Elise hsu

The land in this photo is part of the traditional territory of the Ohlone, Muwekma, and Ramaytush peoples.

The land we stand on is stolen land.

It was never ours to begin with. It was stolen from the indigenous peoples who had inhabited it for centuries before European explorers arrived and forcibly evicted them to make room for their own interests.

When most people think of Indigenous displacement, the first thing that comes to mind is Trail of Tears, part of President Andrew Jackson’s “Indian Withdrawal” policy. In 1830, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which stipulated that Indigenous peoples were to be moved from their eastern homelands to newly acquired territory in present-day Oklahoma. People from various aboriginal nations, including the Choctaw, were forced to make this trip; many of them died along the way.

The Trail of Tears is perhaps the only aspect of Aboriginal history that is properly taught in schools; teachers recognize it as a serious moment in history and treat it as such in their classrooms. Other events in Indigenous history are often watered down to hide the horrific truth about how the United States got its land.

Thanksgiving is one of those events. It is often presented as a time when indigenous peoples and European settlers found peace with one another; however, many Aboriginal people mark it as a day of mourning and refrain from recognizing it.

The Europeans were by no means friendly; in “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Was Wrong”, James W. Loewen wrote that a year before the first Thanksgiving, settlers robbed native graves of resources needed to survive the winter. And while it is true that the Wampanoag people shared resources with the Europeans, they did so only as a strategy to help their nation recover from a deadly epidemic, according to National Geographic.

Another example where Indigenous history is watered down is the establishment of Spanish missions in California. Fourth-graders in California find they are places where the Spaniards taught Indigenous people their way of life. However, the events that led to their establishment are often coated.

According to California Federation of Teachers (CFT), the indigenous peoples of the missions were forced to do hard work and convert to Christianity under difficult living conditions. This truth is why California Department of Education advised that the teaching of this unit should “focus on the daily experience of the missions” as opposed to construction models, a once popular tradition accompanying unity.

How do you get people to know the history of their land? It starts by giving them resources that can help them learn more about it. Digital homeland is an indigenous run website that allows users to search for a certain location and tell them which indigenous people consider it to be their homeland. For example, Carlmont High School is located on land that the Ohlone, Muwekma and Ramaytush peoples consider to be part of their traditional territory. Native Land Digital also provides resources created by various Indigenous Nations for those who want to learn more about them.

But what is this information for? It helps us understand the true history of our land and who it really belongs to. For many, the fact that land we consider “our own” is in fact being stolen is a hard truth to swallow, and learning more about the indigenous peoples who first lived there can help them better understand. It can also inspire calls for improvement in areas that affect Indigenous peoples in the United States, including educational reform and statue removal.

It is time for us to recognize the role of indigenous peoples in the history of our country and to recognize that they own the land on which we stand.

* This editorial reflects the views of the Scot Scoop Editorial Board and was written by Elise Hsu.

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