Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Funday: Blank Slate

While some members of our staff are already headed off for a weekend of fun and/or work, at least part of our staff has a completely open weekend ahead - and a blank slate isn't entirely a bad thing.

Still, there are quite a few important events going on this weekend, not the least of which is the White House Correspondents' Dinner, in Washington, DC. We also know that some of you - especially some of our Nebraska readers - will be trekking out to Beatrice, Nebraska and the Homestead National Monument of America this weekend.

In case you didn't know, the Homestead National Monument of America is a U.S. National Park, and the only one of it's kind, dedicated to celebrating the Homestead Act of 1862.

This weekend, there will be celebrations at the Monument in Beatrice to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act, including the display of the original, four-page document that let thousands of Americans - and immigrant, soon-to-become Americans - stake their claim to land in the U.S.

Out of the millions of claims that were handed out to 1.6 million people over the course of the 125 year program, there's one claim, that 150 years later, still hasn't been properly addressed.

The land our government handed out didn't belong to the still young American nation in the first place.

It belonged to many Native American nations - nations that often, over the last 150 years, the U.S. government has lied to, stolen from, and cheated.

You can attempt to justify it anyway you want; the truth will remain the same. The U.S. Government paid the French Government for land the French government never rightfully owned. The U.S. took over land from the Spanish too, that Spain didn't really own either.

If you want to be honest, every time you see someone who is a proud Native American - and you are not - you should thank him or her profusely for not trying to evict you from this country because of the actions of your ancestors.

We're very glad, of course, that Native Americans do not kick us off of their land. In fact, we have to admit that we're pretty glad that so many immigrant Americans - including all of our ancestors - came to this country, settled here, and made the nation we have today.

We do wish our ancestors had asked proper permission from the people who were already living here - and we deeply apologize for the arrogant, ignorant, violent, obtuse, offensive, and stupid way that that our ancestors treated the already existing residents of America.

There is nothing we can do now that will ever fully pay back the many Native nations, for what happened to them. Sure - there are things we can do, like help to stop making things worse in towns like Whiteclay, Nebraska. But getting rid of the embarrassment in Whiteclay is the kind of action we should support because it is the right thing to do, not because we owe a debt to the first Americans.

What we can do this weekend, wherever we are, whatever we're doing, is to take the chance to wipe the slate clean, to start over again, remembering that we are all Americans.

How we act towards one another, and towards this land we are all responsible for, should - from this point forward - reflect who we all, as one nation, want to be.

We can't change the past. Hopefully, we can change the future - and make it better.

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