Reparations? Or?

 In a conversation with a friend who is a politically-active Dakota woman, I wondered what she thought about “reparations.” 

What, in her opinion, would it take for her and her family to feel “whole” in response to historical trauma, genocide, and experiencing personal trauma as well? 

She shared that the most relevant reparation for Native people is the recognition that they are still here.

I didn’t expect that response. But she shared that too many non-Native people honestly believe that “the only Indians left are poor, impoverished alcoholics.”

“How can we feel whole, healed, when we continue to be ‘erased’ by the broader society? When we continue to be invisible… or extinct… or only historical artifacts?”

I asked what it would look like to feel recognized. What would have to happen?

She shared a story (which is a culturally-rooted response to a significant or complex question/answer) about her siblings growing up (here on this reservation) and now living in Minneapolis with her extended family around her. The story made me think (which is exactly what these stories are intended to do!)

What would it be like if my own ancestors were perceived to be savages and drunks… and my own family couldn’t be connected to the past because the broader society actually believes that Native people are extinct?