Fall 2013: The Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the U.S.

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"The white man says, there is freedom and justice for all. We have had 'freedom and justice,' and that is why we have been almost exterminated. We shall not forget this."

~ From the 1927 Grand Council of American Indians

Although the United States of America is often considered the world's most prominent advocate for freedom and liberty, its establishment was built on the denial of basic human rights to Native Americans that included brutal killings, the spread of conquerors' diseases, racist government policies, broken treaties, theft, removal from native lands, uninhabitable reservations with poor land for farming, child kidnapping and assimilation in boarding schools, lack of education, poor health care, and banning of their languages, culture, and religion. 

This long history of oppression and marginalization continues today. As the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, states:"indigenous peoples in the United States constitute vibrant communities that have contributed greatly to the life of this country; yet they face significant challenges that are related to widespread historical wrongs, including broken treaties and acts of oppression, and misguided government policies, that today manifest themselves in various indicators of disadvantage and impediments to the exercise of their individual and collective rights." For example, of the more than 5.2 million Native Americans living in federally recognized tribal areas in the United States, 28.4% live in poverty, nearly double the national average.

 November is Native American Indian Heritage Month, and the Friday after Thanksgiving is Native American Indian Heritage Day. In this time for giving thanks, when many of us are celebrating with family, food, and football, let us not forget that for many others this is a time of reflection and mourning. This edition of Rights Sites News is dedicated to respecting this truth and providing educators with resources and accurate information to help them teach students about Thanksgiving in a manner that neither demeans nor stereotypes Native Americans.