December Book Club: An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

The land that surrounds us is part of who we are; it reflects our histories.


We began the December book club meeting with a land acknowledgement because it is important to recognize that we are on Indigenous Peoples’ land. To learn more about the land you are on, head to https://native-land.ca


We must acknowledge with respect (as a non-Native person) that the land on which we stand, live, and learn, is the traditional territory of the Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Sioux Peoples. The treaty of Fort Laramie 1851 & 1868 along with Cession 426 displaced these people and took their sacred land. In addition, hundreds of Cheyenne and Arapaho people were slaughtered by the US Government on this land during the Sand Creek Massacre.


We must honor all indigenous people past, present, and future, who lived off this land throughout generations. We recognize that government, academic, and cultural institutions stole this land and continue to enact exclusions and erasures of Indigenous Peoples.


May this acknowledgement demonstrate a commitment to working to dismantle ongoing legacies of settler colonialism, oppression, and inequities, and to recognize the hundreds of Indigenous Nations who continue to resist, live, create, and uphold their sacred relations across their lands. We honor the past, current, and future contributions of the indigenous people to whom this land is sacred and recognize: this is still indigenous land.


Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, March 20, 2010. Thomas Good, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The December CWBA Book Club selection was An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. The book delved into the history of the Americas prior to and during colonization by European settlers. As many of the members noted, our elementary and high school history classes whitewashed what happened to indigenous people. One little known fact, not taught by any of my history teachers, is that colonization led to the deaths (genocide) of an estimated 10 to 100 million indigenous people.


The book changed my perspective of other things I learned in school. Take our traditional Thanksgiving holiday. I was taught that pilgrims and “savage Indians” sat down and broke bread together, reaching some sort of peaceful cohabitation. However, the true history is that European settlers came and believed that all the land they “discovered” belonged to them. They believed they knew the right way to use the land. Most colonizers considered the very advanced hunting and farming methods used by Indigenous People to be primitive, likely because they did not understand them. Colonizers eradicated indigenous people who were “opposed” to white settler domination.


We discussed the ongoing effort of the Sioux Nation to regain the rights to their holy land, the Black Hills. In fact, a large portion of Colorado is part of the governmental treaty to the Sioux. The federal government has attempted to “compensate” the Sioux Nation for the land (the fund is currently worth more than $1 billion). Yet, the Sioux Nation, many who live in poverty, refuse to accept any part of the money. Instead, the Sioux assert the land was never for sale and that they just want their land back.


We talked about the use of boarding schools – a further effort to assimilate indigenous people into settler roles. These schools indoctrinated young children, stripping them of their culture and heritage. A google search can show you some very disturbing before and after images of these young people. Imagine being stripped from your home and your family, taught a foreign language and culture, and then being dropped back into your community. The after effects are long-lasting and the effects damaged many indigenous communities.


I had an opportunity to watch a compelling documentary, Without a Whisper, which discussed the role of Indigenous women in the suffrage movement. Acknowledgement of their work goes largely unnoticed. In fact, more than 4 in 5 indigenous women have experienced violence, more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence, they are murdered at ten times the national average, and 70% of indigenous youth attempt suicide.


We ended our meeting with a discussion of organizations to support and a call for awareness of the hundreds, if not thousands, of missing and murdered indigenous women and children. We also talked about two new federal acts, Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, and how they can assist in protecting our Indigenous women.


In honor of Black History Month, our February book club selection is The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Our meeting is February 11 at 5:30pm. I hope to see you there!


Amy Petri Beard is currently employed with the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office as a Senior Deputy District Attorney. She is assigned to the Broomfield office and prosecutes adult felony and juvenile matters. She is a 2016 COBALT graduate, on the Colorado Bar Association High School Mock Trial Committee, is a member of the Colorado Women's Bar Association, and is one of the Adams / Broomfield Bar Association’s representatives for the Colorado Bar Association Board of Governors. She previously served on the Adams / Broomfield Bar Association Executive Board, was the Adams / Broomfield Regional Mock Trial Coordinator, and has served on the Broomfield Library Board. In her spare time, you’ll find her working out, reading, or spending time with her family (especially her grandson). She also enjoys volunteering as a tutor with Reading Partners Colorado, an organization devoted to assist students in low-income schools master basic reading skills.

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