Brandon Ecoffey: Native people know tragedy and trauma too well

The victims of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee in South Dakota are loaded up on carts for burial. Photo from Wikpedia

A note from the editor's desk
Poor headlines make for inaccurate histories
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

The act of domestic terrorism that took place this past weekend in Florida that resulted in fifty deaths and another fifty wounded was simply horrific. There is no way of disguising the brutality and disregard for human life shown by the man who committed these murders.

What was interesting for me was the poor choice of words that the Associated Press chose to use when describing the scene. The AP, as well as several other mainstream outlets, called the incident the "largest mass shooting" in American history. The headlines and intro paragraphs that used this terminology were written up with the intention of drawing in readers and creating web traffic for each news outlets' site.

That is fine, but he fact remains that this assertion is historically inaccurate. Throughout the shared history of United States government and Native people there are several examples where gun violence resulted in the slaughter of many indigenous people across North America. The two that come to mind for me are Wounded Knee and Sand Creek. The headline used by the AP denies that these atrocities happened in exchange for driving Internet traffic.

When the headlines first started to come out I wanted to immediately address them, like many of our people were already doing via Twitter and Facebook, but I chose not to. The reason I didn't is because I felt that as a Native person the best thing for us to do was step back and allow our LGBT relatives their space to mourn those who died at the hands of this mad man. As a community Native people know tragedy and trauma. We know what it is like to need time to heal. This is what our LGBT relatives deserve.

For many on the Internet it seemed that it was a race to attach themselves to the people and history of these past atrocities and not about correcting the headline or showing compassion for the families of those who lost someone in this past weekend's shootings. The irony of the whole situation was that there were so many who were driving the complaints against the AP who were not Lakota, but were OK with talking about Wounded Knee as if they were.

For the most part I do my best to stay out of Internet arguments but the dangerous thing about social media is that often the voices speaking behalf of our people will never have to answer to anybody.

The headline was wrong but in this case it would have been OK for us to take a step back and allow for those families in Florida to grieve.

(Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of LCT and is an enrolled citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation who grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.)

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