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From: TomDispatch <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Thu, Nov 29, 2018 at 8:32 AM
Subject: Tomgram: Aviva Chomsky, Making Native Americans Strangers in Their
Own Land


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November 29, 2018
Tomgram: Aviva Chomsky, Making Native Americans Strangers in Their Own Land
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In the 1950s, I grew up in the heart of New York City and had a remarkable
amount of contact with Native Americans. As you might expect, I never
actually met one in those years. What I had in mind was all the time I
spent at the local RKO and other movie theaters watching Hollywood
westerns. They were, of course, filled with Indians, and in those films, we
-- and I don’t mean the 12-year-old Tom Engelhardt, but the blue coats, the
stage coach drivers and their passengers, the cowboys, and the pioneers I
identified with -- were regularly ambushed
<https://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&id=df705d9cc1&e=60ba909d90>
by those Indians. In the end, with rare exceptions, the natives predictably
fell as they circled the wagon train or stagecoach or attacked those
cavalrymen, whooping and shooting their arrows. They went down, naturally
enough, before the implacable power of “our” weaponry, “our” marksmanship.
And here’s the thing: they deserved it. After all, they were attacking us.
We never ambushed them. They, that is, were “the invaders” and we,
invariably, the aggressed upon.

All of this came to my mind when, in the midst of the 2018 midterm election
campaign, Donald Trump labeled as “invaders
<https://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&id=2f51b16012&e=60ba909d90>”
a caravan of desperate refugees, including women and small children fleeing
their violent, impoverished lands (which the U.S. had a significant hand
<https://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&id=6c505eda8c&e=60ba909d90>
in making so) for asylum or refuge in this country. And then, of course, he
sent almost 6,000
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military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border to protect us (and twiddle
<https://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&id=16b63d80d9&e=60ba909d90>
their thumbs).

I was reminded then of that celluloid past because Donald Trump, who is
only a couple of years younger than me and undoubtedly grew up in the same
movie world, felt -- I suspect -- so comfortable lambasting those refugees
as invaders exactly because the term fit perfectly the “history” we had
learned in our mutual childhoods. His claim was, in fact, a
twenty-first-century version of the way, in our youth, the history of this
country was regularly turned on its head, making the desperate and invaded
into the nefarious and invasive. And, in truth, even without the helping
hand of Donald Trump, that version of our history has never really ended,
as *TomDispatch* regular
<https://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&id=a041cf9266&e=60ba909d90>
Aviva Chomsky shows today. Native Americans are still being treated as if
they were the invaders in what was once their own land and, like that
caravan from Latin America, slapped down for it. Let her tell you how what
she calls the DNA industry and various parts of our government, local and
national, have been working overtime to recreate, after a fashion, the
movie world of my childhood. *Tom*

*The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian*
*DNA, Race, and Native Rights*
By Aviva Chomsky
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Amid the barrage of racist
<https://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&id=03c4a7044b&e=60ba909d90>,
anti-immigrant
<https://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&id=93e58fcac2&e=60ba909d90>,
and other attacks launched by President Trump and his administration in
recent months, a series of little noted steps have threatened Native
American land rights and sovereignty. Such attacks have focused on tribal
sovereignty, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and the voting rights of
Native Americans, and they have come from Washington, the courts, and a
state legislature. What they share is a single conceptual framework: the
idea that the long history that has shaped U.S.-Native American relations
has no relevance to today’s realities.

Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated event, Senator Elizabeth Warren,
egged on by Donald Trump’s “Pocahontas” taunts
<https://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&id=897a5c84ae&e=60ba909d90>
and his mocking of her claims to native ancestry, triumphantly touted her
DNA results to “prove” her Native American heritage. In turning to the
burgeoning, for-profit DNA industry, however, she implicitly lent her
progressive weight to claims about race and identity that go hand in hand
with moves to undermine
<https://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&id=ca1a2d9e55&e=60ba909d90>
Native sovereignty.

The DNA industry has, in fact, found a way to profit from reviving and
modernizing antiquated ideas about the biological origins of race and
repackaging them in a cheerful, Disneyfied wrapping. While it’s true that
the it’s-a-small-world-after-all multiculturalism of the new racial science
rejects nineteenth-century scientific racism and Social Darwinism, it is
offering a twenty-first-century version of pseudoscience that once again
reduces race to a matter of genetics and origins. In the process, the
corporate-promoted ancestry fad conveniently manages to erase the histories
of conquest, colonization, and exploitation that created not just racial
inequality but race itself as a crucial category in the modern world.

Today’s policy attacks on Native rights reproduce the same
misunderstandings of race that the DNA industry is now so assiduously
promoting. If Native Americans are reduced to little more than another
genetic variation, there is no need for laws that acknowledge their land
rights, treaty rights, and sovereignty. Nor must any thought be given to
how to compensate for past harms, not to speak of the present ones that
still structure their realities. A genetic understanding of race distorts
such policies into unfair “privileges” offered to a racially defined group
and so “discrimination” against non-Natives. This is precisely the logic
behind recent rulings that have denied Mashpee tribal land rights in
Massachusetts, dismantled the Indian Child Welfare Act (a law aimed at
preventing the removal of Native American children from their families or
communities), and attempted to suppress Native voting rights in North
Dakota.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.
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