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Hate or Compassion: Our Choice

A white Riverton businessman this past week posted on Facebook a self-made video car tour in Riverton showing Indigenous people sleeping or sitting outside while he compared them to trash. His commentary included that it was not safe for his daughter or others to walk in Riverton because of them. His characterization was filled with hate for the people whose land white settlers stole along with their culture and dignity.

He has chosen hate, the kind of hate that fueled the killing of Stallone Trosper, Northern Arapaho, by a white Riverton City employee in 2015. Many who commented sadly share his views; a few saying they are human, but that something needs to be done to get rid of them, because they make Riverton look bad.

The Riverton Peace Mission (RPM) has chosen compassion. An RPM leader, Leslie Spoonhunter, in response posted a copy of the article in County 10 letting him know that the Riverton Mayor, Tim Hancock, is meeting with a group of us in follow-up to the Summit for Our Unhoused Neighbors to seek solutions. A teacher who attends the meetings has aptly said that love is what is wanted. It’s not the white people who are danger. I often walk in Riverton without fear. But I do fear for the Indigenous people on the street, and for more than hypothermia.

The hatred makes it sometimes hard for tribal people to speak up on their relatives’ behalf for fear that they also will be targeted. So, instead they distance themselves by joining white people in their hatred that results in lateral violence, another outcome of colonization.

RPM can change that through education and organizing. We can join together for solutions that restore dignity.

That’s why RPM volunteers are going to Missoula June 4-7 (see attached article) to learn how to organize so that the Indigenous people living in Fremont County can determine the future of our community based on compassion, not hate. You can support RPM through joining, volunteering, and donations.

Fear no. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice.

Chesie Lee

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