We need an honest conversation about the Native American genocide

Celebrating Indegenous People’s day without having the hard conversation about America’s past is simply performative


Zachary Navarra

Manifest Destiney leaves a path of death and destruction from sea to shining sea.

It’s time America stops ignoring its past. We must have an honest conversation about the world’s largest and deadliest genocide. A genocide that was carried out at the hands of the U.S. government.

The relatively recent change to Indigenous Peoples Day from Columbus Day is a good starting point. However, this is performative without action to follow suit.

The education systems in California generally lack in-depth conversations about the true history of America’s treatment and genocide of Native Americans. From middle school to high school to higher education, I have yet to see an in-depth course or unit on the United States’ treatment of Native people after 1776.

A paragraph on the Trail of Tears or a discussion on the painting American Progress briefly denoting fleeing indigenous people falls woefully short of the honest conversation our country needs.

Native Americans are not a relic of the past, they are still here fighting for their rights and the survival of a rich culture as they have done for centuries. It is time we educate ourselves on everything from low stakes issues like why Buffalo Bill should not be an idolized figure to high stakes issues such as thousands of missing indigenous women across our nation.

Take the low-stakes example of Buffalo Bill, most people would see little problem in having an NFL team use the name. This would likely change if most people knew that the U.S. soldier turned western showman is actually a war criminal responsible for the ethnic cleansing of the Plains tribes.

Buffalo Bill facilitated the near extinction of the American Buffalo by killing over 4000 of the creatures. By doing this, he made it near impossible for the Plains Tribes to put up effective resistance to western expansion since the American Buffalo was so integral to their way of life.

While the name of a professional football team may be low stakes, we should seriously reconsider if we want to lionize a genocidal war criminal.

The high-stakes consequences of our refusal to talk about Native American issues result in unfair and discriminatory media coverage of missing indigenous women. It’s estimated that only about 30 percent of Native murder victims in Wyoming get media coverage while their white counterparts get covered 51 percent of the time.

From high stakes to low stakes every issue matters and deserves our attention. The new California ethnic studies course requirement is a good first step; however, it does not go into full effect until 2029.

It is far past time America addresses its treatment of indigenous people and has an honest conversation right now. This is not a call to demonize America’s history but to provide the full and accurate portrayal of the Native American genocide.