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Who Decides Matters

People who are not Indigenous, although they may mean well, are prone to suggest what the Riverton Peace Mission (RPM) needs to do for Indigenous people and the Wind River Indian Reservation. The first questions should be (1) What is the origin of the proposal and (2) Who would control the implementation, because it matters who decides.

I understand the eagerness to find solutions for others. I am guilty of that myself. I too have made suggestions before listening and understanding, before even being asked. I see circumstances through my white female lawyer perspective. No matter how many books I read, how many presentations I hear or how many Native friends I have, I will never really know what it is like to live trapped inside of systems stereotyping people of color as less knowledgeable and less capable, so much so as to often result in the belief that it is true.

American culture treats white people better throughout our lives. That’s an insight noted by the author Garrett Neiman in his recent book, Rich White Men. Garrett is one of those rich white men and discovered this truth while developing nonprofit programs to help underprivileged minorities to succeed. I have read his book that is not just a critique and indictments, including of himself, but also offers possible workable ways to repair and heal for the benefit of everyone including rich white men.

Let’s make a pledge to empower the people affected to decide on solutions. That’s what freedom is about. It builds community. It rewards hard work with ownership of meaningful results. It embraces honesty and pride in who we are and this place we call home.

RPM will soon decide who will be RPM’s executive director and lead organizer who can help RPM build a system not based on suggestions from the ones who caused the harm but based on empowering grassroots leadership from those who have been harmed.

Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice.

Chesie Lee

Note: Monday, August 14, 5 pm MT is the deadline for applications for Executive Director/Lead Organizer.

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