We Have Always Been Here

Aaminah Shakur
2 min readNov 18, 2017

Reminder: No, we aren’t all “from somewhere else” and we aren’t “all immigrants at some point in our ancestry”.

Indigenous people exist. We are real. We were here. We aren’t from somewhere else, we aren’t immigrants.

This is that time of year where (white) people like to “remember” us through a lens of harmony and helpful Squanto and Pocahontas like characterizations, but act like your ancestors coming here is the same as Syrian refugees running from the wars you started or Puerto Ricans coming post hurricane because of your people’s policies that destroyed the infrastructure of their island.

You will sit down to your turkey that was processed by Indigenous migrant workers who are mistreated. You will tell yourself you are celebrating Indigenous people. You will not, in fact, have anything whatsoever to do with actual living Indigenous people during your celebration.

You might talk about us, and how nice it was to see Edward S. Curtis’ photos of us recently. Again, seeing us as some relic of the past, celebrating us as “vanished”.

And in December you will go back to forgetting that Indigenous people even exist at all.

You will forget that a year ago people I know were being sprayed with water cannons in freezing temperatures while trying to protect their own land.

You will forget that this year no one is talking about how there are leaks in the pipelines and people are getting sick.

You will talk about how people come here for religious freedom, while ignoring that white people are making money off our spiritual practices that were still outlawed until about 40 years ago.

You have long ago forgotten that your saint, Bernie Sanders, stopped a press conference and laughed in the face of an honored AIM elder who asked him to be specific about how he would help Native people if he became President.

You keep forgetting that we have always been here.

We don’t forget. We carry your boarding schools, your forced adoptions, your wars, your mining, your destruction, in our blood and in our bones.

It’s that time of year where you pull out your storybook myths about us. Just before you forget us again. When you tell yourself we are history. When you tell yourself that everyone is an immigrant.

But we were here.

And you have not destroyed us, so we are still here. We are here no matter how much you try to forget us.

We have always been here.