I watched with delight this week as the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Mvskoke Nation of Oklahoma, recognizing about half of the state as "promised reservation." In a 5-4 decision, the Court elected to hold the federal government to its word, having promised the land to several native nations more than a century ago. This is an important victory for indigenous people, and one that is rarer than a hen's tooth.
Since the first colonial contact was made, indigenous people have faced tribulation after tribulation. Forced removals, genocide, armed conflict, disease, and famine were all part of the normal arsenal used against First Nations. After years of studying the subject, I'm not sure how anyone could come away viewing it any differently. That's just what happened.
Another victory was handed down on July 6th to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, after a federal judge ordered the closure of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline, pending a review. But the fact that such a monstrous thing could be plowed through native lands in the first place is a symptom of the greater disease. Yes, inroads are being made, but indigenous people remain under-appreciated, under-represented, and largely out of sight/out of mind. One goal of our company is to help change that through awareness campaigns.
I'm not an indigenous person. Matter of fact, I'm not really even sure what sort of lineage I have. But, one doesn't require a native stemma to empathize with indigenous people's movements. It's about time they got a break.
One thing I believe Americans scarcely realize is how long indigenous people inhabited this continent. Here in Florida, the now-extinct Timucua and their ancestors resided on the peninsula for at least 8,000 years, and probably longer. The same can be said for most native tribes all throughout the Americas. "America," as we know it anyways, has been here for only a blink of an eye by comparison. The foundation of this country was built on top of something very ancient and special, and people need to start realizing that.
Creating products from and growing the Yaupon Holly has taught me a good deal about native people, their history, customs, and culture. What has become most glaringly apparent to me over the years is how much native culture, language, cuisine, and history has been lost---purposefully destroyed. Indian removal in America was about just that; removing a people from the Earth. It was unjust, unfair, and un-American. This week's court victory is a step in the right direction, but there is still work to do.
We recognized early on that our product, and the plant it is made from, was once a cornerstone of native civilizations in the Southeast. Numerous groups traded it over long distances. It was the subject of important ceremonial rituals, and a highly valued food and medicine. It has always been our goal to inform our customers about indigenous people, their culture, and the issues they face. It has been another goal to support indigenous movements; not just with our words but with action. We view it as an obligation. We've pledged 5% of all of our online eco-tube sales to NATIFS, the North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems. We have been given a gift to be able to share the amazing Yaupon Holly with the world. But, that gift comes with a responsibility to respect indigenous culture and the environment, and you'll always find us in the corner of both.
To the indigenous people of America, and especially the Mvskoke Nation of Oklahoma, congratulations on the first of what I hope are numerous victories. Mvto means "thank you" in Mvskoke, and that's one word I think every American should learn.