive states in the US, and honestly, how many people living in Massachusetts have an affinity to the state flag? How many even know what it looks like? This should be an easy win, and if we can’t change this out-dated symbol that no one cares about, what hope have we of creating a more equitable world?

I thought it would also be a good day to post some news related to Indigenous peoples here in the US.

The Supreme Court made a landmark decision this July that about half of the land in Oklahoma is still under the jurisdiction of Native American nations, basically confirming that their treaties are still in effect. But a few days ago, the EPA essentially revoked that, granting the state of OK control over environmental regulation on tribal lands. At the request of Governor Stitt, any corporation may now dump a variety of waste and/or pursue fracking on native land in OK.

The California wildfires, which have focused national attention on the accelerating nature of climate change, are exacerbated by decades of forestry practices that prevent fires. Firefighting experts and policymakers are now turning to Native Americans to learn Indigenous forestry practices that may prevent future “megafires” from burning out of control.

A Montana court has ruled to strike down a law that suppressed the Indigenous vote. Unfortunately, mail-in voting does not work well for the Navaho nation for many reasons. For example, some voters on reservations have to drive up to 150 miles roundtrip to pick up their mail because tribal lands have very few post offices.

This Pawnee public health expert talks about the disproportionate toll COVID-19 is taking on native populations. She says the true impact of the virus on Indigenous communities is not yet known because of the exclusion of Indigenous communities from data sets and analyses used to make health policy decisions.

If you’ve got some time to watch a movie today, make it Dawnland. This Emmy Award-winning documentary about the recent Truth and Reconciliation process between Maine and its Native American tribes will shock you with the reality of how recently our government has been oppressing Indigenous communities. If it doesn’t bring you to tears I’ll owe you a coffee. And the director & DP of Dawnland lives in our district, so by watching you’re supporting our own Ben Pender-Cudlip. You can watch it tonight at 8pm online.

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