Press Conference Remarks on Sen. Hatch’s Racially Charged Comments about “Indians don’t understand...”

Times, such as these, test the resiliency of our democracy and the ideal that we, as human beings, stand equal. It is difficult to believe that is the case when we review the history of our nation. Power has remained concentrated in the hands of a few — the wealthy, males, and whites. And although there have been many strides throughout our history to extend these rights to other groups, time and again we see this goal fall short.
When I read the words that Senator Hatch uttered, presuming that indigenous people don’t know as well as he and that we have to take his word, I am frustrated more than anything else. I’m frustrated because the promise of an America for all seem more like an illusion than reality.
How can we expect to overcome years of racism and oppression, at individual and systemic levels, when one of the most powerful people in the U.S. Government views us as unintelligent?
We, indigenous people, are lawyers and policy analysts; sociologists and economists; community leaders and volunteers. We are mothers and fathers; grandparents, daughters and sons. We are human beings and we should be treated as such.
I wish I could say that I am surprised by this kind of paternalistic, racially charged tone that Senator Hatch has taken. But the truth of the matter is that oppressed groups have sadly come to expect this kind of destructive rhetoric.
What has changed now, is that we are more awake than we’ve ever been. We believe that we can enjoy a society where we are treated as equals; that our ways of thinking and doing can be done without condescension; that we can live in a society where we can make the decisions over our lives, our economies, families, culture, and environment. We are acting now so that we can secure that. That is the kind of reality I am willing to fight for!
Bears Ears is not a “land grab” — it is a form of restitution. It is an acknowledgment that our history has some very dark spots and they are relevant to today. It is a way of reaching out and seeking a form of forgiveness for past atrocities. It is empowering indigenous peoples and their governments to reclaim a proud history and land, and push forward into a promising future. Bears Ears is our story of survival and perseverance.
We demand much more than just an apology, Senator. We seek the fulfillment of the ideals of America: equality, justice, life, and freedom. Not just for people who look, think, and pray as you do. But for all of us, especially at this time, for the indigenous peoples of this land.
Protect the sacred. Protect Bears Ears.

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