Celebrating native lineage

Danielle Campbell Copy Editor

The story given to me about my family was my great-grandfather moved to Connecticut for a better life than the one he had on a Native American reservation. Which one? I am not sure. I know my grandfather’s lineage is Black, White and Native American. I was told his father wanted better for his children than the life of depression you can so readily find on the reservations in America. People we have forgotten and stolen everything from. My ancestors, somewhere down the line.   

I have always connected with the original people of this land and wanted to put their faces forward, but in general, I am all for culture to be celebrated, period. I am torn when cultures are clashing for recognition on certain days when we all deserve to be celebrated. There is no competition in my eyes when we all are supposed to be recognized. America is a melting pot.  

Personally, as a history minor, I have a love of culture which goes deeper than just those I know. I am an African-American woman with roots in multiple countries. I am a lover of people and want us all to celebrate and understand each other. With that said, I think the difficult history behind Columbus Day and the recent recognition by President Joe Biden is important to unpack.   

According to Native Land Digital, New Haven is Quinnipiac, Paugussett, and Wappinger land. It is deeply important to me to have people know those who have been forgotten and erased. We have so much we owe to Native Americans.   

President Biden’s recognition of Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day is necessary but hurtful. In the days where we are silencing these people on their lands, can we say we are celebrating them by simply giving them a day of recognition?  

America owes Native Americans recognition but not just in name. The president supports pipelines which toxify their waters. All they ask is for respect for their people and their land, but we think a name, a day, a month is enough to rectify what this country did to them. It is not.  

My great-grandfather was said to have been a strawberry blonde, blue-eyed black man who left his family further north, on a reservation, to save his children from the ills of alcoholism. He did not escape it though. Three of his four children had issues with alcohol, including my grandfather.  

Can you imagine a pain so deep it follows you? I cannot fathom what injustices lie in my DNA. I cannot fathom all that has been forgotten. I found out, while at the university, I am related to descendants of King Phillip. That cousin came to campus and told the true details of Thanksgiving. The murder. Those stories never left my mind.   

This is all I think of when I think of this recent recognition. It is a great show, but we owe them more than just a day reclaimed. We owe them respect in the present day. We owe them amplification of voices when they ask for their waters to be protected. We owe them safety for their women and girls who go missing in vast numbers with zero media coverage. We owe them respect when they tell us to stay off their current designated land. America has taken enough.   

Native Americans exist, today. They did not die out. They must not be made people of the past. I have tried for my entire college career to take a Native American history class. It was again cancelled this semester for low enrollment. Again, I was cheated out of learning about my ancestors in a college setting. Again, I felt like we were forgetting them.  

As a New England school, we should be required to learn about Native American history as well as Black and Hispanic. After all, we are on Native land. We even kept the words. According to Britannica, Connecticut takes its name from an Algonquian word meaning “land on the long tidal river.” According to Meriam-Webster, Quinnipiac is an extinct Algonquian people of central Connecticut.   

Everything we do as New England residents sits on the shoulders of people we do not remember or fail to recognize. We ignore that they are the first step in this country of immigrants. They are our first teachers. We fail them each day we use their words and do not recognize who they are or celebrate their murder. We must do better than this. 

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