Neither Fish Nor Fowl: The Quest for U.S.-Tribal Harmony

Back around 2003, I proposed my philosophy thesis for a BA in philosophy. I ended up writing about colonialism and decolonization. For my readings, I emailed a professor working in Native American Studies. We emailed back and forth for a long time. I felt a little out of place as a white person studying these things. The Native Studies professor told me I was neither fish nor fowl.

I wrote a crappy, little book a year or so ago on Native American issues. In that book, I noted that there have been pillars of hope and justice in Euroamerican history–people who wanted what’s right and just for Native Americans.

Although, as I note in the book, those people were vocal, they didn’t prevail. The result, as we now know, has been centuries of genocide, cultural genocide, poverty, poor health outcomes, and more, for indigenous people.

Like my predecessors, I may not win. But I have a 20-year history of fighting for indigenous people. I may be neither fish nor fowl, but I believe that we can achieve harmony in U.S.-tribal relations.

But it’s going to take us–non-Native, U.S. citizens–to help get us there. And we are going to have to give some. For example, it may be good to have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for indigenous people. That way, the truth can be known, healing can take place and we can come to reconcile with one another.

In my daily life, I interact with Native Americans. We have more in common than we have differences. Our shared humanity is what brings us together. And, for my part, my sense of justice begins with love. Native Americans have the highest rate of intermarriage. That means most Native people have non-Native family members. If we can love one another on a personal level, why can’t we bring about justice and harmony at the government level?

For 20 years, I have worked for Native justice when possible. I may be white, but I’ll take the side of history that’s right over the side I’m allegedly supposed to be on.

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