ASB 2019 Contest Winner in the Category “Access America”

By Pune Karimi

 

From left to right: Amer­i­can author Peter Worts­man, Pune Kari­mi, and ASB edi­tor, Dr. Sab­ri­na Völz. Pho­to cred­it: Hen­rike Kattoll

On behalf of the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Blog, we would like to extend our sin­cer­est con­grat­u­la­tions to Pune Kari­mi whose win­ning entry in the 2019 ASB con­test in the cat­e­go­ry “Access Amer­i­ca” can be read below. Although the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Blog does not usu­al­ly print polit­i­cal pieces, we felt that the win­ning blog voic­es a point of view large­ly absent from Amer­i­can pol­i­tics and media, and, there­fore, deserves to be heard. We hope it gives you some food for thought.

 

Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tions 2020 – Still No Coun­try for Indige­nous People

 

“Repub­li­can Ele­phant & Demo­c­ra­t­ic Don­key – Icons” by DonkeyHotey

While Repub­li­cans have made it abun­dant­ly clear that they have lit­tle desire to improve the lives of peo­ple of col­or or mar­gin­al­ized groups, Democ­rats have often prid­ed them­selves on fight­ing for the dis­ad­van­taged. Still – hard­ly ever have the rights of Indige­nous peo­ple been a top­ic dur­ing the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, and it seems unlike­ly that this is going to change any time soon. At least that’s what it looked like dur­ing the first Demo­c­ra­t­ic debates.

At the Demo­c­ra­t­ic debate on July 30, health care, immi­gra­tion, gun con­trol, and cli­mate change were among the most dis­cussed top­ics, all unde­ni­ably impor­tant issues. But most of the can­di­dates have not giv­en Indige­nous rights a plat­form, and none of them made it a pri­or­i­ty in their elec­tion pro­gram: The can­di­dates Bernie Sanders, Julián Cas­tro, Mar­i­anne Williamson, John Delaney, and Steve Bul­lock at least attend­ed a forum to dis­cuss var­i­ous Indige­nous issues, though they did not ini­ti­ate this meet­ing and had to be specif­i­cal­ly invited.

While Sanders, Cas­tro, and Williamson ded­i­cat­ed part of their web­sites to Indige­nous issues, Joe Biden and Cory Book­er – both pop­u­lar con­tenders for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion – only briefly men­tion Indige­nous peo­ples on their web­sites and only in con­nec­tion to cli­mate change.

In the media, indi­gene­ity was very briefly talked about when the cur­rent U.S. Pres­i­dent called Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren “Poc­a­hon­tas” since she had pre­vi­ous­ly claimed Chero­kee ances­try. Besides the fact that this is a racist attack, Sen­a­tor Warren’s reac­tion to get her blood test­ed was also in poor taste, an action for which she was crit­i­cized by the Chero­kee Nation. Reporter Kat Chow explains the prob­lem of blood quan­tum: “Blood quan­tum emerged as a way to mea­sure ‘Indi­an-ness’ through a con­struct of race so that over time, Indi­ans would lit­er­al­ly breed them­selves out and rid the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment of their legal duties to uphold treaty obligations.”

But even with­out this igno­rant state­ment by Sen­a­tor War­ren, there are enough oth­er issues that affect Indige­nous peo­ples, such as the high num­ber of miss­ing and mur­dered Indige­nous women and girls (MMIW), the poor infra­struc­ture on reser­va­tions, or the plans for con­struct­ing a tele­scope on the vol­cano Mau­na Kea. The ques­tion remains why issues con­cern­ing Indige­nous peo­ples don’t get more attention.

On a more pos­i­tive note, there have been improve­ments in media rep­re­sen­ta­tion: The (now unfor­tu­nate­ly can­celled) Net­flix show Cham­bers fea­tured an Indige­nous woman as the main char­ac­ter. Oth­er exam­ples include the Net­flix docuseries Bas­ket­ball or Noth­ing, or the high­ly acclaimed book, There There by Cheyenne and Ara­pa­ho author Tom­my Orange.

There is still some time until the 2020 elec­tions, and many can­di­dates will be drop­ping out or have already dropped out. But one thing is clear: U.S. politi­cians, regard­less of their polit­i­cal affil­i­a­tion, need to rec­og­nize Indige­nous rights as a pri­or­i­ty in their polit­i­cal campaign.

 

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In her free time, Pune Kari­mi likes writ­ing about social issues, movies, and TV shows while pur­su­ing her Master’s degree in Cul­tur­al Stud­ies. She has lived and stud­ied in the Unit­ed States and is cur­rent­ly work­ing for Leuphana University’s Office for Women and Equal Opportunities.