Gyasi Ross: Hillary Clinton can't stay quiet on #NoDAPL movement

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is presented with a blanket during a visit to the Puyallup Reservation in Washington on March 22, 2016. Photo from Hillary for America

Native Americans Need Hillary to Actually Be An Ally Against the Dakota Access Pipeline
By Gyasi Ross
For Common Dreams

Ok, let’s state the obvious: Trump is bad for Native Americans. He’s bad for all people of color, really. He wants to stop Muslims from coming into this country, deport 11 million Mexicans, and put a wall between the United States and a nation of people who belong on this continent more than he does.

But for Native Americans specifically, he has spread racist lies with the intent of stunting Native economic development. While opposing a Native American casino that would compete with his own, he assumed the role of a white man deciding who counts as “Indian. He said the Mashantucket Pequot tribal members didn’t “look like Indians” to him. He’s also backed the Keystone XL Pipeline, which local tribal groups fought tooth and nail to stop. While in North Dakota, he said of KXL: “I want it built, but I want a piece of the profits,”

In this campaign though, I haven’t heard him even mention Native people once.

There is no doubt in my mind: Donald Trump as President would be terrible for Native Americans.

Clinton, on the other hand, is supposed to be a Native ally. Supposed to be.

But over the course of the last month, Hillary has failed the allyship test. There are many Native people looking for a reason to support her zealously, yet she has not provided it.

280 tribal groups from across the country have joined forces to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. But Hillary Clinton still has said not one word on the topic.

Look, I know most folks don’t understand how rare it is for all Native people to agree on anything, but assume that it’s as rare as all white people agreeing on anything or all black people agreeing on anything. It simply does not happen!

But on this particular topic, there is huge and unprecedented consensus. In fact, there is so much agreement amongst Native communities on stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline that if Clinton were listening to Native communities, this issue would top her website. She would have to insist the Dakota Access Pipeline and Treaty Rights be on the list of topics for the upcoming debates. She would talk about it during her rallies and her interviews.

We deserve to know her position.

So why isn’t she doing it? Native people are working passionately to get some clarity. She has no excuse—she has great Native advisers who certainly apprised her of the issue many times over. Hillary Clinton should answer why she feels Native people do not deserve an answer on this topic.

We’ve seen her listen to the movement for black lives and #BlackLivesMatter — reversing course on decades of pro-incarceration policies to meet voters where they are today. We’ve seen her listen to Latinos on immigration, and come out against deportations and in favor of a full pathway to citizenship. Good for her. These groups likewise deserve clarity and a strong ally.

Now, it’s time for Hillary Clinton to listen to Native Americans.

There is a clear opening here — I want Hillary Clinton to be our candidate, our ally.

Hillary has not given Native Americans many reasons to vote for her, but Trump has given us many reasons <not to vote for him. Still, that will not be enough to bring Native people out in droves.

Just like any community, she needs to provide a reason to vote for her, not just against Trump. She has not provided that reason. Hillary Clinton can give Native Americans that opportunity — she can reach out a hand of allyship to us. She can show that she won’t follow in the footsteps of previous presidents who have broken hundreds of treaties and spilled the blood of so many of our brothers and sisters.

We are rising up. We are calling for change. The Dakota Access Pipeline is the biggest unity moment for Native Americans in 140 years.

Hillary’s not Bernie or Barack; she’s not someone Indian Country has gotten excited about. Yet. But she could be. With a firm stance on the Dakota Access Pipeline and treaty rights generally, she could win enthusiastic support.

Hillary Clinton has an opportunity to ally with Native Americans, to join us in a historic moment of unity, a stand for our very humanity. The question now is, will she?

Gyasi Ross is lawyer, storytellyer, and citizen of the Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories.

Note: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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