Panel on ND’S Indigenous Communities Brings Up Themes of Unhealed Trauma, Systemic Oppression
This is the first panel on indigenous communities hosted by the Northern Plains Ethics Institute
FARGO, N.D. — The Northern Plains Ethics Institute hosted a panel on ethical issues in North Dakota’s Indigenous communities on Thursday.
Unhealed trauma, trust, and systemic oppression were some of the themes panelists brought up when asked about the most important issues affecting the indigenous community.
“I’m shocked that people are surprised at the conditions in Native communities. Why are you surprised, we’ve had hundreds of years of deliberate government policies aimed at breaking down our families. And now you’re surprised our families are broken?” Cheryl Kary with the Sacred Pipe Resource Center said.
“Native people’s voices need to be heard if you want to make change in Indian country, in particular indigenous women’s voices. Those voices haven’t been there for a lot of history. They’ve been overshadowed and overlooked,” Tyrel Iron Eyes, president of the Native American Student Association at NDSU, said.
That history of being overlooked still has a role in what some people may think are small tasks, like showing ID at the airport or polls.
“If I go through airports, TSA. I’ll use my tribal ID because people need to recognize that is a valid form of ID. I get a lot of pushback for it. I’ve had people refuse to let me through security because I’m using a tribal ID,” Iron Eyes said.
That’s just one seemingly normalized part of society Native Americans have to deal with.
“What for some people may be considered a minor thing has a big impact for Native American people. Mascots aren’t just– ‘oh, it’s a minor thing, you have bigger issues.’ Yes we do, but mascots are also a really big issue because it perpetuates the idea of dehumanization,” he said.
Speakers say making people more aware of Native challenges is key for systemic change and healing within the community.
Indigenous beliefs see healing as something you’re always striving for.
“…not focusing on the trauma, but focusing on how you get back in balance with your family, the people around you because you want to be in a state of healing. Which is unlike Western medicine which focuses on the problem itself. Identify the problem so you can find the pill to fix it,” Kary said.