Adrian Jawort: Addressing race relations and healing in Montana

The Native American Race Relations & Healing Association held its first symposium in Billings, Montana, in August 2015. Photo from Facebook

Adrian Jawort (Northern Cheyenne) explains how the efforts of the Native American Race Relations & Healing Association in Montana:
During late August of last year the community of Billings, Montana hosted our first ever Native American Race Relations & Healing Symposium. The all-day event included both Native and white speakers and was considered an emotionally resounding success to the 80 plus people in attendance who wanted positive change. In the morning we had historian-based guest speakers (including myself) that talked about the importance of not whitewashing U.S. history because prejudice stems from ignorance, and education is the first step to combatting it.

That afternoon various speakers ranging from professors, politicians, teachers, to passionate activists with genuine experiences spoke. One Crow women told of how when she grew up outside of Montana as an Airforce ‘brat,’ having her unique Native American heritage had always garnered a mixture of curiosity and respect. When she moved to Montana as a young teen, however, she was surprised to find a note on her locker on her first day of school telling her to “Go back to the rez!” She’d never even lived on an Indian reservation before.

Having only been barely able to touch on a vast array of sensitive subjects, we knew this conversation would have to keep going to carry the constructive momentum felt that day. There were other hard truths and problems among Natives beyond “blaming the white man” that only we ultimately had the tools to fix, and so the symposium became the Native American Healing and Race Relations Association with monthly meetings dealing with singular subjects chosen for in-depth discussion.

Get the Story:
Adrian Jawort: What Comes After #NoIWontJustMoveOn? (Indian Country Today 5/24)

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