by Anton Treuer
In our antiracist efforts to dismantle white supremacy, we have to also look at this country's relationship with its Indigenous communities. Both Black and Indigenous people have suffered under white-led systems of power for centuries. Founders of "The BIPOC Project" use the term to "highlight the unique relationship to Whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context." BIPOC (pronounced "buy-pock") stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
Fortunately for us, Anton Treuer recently released an updated version of Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask. This edition is specifically geared towards young adult readers, but is a plain-spoken text that all of us can learn from. It covers topics like terminology, history, religion, powwow, tribal languages, and social activism in a conversational tone that is easy to follow and engage with. Treuer speaks from his own personal experience but is also very good about making sure to represent viewpoints from varying tribes because of course Indian culture isn't a monotlith. I was greatly impressed that he even broaches sensitive topics like the #metoo movement and its impact on the career of famous Indigenous author Sherman Alexie. In the history section, Jeffery Amherst makes an embarrassing appearance with a quote of his instructions to "inocculate the Indians by means of Blanketts, as well as to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race," which is a timely reminder that this is our history and that we have to reckon with it. Treuer isn't out to point fingers and blame; his goal is to share some truths and help start some productive conversations and the work that needs to happen next. As he says, "All human beings have dark chapters in their personal histories. And all nations have dark chapters in theirs. Nobody should be stuck in shame. However, it is important for all countries and all individuals to examine dark chapters in order to learn from them and prevent them from reoccurring."
See the Jones Library Antiracism Book List for recommended titles for all ages.