Nation’s independence came at expense of our native nation’s freedom
Many Indigenous Peoples do not celebrate the white man’s Fourth of July Independence Day. Frederick Douglas, a black slave, put it this way, “What to the American Slave is your Fourth of July?” Many of our Native Peoples share this same sentiment and ask, “What to the Indigenous Peoples is the 4th of July?”
Other statements of Frederick Douglas resonate with First Nations Peoples such as, “Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?”
One of the things to which Douglas probably referred was the U.S. Constitution’s statement declaring Black People as three-fifths of a person (“three fifths of all other persons,” Article 1, Section 2). Another of Frederick Douglas’ brilliant statement is: “The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me.”
Of course, these questions and statements could be said and/or asked by other Peoples of color such as the Mexicans; other Indigenous Peoples from Central America and South America; by the Chinese People (Chinese Exclusionary Act of the 1882); et al.
Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the Constitution, wrote of Native Peoples, in his “black Catalogue of unprovoked injuries” against George III, “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the MERCILESS INDIAN SAVAGES . . . . “.
As an Indigenous person, a Dakota man, I think of the three billion acres which comprise the continental United States, land which was stolen by the U.S. Euro-Americans, and basically not paid for. In addition, I think of the 400+ treaties which were violated by the United States and its Euro-American citizenry. Also, I think of the millions upon millions of Native Peoples who were slaughtered – i.e., the Genocide of the Indigenous People of the United States (16 million). Fourthly, I think of the religions, ceremonies, and spirituality which were suppressed by Christianity and its representatives – the denominations, the churches, the missionaries, and the legion of ministers, reverends, priests, and pastors.
This, too, was Genocide, according to Chalk & Jonassohn’s “Four Common Motives for Genocide,” “Imposing an ideology or belief upon the victim group” (i.e., the First Nations Peoples). Finally, I think of the hundreds of Native languages which no longer exist because the United States and its Euro-American citizenry deliberately and willfully suppressed and prohibited the speaking of our languages. Then, in addition to the above, there are numerous Crimes Against Humanity perpetrated by the U.S. and its Euro-American citizenry.
For Native Peoples, including the colonized and Christianized Indigenous Peoples, there is NO reason to celebrate the 4th of July. It is the white man’s holiday, it is NOT the Indigenous Peoples’. The Fourth of July, perhaps, means Independence to the white man, but it means genocide, exploitation, and oppression to the Native Peoples of the United States.
To conclude, I will end with several sentences of Frederick Douglas re: the Fourth of July: “your celebration is a sham.” “your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless.” ” . . . your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages.” The U.S. Euro-Americans often called us, the Indigenous Peoples, “savages.” I say “Amen” to the preceding statements!
So, we, like Frederick Douglass also ask, “What to the Dakota People of Minnesota and to the Indigenous Peoples of the United States is the Fourth of July?”.
Chris Mato Nunpa, Ph.D., Dakota Granite Falls