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We must give the land back: Americas brutality toward Native Americans continues today

Americans have unjustly taken vast tracts of land. This Presidents' Day, let's uphold our treaties and return it

Siou x Indians, six of whom were present at the Battle of Little Big Horn, gather in Custer State Park in the Black Hills area of Custer, S.D. on Sept. 2, 1948. (Credit: AP) STEVEN SALAITA-MONDAY, FEB 17, 2014

Salon.com I write often about liberating Palestine from Israeli occupation, a habit that evokes passionate response. I have yet to encounter a response that persuades me to abandon the commitment to Palestinian liberation. I have, however, encountered responses that I consider worthy of close assessment,

particularly those that transport questions of colonization to the North merican continent. !ou see, there is a particular defense of "ionism that precedes the e#istence of Israel by hundreds of years. $ere is a rough sketch of that defense% llowing a Palestinian right of return or redressing the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in &'()-(' is ludicrous. *ook what happened to the Native mericans. Is the +nited ,tates supposed to return the country to themIsraeli historian .enny /orris puts it this way% 01ven the great merican democracy couldn2t come to be without the forced e#tinction of Native mericans. 3here are times the overall, final good 4ustifies terrible, cruel deeds.5 3his reasoning suggests a finality to the past, an affirmation of tragedy trapped in the immutability of linear time. Its logic is terribly clich6, a peculiar form of common sense always taken up, everywhere, by the beneficiaries of colonial power. 3he problems with invoking Native merican genocide to rationalize Palestinian dispossession are legion. 3he most noteworthy problem speaks to the unresolved detritus of merican history% Natives aren2t ob4ects of the past7 they are living communities whose numbers are growing. It2s rarely a good idea to ask rhetorical questions that have literal answers. !es, the +nited ,tates absolutely should return stolen land to the Indians. 3hat2s precisely what its treaty obligations require it to do. 8 3he +nited ,tates is a settler nation, but its history hasn2t been settled. !et most people invoke Natives as if they lost a contest that entrapped them in the past 9 and this only if Natives are considered at all. s a result, most analyses of both domestic and foreign policies are inadequate, lacking a necessary conte#t of continued colonization and resistance. :or Natives, political aspirations aren2t focused on accessing the mythologies of a multicultural merica, but on the practices of sovereignty and self-determination, consecrated in treaty agreements ;and, of course, in their actual histories<. 3reaties aren2t guidelines or suggestions7 they are nation-to-nation agreements whose stipulations e#ist in perpetuity. 3hat the federal government still ignores so many of those agreements indicates that colonization is not simply an merican memory. =ne of the most famous violations is the 3reaty of :ort *aramie ;&>?&, &>@><, which

guaranteed the *akota possession of the .lack $ills. 3he merican government seized the .lack $ills nine years after signing the treaty, in &>)), having discovered sizable deposits of gold and other precious minerals. In &'>A, the +.,. ,upreme Bourt ruled that the federal government had un4ustly appropriated the .lack $ills ;the ruling doesn2t use the word 0stolen,5 but it2s an accurate descriptor of what occurred<. 3he Bourt awarded the *akota C&?.? million ;now well over C&AA million with inflation< for the ad4usted value of the appropriated land, but the tribe has consistently refused the monetary settlement, preferring instead to retain entitlement to its historic territory. 3o clarify% Dast portions of five +.,. states 9 North Eakota, ,outh Eakota, Nebraska, Fyoming and /ontana 9 are Indian land according to a treaty to which the merican government voluntarily assented. 3he highest legal authority in the +nited ,tates has acknowledged that a significant portion of the land in question is rightfully *akota. 3he merican government refuses to return that land. *et2s therefore drop the quaint notion that the colonization of Natives is a tragedy limited to the days of yore. 8 comparable e#ample of continuing +.,. colonization ;unfortunately, this could go on a while< e#ists in $awaii, the youngest merican state. $awaii became an merican possession in &>'G due to a coup d26tat led by colonist ,anford Eole, cousin of Hames Eole, who, not so coincidentally, made a fortune growing produce on the islands. President Irover Bleveland commissioned an investigation into the overthrow of the $awaiian monarchy, led by Ieorgia congressman Hames $enderson .lount. 3he .lount Jeport condemned the anne#ation of $awaii. 3he condemnation ultimately did no good. merican businessmen and politicians saw too much value in the new property to constrain their avarice. 3o this day, the Kanaka /aoli ;Native $awaiians< do not recognize the legitimacy of the anne#ation and consider themselves sub4ects of foreign rule. ;:or an e#cellent analysis of these matters, please read H. KLhaulani Kauanui2s 0$awaiian .lood% Bolonialism and the Politics of ,overeignty and Indigeneity.5< Fhile merican tourists en4oy hula dances and /ai 3ais on stolen land, the Kanaka /aoli, victims of a conquest that in no way has passed, continue to organize for liberation.

8 Bolonialism is present across North merica in less obvious ways, though the lack of obviousness doesn2t mitigate its relevance. Borporate malfeasance is especially harmful to indigenous communities in the mericas ;and across the world<. Native nations have dealt with an uninterrupted e#propriation of resources for over a century and now e#perience an inordinate amount of disease and pollution. t present, Natives and their allies in both Banada and the +.,. are working to stop the Keystone M* Pipeline, a pro4ect that portends environmental damage and serious health concerns. Natives have encountered violence in attempting to e#ercise their hunting and fishing rights. ;Eoes the phrase 0save a fish, spear an Indian5 ring a bell-< Police brutality is acute in Indian Bountry. Natives, women especially, are murdered at an epidemic rate, with the ma4ority of cases unresolved. nd many communities are still waiting on various institutions to comply with federal legislation requiring the return of artifacts and human remains to their rightful owners. Nor should we forget that the forced sterilization of Native women and the kidnapping of children to be educated ;read% brutally assimilated< in government boarding schools, where many were se#ually molested and sub4ect to countless other abuses, were still happening within the past half-century. 3he inveterate omission of these realities in analyses of merican politics constitutes an erasure of indigenous histories and illuminates why it is so easy to conceptualize the +nited ,tates as historically settled. If we recall the e#istence of dynamic Indian nations, though, we have no choice but to rethink the commonplaces of merican virtue. It is a foolish conceit to suggest that history has ended in the +nited ,tates. No amount of ignorance ;willful or unwitting< will invalidate the vigorous efforts to decolonize the North and ,outh merican continents. Fhen Israel2s apologists invoke the dispossession of living communities on those continents as a rationale for colonizing Palestine, they betray a profound disdain of indigenous humanity, the sort of contempt that renders the oppressor2s psyche so unsettled.