One recommend action in the last Checklist affirmed my hope for democracy.
Originating from the Anti Defamation League, Action 3 encouraged you to let local and state elected officials know about educational resources that increase knowledge of the history and reality of Indigenous people.
I did this, even though both of my state legislators are Republican (not my party). Using the script provided in the Checklist, I wrote and sent them an email.
One legislator personally replied with thanks and said, “The key is…to find a way to be inclusive of all cultures and nationalities without adding extensively to school curriculum at the expense of other subjects. I look forward to hearing reports about research that is currently underway as it relates to these issues.”
I could have taken issue with some of his points, but he wasn’t arguing, just stating his concerns. In our past correspondence, he’s been very respectful, even when we’ve disagreed. So, I took the opportunity to thank him for this, then I addressed his concern.
As you probably know, dear reader, every action in the Checklist includes links to excellent resources. In my reply, I referenced one study that showed how out of date our school curricula are; 87 percent of schools’ history content only covers Native Americans before the 1900s. Yet Native people are alive today, making contributions in every field even while struggling under burden of racism. Knowledge of this reality can end the cycle of negative bias against Indigenous people and violence against Native women.
I shared this information and summed up: “If it is in your power to advocate for the 130,000 Native American people living in Oregon to improve our schools’ curricula, I hope you’ll consider it.”
His reply was both kind and heartening:
“Thank you for the additional information, Jennifer. I am on the [Oregon] House Judiciary Committee and we moved a bill a couple of sessions ago to provide more resources and State Police assistance to the tribes in dealing with the missing and murdered Native American women. I am also closely following the tragic stories coming out of the schools that started with a revelation about the deaths at the residential school in Kamloops, BC. There is much work to be done on these issues. I will watch the curriculum matter closely and see what I can do.”
This conversation took place between a registered Democrat and a Republican legislator. It was honest, sincere, and productive. Did I get a everything I wanted? Or everything that ADL recommends? Or that Native Americans need? Of course not.
Did my communication put this issue on his radar? Yes. I reminded him how education can prevent bias and violence. He’s already addressing Indigenous concerns through budgetary and legislative means. We’re actually on the same side.
Will I continue to advocate for the rights of Native Americans? Absolutely. And the rights of any other group not enjoying life, liberty, and happiness. However, as you can tell from this communication, progress is made one conversation at a time.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s quote often comes to mind as I work on the Checklist: “We are sowing winter wheat, which…other hands than ours will reap and enjoy.” She said this over 100 years ago about her attempts to gain the right for women to vote.
When I communicate my concerns about justice, equality, respect, and democracy, I do this not expecting my elected officials to have an immediate change of heart. They won’t. Even my same-party folks are beholden to powerful donors.
All injustice needs is people to oppose it and advocate for something better. Even though I know my influence is limited, I speak up, trusting that I’m another crack in the dam that will eventually collapse. Justice will flow. Every email, postcard, and call is a legacy for a future we may never experience firsthand but believe is possible. This vision is worth the effort.
It must be said that the work can be lonely, and can become much more satisfying in good company. For that reason, please consider joining me to work on the Checklist this Friday (details in the email) to work on the Checklist actions with kind, concerned people like yourself.
Please keep taking good care of yourself and join us in speaking up this week.
AoCC Founder and Editor