An Indigenous Guide to Handling the News of President-Elect Trump

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Kachina Yeager

22-year old Minnesotan, Bdewakanthuwan Dakota, university student, mother of 2 cats and a dog, aspiring writer, and intersectional feminist.

The man who has just won the title of President-Elect, Donald Trump, has a long history of not only making degrading remarks to marginalized peoples as a whole, but he has a specific and equally long history of opposing Indigenous peoples in the United States as well. A quick glance at this history in “too-long-didn’t-read” form includes, but is certainly not limited to:

It’s troubling, I know, and considering the way he has attributed having to “look Native” (which how does he even know what that consists of?) to being able to claim Native ancestry, and the implications of what that may mean regarding his views on Tribal Sovereignty and the right therein, the thought of this Presidency is a scary, looming, feeling of dread. I feel it too. My heart is heavy and aching. Being a Dakhota woman in a family full of Dakhota women, I’m anxious about the implications of this presidency, too. I feel rage that our ancestors are looking around at us, and this is what they’ve come to see. I’m ashamed, I’m hurt, and most of all–I’m worried about our relatives, and not just those with Indigenous backgrounds, but ALL of our relatives from across the globe. I’m worried about what this means for all of us as a global family, especially the 560+ Indigenous nations across the U.S. Stepping back for a minute, I think about where we are today across Indian Country, physically, mentally, and socially. I think about where we’ve been, how many of us there are, and I’m struck with a realization amongst all of it: we survived, we’re surviving, and we’re fighting back.

It doesn’t make the pain or the shock or the disappointment go away, but it is worth something. We survived a genocide, we survived death marches and concentration camps and ethnic cleansing. We survived Presidents with much more violent pasts (yeah, I’m looking at you Andrew Jackson, I won’t miss your face on the $20 bill), and during so much of that horror we didn’t have the larger structure of Indian Country as the support and resource it is now. Today, I look at Standing Rock, and it nearly brings tears to my eyes every time I think about how we are there, together as one, standing for what it means to each of us to be Indigenous and to be relatives of this Earth and I realize how much stronger we are together. We survived, and we will continue to do so. We will stand for the things we have always stood for, we will fight for what is right, and we will be stronger today because we are together.

On a more specific note, to the Indigenous college students out there: I know it’s hard to stay in the classroom when everyone is gathering at Standing Rock. I know it’s hard not to be overcome by that sinking feeling in your stomach right now when you think of the phrase “President-Elect.” I know you want to feel like you’re joining the fight in some way, but you already are. Every score you get on a paper, or a test or a discussion board is resistance and a victory for Indian Country. We need our scholars and doctors and lawyers and teachers and thinkers. We need you — and we need you to stay where you are and do the best you can.  

Furthermore, to all of Indian Country with heavy hearts because of this election: I know we are wounded, and I know this period of time is painful. Please do not forget that you are entitled to your sorrow and your rage and your heartache. Remember that no matter your identity, the Creator you pray to, the color you are, or the way you love: you are a valid presence not only on this Earth but in these made-up borders of this country as well. Remember to take care of yourselves, to breathe, eat, drink water, binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix, eat cookies, go to Sweat or to Ceremony or just to pray. Don’t forget that we are still here, and we will be for a very long time to come.


Header image: Water protectors march to demonstrate peacefully against the DAPL