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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Indian Lives Matter

The history of native Americans is recurring disaster. European invaders, among whom I count my ancestors and probably yours, killed most of the native Americans, pursued the survivors across the continents, subjugated them, seized their lands, destroyed their means of existence, relocated them, profaned their religion, and finally left them in the 20th century with little hope of the upward mobility that America is supposed to offer but increasingly does not. In an act of dubious generosity, though, we did interpret our twisted treaties with them to allow casinos.

Why do a growing number of people see the current controversy at Standing Rock as so significant? The answer is not found in the pro's and con's of a pipeline. Rather, the irreducible matter is this: when the white people of North Dakota found out that the path of the pipeline would endanger their water supply — specifically the water supply of Bismarck, the state's second-largest city —  authorities shifted the route of the pipeline to a point half a mile upstream from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The argument by politicians and planners of the pipeline surely was, there aren't many of those Indians and they just don't matter.

From 1950 to 1975, urban freeways were disproportionately routed through African-American neighborhoods. It's the same racism.