How to deal with unintentional ignorance

It wasn’t too long ago that the question, “If native americans killed each other pre-contact, why do you guys hate white people for killing you too?” was asked.

The answer is one that strikes a lot of initial anger. You might think ‘I want to give this person a piece of my mind,’ or, ‘what in the world makes this person think that’s a good question?’. But, you’ve got to remember that majority of the non-indigenous population really doesn’t realize when they’re being ignorant, because they don’t know what they don’t know.

So, in answering the question I painted the picture of how European contact began with “Hello, we wish to be your friends. Let us lay down wampum and treaties and work together,” which without much cause led to the reveal of the true agenda; “Let us colonize this land, develop it and rid these savages of their wretched traditions and culture because they are in the way.” So, I think it’s safe to say that having sacred agreements perpetually spat on through time would upset anyone.

We’re not just talking about a raid of a few hungry warriors in the night either, we’re talking the mass killing of roughly 70 million indigenous people. And for some reason, everyone has this picture in their head that North and South America we not heavily populated or ‘developed’. Like golly gee, sorry our people didn’t cut down every tree in sight and lay down cement to prove that we were here. Maybe that’s why nobody really cares too much about Americas least spoken about genocide outside of the indigenous circle, because nobody has a realistic picture of what happened here.

What does 70 million people look like?

Let’s just say that it’s well over the population of Canada, which is estimated at 36 million today.

But, I digress. Most Europeans simply wanted to escape famine and seek the promise that they would own their own land and have freedoms they didn’t before. Which at the time, was quite unheard of as land was so hard to come by in the overpopulated areas in Europe, where everyone and their cousin’s mother had a greedy landlord.

So, it’s understandable that many families did not fully understand what had taken place here for them to be able to “claim” that land. And for years, centuries even, those families were left in the dark. Until of course, the whole “cowboys and indians” crap came along. But, that’s where asking questions comes in a little handy.

I don’t want to tell you how many times someone has commented on my traditional regalia and called it a “costume,” to which I’ve looked at them dead pan and told them “this isn’t a costume.” The annoyed tone I give them comes from the fact that we’re in a time where ignorance really shouldn’t be tolerated because it’s easy to think ‘people should know by now.’ But they just don’t.

So instead of wanting to tell someone off for their ignorance, look at it as an opportunity to teach them something, to change their minds and broaden their thoughts. Look at it as being in the spotlight to tell them about your people, about the plights and problems you have to face as an indigenous person. Because telling them to go take a hike is just gonna feed into the stereotypes most people believe.

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