Students escaped the cold weather Monday to watch a screening of “Our Fires Still Burn: The Native American Experience” in the Centennial Student Union. The film serves as a compelling one-hour documentary, offering its viewers a vis-à-vis look at the experiences contemporary Native Americans go through in the Midwest.
The film also confronts and promptly dispels the myth that American Indians have faded out of the country’s picture, showing firsthand how they continue to survive, thrive and keep their culture alive.
North America’s past of genocide is a stain that will forever stay imprinted on the country’s record, and the painful deletion of Native Americans from their land and from the history of the country’s beginnings should never be forgotten or downplayed.
“When the (white) people came from Europe, there were a hundred million Native Americans in North and South America, and today there’s a handful. I mean, it was an American Holocaust,” said Scott Badenoch, one of the speakers in the film, a part of the Bo Chunk tribe.
Recalling his childhood, Badenoch spent his childhood living in the Chicago suburbs with his father as well as the Ojibwa reservation with his mother. For him, this was the best of both worlds,
“Being able to go back and forth and be able to move through the different cultures was something that was really ingrained in me. It was the perfect thing for a little boy,” Badenoch said.
Despite his enjoyment of being able to transition between the two different cultures, Badenoch still had his reservations about identifying with his Native American culture. For him, being out and proud with his culture could mean being captured, and forcibly stripped of their identity.
“They went out and collected hundreds of Indian children from all the tribes, and brought them to Carlisle. They were going to, as they said, ‘take the Indian out of them.’ A couple things that were ingrained in me were that you could always be picked up by the federal government, and removed from the house,” Badenoch said.
On a local note, Mankato has been the home of its fair share of racism towards indigenous peoples, specifically towards the Dakota and Winnebago tribes. The largest mass execution in American history happened here in 1862, where 38 members of the Dakota tribe were hanged.
It’s easy to feel removed from events of the past, and act as though bigoted actions such as those don’t happen anymore. However, that’s far from true. According to graduate student and head of the Women’s Center, BriShaun Kearns, the problem is still very prevalent.
Kearns is one of the head speakers at Brave Hearts, a series of discussions held on campus that tackle taboo topics such as Native American injustice.
“It’s the reality of the world. Half of Native women will experience domestic violence, and four out of five Native women will be sex trafficked in their lives. I personally know multiple people in my life growing up who experienced sex trafficking. So we hope to educate people,” Kearns said.
Header Photo: On September 16, 2022, the 50th Annual Traditional Mahkato Wacipi was held at the Land Of Memories Park. The event has been continuously put on in honor of the Dakota 38, the 38 Dakota members who were unjustly lynched in 1862. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)
Write to Joey Erickson at email@example.com