For those of you, like me, who don’t live in the United States, here’s the background: Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer and navigator. In 1492, he arrived on the shores of what is now known as Puerto Rico where he was met by the Taino people.

Columbus recognized the prestige which he and his people had been given and took advantage of it. He kidnapped many people from the native tribe and sent them back to Europe to work as slaves. This began a period in history in which many people such as the Danish, British, French, and Spanish would stake their claim to the American continent through genocide, slavery, and colonialization. The Indigenous people who lived there suffered starvation, massacres, attempted assimilation, and abject poverty for most of their lives due to the inhumane treatment by these colonizing forces for so-called ‘development’.

So, fast forward and now we are in 2020. While the world is gripped in a pandemic, the USA has begun to unravel its history with race and society. From the Black Lives Matter protests to the handling of the pandemic by Donald Trump, the USA is finally realizing that there are serious problems within the foundation of its society. Representative Deb Haaland from New Mexico has put forward a bill named ‘The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy in the United States Act’. This is an effort to bring attention to the impact of the Boarding School system on Indigenous Communities in North America, and would be a historical bill that will finally force people to see the damage of America’s roots as opposed to complacency.

One of the largest movements currently is the 1492 Land Back Movement. The movement is advocating for the US government to return Indigenous land back to its rightful owners (owners is used as a very loose term as many people believe that one can never own the land as it is not anyone’s to own) especially those of sacred and historical significance. This movement has already begun to set precedents; the return of 3 million acres of land equating to half of Oklahoma was returned to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. This was a historic decision as the area also includes Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-biggest city. In July 2020, the Esselen tribe of Northern California gained back 1,200 acres of land in yet another historical case.

It’s not a coincidence that this is happening. The people are finally standing up for their rights and beliefs like we have seen so many do before them. Looking back to this past 4th of July when the people of the Lakota Sioux stood in defiance of the President and protected the Black Hills from him and his supporters.

My people are still struggling with freedom. We are split across three states because of colonialization, with the Kohinoor diamond in Queen Elizabeth II’s crown.

Even though great strides have been made, there is a lot of work that has yet to be done. The Black Hills are still under the control of the US Government; a direct violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, and of the Supreme Court ruling in 1980.

So here’s what you can do to help:

Sign petitions:

This one focuses specifically on the return of the Black Hills.

Educate yourself!

It wasn’t until I completed my undergraduate degree that I realized how colonized my education was. So, I read as much as I could. I shared these books and articles with as many people as possible. Authors of color provide invaluable information that you can’t receive from white sources.

Share your resources!

I pass whatever I read to the people around me because everyone deserves access to this information. Like so many of us did during the peak of the BLM movement, it is time we read up Indigenous history. We can only be allies and supporters if we learn. So many of us outside of the US and Canada were not even aware that this was happening.

Donate to bailfunds!

I understand that this is not feasible for everyone but any steps you can take is enough:

O’odham water and land defenders arrested while halting border wall construction which was threatening sacred site.

NDN collective announces Black Hills bail and legal defense  fund following Mt. Rushmore arrests. 

There’s always something more we can learn about others. I am a firm believer that you cannot expect people to understand you if you aren’t willing to do the same. 2020 has been one of the most awful years, but its also been a year of amazing things.

Let’s make it the year to make a big movement towards decolonization.

  • Aafiyah is a graduate from Lancaster University with a BA in International Relations. In her spare time, she loves writing poetry, and dismantling racist and patriarchal structures