I learned in school that Columbus discovered America. And I believed it. I am embarrassed by how long it took me to figure out that you can’t actually discover a place with millions of people already living there.
The work of overcoming long-held beliefs and assumptions is humbling. For me, it has involved realizing over and over how my beliefs and assumptions are limited by my experience, different from what others believe and assume, and sometimes just plain wrong.
It is an unpleasant process. It is hard not to get defensive. It is natural to want to avoid feeling shame.
This is the work required for anyone who wants to make this region a place that truly works well for everyone. Anti-racism requires examining our own biases and how they impact others. And then once we know better, we must do better.
Today is Indigenous People’s Day.
It is a perfect day to commit to learning, relearning and unlearning about the history and present of Native people in the U.S. There are lots of great resources out there but I’ll suggest a few to get you started:
- The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present is a sweeping historical analysis by Bush Fellow David Treuer (BF'03). It was a finalist for the National Book Award last year.
- Coyote Warrior: One Man, Three Tribes, and the Trial that Forged a Nation by Paul Van Develder tells the story of the devastating U.S. Dept of Interior decision to flood a village inhabited by the Mandan tribe in North Dakota. This book had a giant impact on me, going deep into the effects of a single decision in a way that helped me understand the impact of so many government actions over time. (The “One Man” in the title is Bush Fellow Raymond Cross (BF'88) who successfully argued for federal compensation.)
- IllumiNative is a national effort to reframe narratives about Native Americans and fight Native invisibility. They have a variety of resources on their website including their report and action guide (PDF) to learn more and get tips on how to be an ally.
We at the Bush Foundation are committed to the continuous learning and adapting required to be anti-racist. We know this is humbling and hard work. To make our region truly equitable, we are committed to doing our own work and to supporting others in this as well.
PS. If you’re interested in learning more about some of the Native people and organizations the Bush Foundation supports, check out our 2020 Native Nations Investment Report. At the Bush Foundation, we have a particular commitment to investing in Native people and the 23 Native nations in the geography we serve. Just over a quarter of our grants go to Native people and organizations. For more context on why we believe this is the best thing we can do with our resources, you can check out this past Note from Jen.