Written By Evette Padilla, member of the Dolan Law Firm Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee
November is Native American Heritage Month, and the Dolan Law Firm would like to acknowledge and give thanks to the Ramaytush Ohlone people of Yelamu, aka San Francisco; whose unceded lands and territories have provided a safe home to this firm’s main San Francisco office for over 20 years.
In order to accurately honor Native American history, we must acknowledge that the indigenous peoples of precolonial United States experienced mass genocide at a scale unlike any other in World History.
“The nation’s indigenous people had a population of nearly 10 million before European settlers explored America. Their numbers began to fall rapidly shortly after that due to war and diseases brought by the settlers. Native Americans faced centuries of persecution and discrimination, losing their land and resources and being forced onto reservations that lacked the soil and natural resources needed to build and sustain their communities.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the estimated population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, as of July 1, 2007, was 4.5 million, or 1.5 percent of the total U.S. population.
Today, some of the issues Native Americans face include threats from federal and state governments related to land-use and resource extraction. Furthermore, Native Americans have the highest poverty rate of any major racial group, with one in four people living below the poverty line. The tragedies of murdered missing indigenous women and girls have ripped away generations of matriarchs from their families and communities. The disregard for the wellbeing of the Earth in exchange for corporate greed for fossil fuel money, has left native lands and waterways so contaminated to sustain any form of life. We mourn all the generations that died, and at the same time we celebrate all the generations that have survived.
The diverse Native American cultures and communities have endured despite centuries of violence, injustice and discrimination. Their resilience to persevere in the face of mass societal and historical erasure is commendable. Their centuries of and present day land stewardship sustains the life that remains in the United States.
Let’s continue to amplify indigenous voices, highlight and celebrate the diverse and rich culture of Native American people, and take meaningful action to preserve the Native land. To learn more about the histories and contemporary experiences of Native Americans, here are some resources we recommend:
- An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
- 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Chris Mann
- Not “A Nation of Immigrants”: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
- 7 Must-See Films on Native American History and Life
- American Bar Association’s Introduction to Status, Realities, Legal Framework and Future of Indigenous Peoples in the United States and Canada