A Moment of Reflection and Education

September 20, 2022 / Comments (0)

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Guidance offered by Keegan Medrano, Muscogee Creek, of ACLU Montana.

As we enter into the space today, we want to acknowledge that all land in what is currently known as the United States is Indigenous territory and has been stewarded by Indigenous people since time immemorial. We humble ourselves in this space and act with humility and reflection to the Indigenous peoples of these lands, pay respects to their elders and to ancestors, and commit to building a better world now for the youth and those ancestors yet to come.

Montana is the traditional homeland and common hunting grounds of several tribes, including the Assiniboine, Blackfeet, Chippewa Cree, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kootenai, Little Shell, Northern Cheyenne, Pend d’Oreille, Plains Cree, Salish, Sioux, Hidatsa, Mandan, and Arikara. Today this land is home to twelve sovereign tribes with over 67,000 enrolled members.

MNA’s office is currently on the ancestral lands of the Salish and Blackfeet tribes, founded as a gold mining town, and named Helena. We acknowledge and commit to a better world for the Salish, Blackfeet, and all other Indigenous peoples in this state.

This knowledge provides us with an opportunity, not only to recognize the painful history upon which the state of Montana exists, founded on state-sanctioned and state-funded genocide, which included warfare, displacement, and dispossession of ancestral lands, broken treaties, desecration of sacred sites, destruction of the environment through extractive industries, and near-genocide of buffalo, criminalization of religious and cultural practices, residential boarding schools, allotment, removal of children from families, but also the ongoing efforts to diminish tribal sovereignty, the violence directed at these communities through Murdered and Missing Indigenous women, and the disparate impacts of poverty, voting barriers, incarceration, and police killings on Indigenous people. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, which only emphasizes the need for change. Moreover, this knowledge necessitates solidarity and collaboration led by Indigenous people, alongside Black, brown, and other people of color, and including others because true liberation will only come from confronting our history, understanding the divisions, celebrating our love, joy, laughter, and knowledge, and uniting against the oppression of this earth and all people.

Land acknowledgements cannot repair inequity or return stolen land. No one entity can fix these issues, it will take a community guided by duty, responsibility, reciprocity with care for each other and the land. Therefore, as an association, MNA strives to represent all our members, but our mission is to serve the entire nonprofit sector in Montana. We know we are stronger together, but to truly come together we must all commit to education, action, and change. We are slowly beginning this work, and humbly invite those of you ahead of us to help lead, and those of you just beginning to join alongside.

To that end, we invite you for a moment of reflection, education, and support from each of you here today. In less than 50 days, Montanans will vote, navigating multiple barriers to the ballot and uncertainty to which ones will remain as legal battles continue to rage. Many of these barriers disproportionately impact Indigenous people. Moreover, voting for Indigenous communities can be complex, interwoven with the many historical and ongoing issues mentioned. Therefore, as the election draws near, we ask that you continue your learning of voting rules in Montana, the barriers facing Indigenous people and the Indigenous representatives up for election. We also ask that you support the work of Indigenous community members and organizations across Indian Country and Montana, and the work of Western Native Voice, Indigenous Vote, and the ACLU of Montana in registering, inspiring, and informing Indigenous voters. Connect with these groups, uplift, and share their knowledge, materials, and hard work, and find your role within this movement. A movement beyond acknowledgment and to action.

Thank you for joining us for this moment of reflection, and we welcome your suggestions for ways we can continue growing together.

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