Q: What have been your general feelings towards the outcome of the election?
A: As a Native student, I think that the election was unsurprising. I grew up within two very different communities [in Montana]: one that was very conservative and white and one that was very liberal and Native. However, I think [the election] was very worrying to me personally because it puts into jeopardy a lot of the laws and policies that have been put in place to protect Native sovereignty. Obama has by far been the most proactive president in dealing with Native peoples. In the Native community, a lot of us are worried about how our sovereign nations are going to traverse the new political change and what the best strategies are going to be so that our sovereignty isn’t limited over the next four years.
Q: Are there any concerns other than sovereignty?
A: Specifically, we’re very worried about the Supreme Court. A lot of court cases go up that involve Native peoples. The Supreme Court is obviously very powerful, and because we are sovereign nations within the United States, a lot of times we deal with the Supreme Court. Whoever Trump decides to appoint for the Supreme Court could really have a negative effect on the cases being put up. Additionally, he’s going to be putting in the Secretary of the Department of the Interior. A lot of people don’t realize that the Department of the Interior deals not only with national parks and natural resources, but also with Native peoples. They hold negotiations with Native nations. And so whoever Trump picks for that that could have a real negative effect.
I was actually just meeting with Karen Diver. She’s the Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs, which is a new position that Obama created. So, you know, that position probably isn’t going to continue into this presidency. But she and the previous people who were in the position, like Jodi Gillette, were able to get a lot of things done and able to really push the president on Native causes when he was thinking up policies. I’m worried about who’s going to be put into these positions of power and how that’s going to affect our sovereign nations.
Even though we’re sovereign nations, we’re also domestic dependent nations and what that means is that we are, in some sense, wards of the United States. In return, the government provides Native peoples with various services like health care. Because of that, everything is in jeopardy if we don’t have a good relationship with the federal government. It still all comes back to sovereignty, because that’s our power.
Q: What should Yale students keep in mind?
A: I think it’s important to keep in mind how we can work together amongst different communities, and how we really do have to rely on each other, not the government, to provide support. In part, that’s happening already. But I think that there has to be education that comes along with that as well. We’re constantly erased from the media, because we’re a small percentage of the population. In this election, very little has been said about Native people, which in part is good. But the general Yale student does not understand how bad this administration change could be for Native peoples. Not just on a social or discriminatory level, but also on a very political level, because we are considered sovereign nations. So keeping in mind how various communities are being affected, trying to understand each other and how we have shared similarities is very important for getting through these next four years.
Q: Anything else that you think it’s important to consider moving on from the election?
A: Moving forward, I think that Yale staff and the Yale administration need to make a commitment to student populations that have been most adversely affected by this election and support students in more ways than just sending an email. Hiring staff and professors that reflect the current student body would support oppressed communities on campus. Providing as many resources as they can to the cultural centers would be another big step. And they can try to create more of a general community, which has come along in the past year but has mostly come from the students themselves. I’d like to see Yale’s administration and staff really make a bigger commitment to these communities and stand by them because policies can always be changed.
There have been hate crimes against Native Americans, unfortunately, and it’s happening a lot in rural areas because a lot of Native populations are in rural areas. At least I personally feel afraid for my family members. With the misrepresentation and appropriation that we already experience, a lot of students are afraid that it’ll worsen. This makes it easier for the police to dehumanize us. Native peoples have the highest statistics of police brutality, but nobody really knows that, since we’re such a small percentage of the population. With the election, a lot of us were reminded of those statistics, and reminded how those issues in our lives will probably worsen.