I am in a book club studying The 1619 Project. This last week we read about The Indian Removal Act (signed into law by Andrew Jackson in 1830). As we often do, we discussed how injustice that happened 200 years ago still manifests itself today.
Yes, Indian Removal is still alive. Here are examples:
Beginning in 2019, a push began to rid the Riverton City Park of Native Americans to “Clean Up Riverton.” They were pushed into alleyways. An active organizing effort now is to “clean up” the alleys where Native Americans gather and treated as outsiders. One proposal is for the City to pick up Native Americans and “return them to the Wind River Indian Reservation” across the river, as if they have no right to be in Riverton that was once a part of the reservation until white settlers were allowed here by an Act of Congress, but not with approval of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho sovereign nations.
Just as imprisonment of a large number of Black People has been called “The New Jim Crow,” the large number of Native Americans imprisoned should be called “The New Indian Removal.” Katie Roenigk wrote an article in County 10 about the increase in the numbers sent to prison from Fremont County. Make no mistake about it; these are mostly Native Americans. According to figures reported by the ACLU, Native Americans represent 6% of those in Wyoming prisons while only 2% 0f the population. This does not include those in federal prisons where Native Americans who commit felonies on the WRIR are incarcerated. Katie Roenick’s article includes the convictions in the bordertowns to the WRIR.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 was designed to keep Indian children with Indian families. Removal of children from Native American families is largely due to poverty, disease, and intergeneration trauma. Before 1978, tribal children were generally placed with white families. However, this coming week the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the constitutionality of ICWA. If ICWA is blocked, this form of Indian Removal can legally return.
Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice.