4th of July State­ment by Kirk E. Fran­cis Sr., Penob­scot In­dian Na­tion Chief

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A cri­sis is un­fold­ing in this coun­try and it is one that jeop­ar­dizes the prin­ci­ples on which the United States was founded. In our found­ing doc­u­ments, we pro­fess our truths to be self-ev­i­dent, and that “all men are cre­ated equal, that they are en­dowed by their Cre­ator with cer­tain un­alien­able Rights, that among these are Life, Lib­erty and the pur­suit of Hap­pi­ness.” How­ever, the con­stant del­uge of dis­heart­en­ing news head­lines should cause a rea­son­able per­son to ques­tion whether we, as a na­tion, are hold­ing our­selves ac­count­able to these truths.

The re­cent sep­a­ra­tion of chil­dren from their par­ents re­sult­ing from a change in im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, a fed­eral ac­tion that In­dian Coun­try is far too fa­mil­iar with, is par­tic­u­larly trou­bling. It is hard to imag­ine that any­one would lack the em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion to un­der­stand the pain and an­guish that both the chil­dren and par­ents must be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. I rec­og­nize that there are vary­ing opin­ions on how to ad­dress our cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion sit­u­a­tion, but it is un­ac­cept­able to al­low peo­ple to suf­fer need­lessly and to be used for po­lit­i­cal gain. The re­sult­ing pain and suf­fer­ing, and likely longterm trauma, should have been an­tic­i­pated and un­der­stood, which makes this de­lib­er­ate and in­ten­tional act even more ap­palling.

In­dian Coun­try is par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive to head­lines such as these. In­dian Coun­try has a long, com­pli­cated, and of­ten con­flicted re­la­tion­ship with the United States. We are view­ing today’s head­lines through dif­fer­ent lenses, in­clud­ing geno­cide and in­ter­gen­er­a­tional trauma. We are sad­dened as we are re­minded of the many in­jus­tices that we ex­pe­ri­enced, to­gether with this na­tion’s lack of ac­count­abil­ity for its moral fail­ings. As the in­dige­nous peo­ples and sovereign na­tions that pre-date the United States, we know far too well the lim­its of these found­ing self-ev­i­dent truths.

In fact, the chal­lenges that we had to over­come, and still work to over­come, are the di­rect re­sult of nu­mer­ous fed­eral poli­cies and laws that sought to as­sim­i­late and ter­mi­nate -- to de­stroy not only our cul­tures and tra­di­tions, but our ex­is­tence. While one might as­sume that these poli­cies and laws are from a by­gone era, the truth is that we are only one gen­er­a­tion re­moved from the hor­rors and atroc­i­ties that were com­mit­ted.

Dis­re­spect and dis­re­gard to­wards In­dian Coun­try con­tin­ues today. Within the past sev­eral weeks, dur­ing a com­mence­ment speech to the 2018 grad­u­at­ing class of the U.S. Naval Academy, Pres­i­dent Trump stated, “To­gether there is noth­ing Amer­i­cans can't do, ab­so­lutely noth­ing. In re­cent years, and even decades, too many peo­ple have for­got­ten that truth. They've for­got­ten that our an­ces­tors trounced an em­pire, tamed a con­ti­nent, and tri­umphed over the worst evils in his­tory…amer­ica is the great­est fight­ing force for peace, jus­tice and free­dom in the his­tory of the world…we are not go­ing to apol­o­gize for Amer­ica.”

These words re­veal a dis­missal and avoid­ance of the truth and facts about Tribal Na­tion-u.s. his­tory which run counter to many of these words and for which Amer­ica should be ashamed. More re­cently, de­spite re­peated re­quests from In­dian Coun­try to stop his deroga­tory use of the name Poc­a­hon­tas, Pres­i­dent Trump once again used the name as an in­ten­tional slur dur­ing a June 2018 cam­paign stop in Ne­vada (Read Pres­i­dent Fran­cis’ Novem­ber 28th State­ment here). These two re­cent ex­am­ples serve as present-day re­minders that there con­tin­ues to be a need for greater

un­der­stand­ing, education, aware­ness, truth, and re­spect.

So when is enough, enough? I fear that too many are be­com­ing de­sen­si­tized and are nor­mal­iz­ing these events and ac­tions that we know in our hearts run counter to our child­hood teach­ings of right ver­sus wrong. The po­lit­i­cal dis­course in this coun­try has moved beyond po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences of opin­ion and is un­like any we have seen in re­cent his­tory. It has ex­posed a truth about who we are; that there are fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent views across this coun­try about hu­man dig­nity and re­spect, morals, val­ues, ethics, and jus­tice which serve to weaken us as a so­ci­ety. The sad truth is that Amer­ica is suf­fer­ing, and she has lost her way. If we con­tinue down the cur­rent path, the dam­age caused by the de­con­struc­tion of our found­ing prin­ci­ples, and the val­ues that we pro­fess to be the ba­sis of our ex­cep­tion­al­ism, may be too in­sur­mount­able to over­come.

How­ever, we have the power to do bet­ter as a col­lec­tive so­ci­ety should we choose not to nor­mal­ize dis­cord; should we choose com­mon de­cency over pol­i­tics; should we find the courage to lead with em­pa­thy, com­pas­sion, and love; should we find the strength to ex­em­plify our con­vic­tions in our daily lives; should we rec­og­nize the greater law of uni­ver­sal jus­tice and right­eous­ness; and should we de­cide to rec­og­nize that we are all chil­dren of the Cre­ator and that we are all re­lated.

As the United States pre­pares to cel­e­brate its estab­lish­ment and its dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence, let us re­mem­ber our in­dige­nous re­la­tions who suf­fered in the name of progress and man­i­fest des­tiny. Let us re­mem­ber the many who made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice as a re­flec­tion of their deep re­gard for the aspi­ra­tional prin­ci­ples set forth in this coun­try’s found­ing doc­u­ments. Let us reawaken to the truth that we share a com­mon re­spon­si­bil­ity to one an­other, that divi­sion is di­a­met­ri­cally op­po­site to the vi­sion of Amer­ica’s found­ing ideals and as­pi­ra­tions, and that there is ex­po­nen­tially more good that comes from unity.

Let us use this time to re­mind our­selves of our com­mon bonds, to re­verse the cur­rent cri­sis that we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, and to be­gin the process of heal­ing and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Should we choose to do so, Amer­ica will be stronger, its ac­tions will once again re­flect its pro­fessed self-ev­i­dent truths, it will lead by ex­am­ple, and it will once again be the bea­con of light, pos­si­bil­i­ties, and op­por­tu­ni­ties that the world as­pires to em­u­late.

A mes­sage from United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) and the USET Sovereignty Pro­tec­tion Fund Pres­i­dent, Kirk E. Fran­cis Sr., Penob­scot In­dian Na­tion Chief , July 4th 2018

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