As many of you know I was raised Catholic. There’s a thing, therein, called original sin. If you’re not familiar with that concept it’s the idea that there is one, first bad act, that has tainted everything that came after it. Whether you believe in talking snakes and magic apples or not, original sin is an idea that has crept into other things we talk about, beyond the sphere of religious doctrine. This includes how we talk about the United States.
An argument can be made that America’s original sin is how we treated and continue to treat the aboriginal people who were living here when European settlers arrived. I’ve also heard arguments that slavery should be considered such, but if you look at history we were grabbing up land before we brought slaves over to work on it. At any rate, I’m choosing to consider land stolen from indigenous populations our original sin.
I am, of course, thinking of this right now because of what’s going on in North Dakota. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you can read all about it here. If you thought that our systematic mistreatment of Native Americans is something from the past all I can say—plainly and bluntly—is that you are dreadfully wrong. It’s still happening. We’re still stealing their land. We’re still marginalizing their concerns.
Much has been written and said in talking about this subject. So my question—and it’s something we all need to consider—is this: can we ever clear our national conscious as long as we have not made amends for what we took? I’m not going to try to define what “make amends” means or entails, because I don’t know myself. An apology is certainly part of it. Perhaps a big part of it. Granting of more resource rights? Perhaps. Return of lands? Of artifacts? Maybe. Whatever it may be, though, until we all acknowledge that this is an ongoing and unresolved issue, we remain stuck—mired—in a place of continuing oppression.
With all of that being said there is one thing we can and must do. We must end the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The way in which this project has progressed is horrifying and what is being done by law enforcement to peaceful protesters is beyond horrifying and, frankly, criminal. The time is now. The choice is clear. The stakes are high. To do nothing or to do anything else is morally unforgivable.