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Stolen Land, Stolen Bodies and Stolen Stories

Stereotypes are the average American’s only exposure to Native realities

We are in a moment of awakening. As a nation, we are beginning to recognize the institutionalized bias and racism that impacts the lives of Black, Native American, and other people of color, starting conversations everywhere from living rooms to boardrooms and moving to the millions of protestors in the streets and the toppling of monuments and symbols of racism. These seismic shifts in culture and society have the potential to catalyze the long overdue end of systemic racism.

It is in this moment that we begin to understand the potential of narrative to shift culture, policies, institutions, and power in transformational ways. Narratives are cultural ideas or stories that dominate and affect how we view or understand the world, created by systems and institutions like the government, media, education, and entertainment, as well as by myths, stereotypes and personal experiences.

How and where power is held and exercised is embedded in and supported by a society’s dominant narratives. The United States is built on a series of master narratives that are pervasive across all aspects of our society, from the “discovery” of America through manifest destiny to ideas about American exceptionalism and the primacy of “market freedom” at almost any cost. But this country is just as much constructed out of the narratives that aren’t told, stories about stolen Native American lands and stolen Black bodies and labor that get swept under the rug or dismissed. For more than 500 years, this worldview has portrayed Native peoples and Black peoples as less than human and has justified their genocide, forced removal, enslavement and criminalization for the higher good, “safety,” and progress of this country.

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