A new team is forming at Unity Church around indigenous justice and reparations. Last fall, a Wellspring Wednesday program, “Repairing Broken Trust: Congregational Approached to Reparations with Indigenous Peoples” with Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, inspired a small group of congregants to continue the conversation. For more information, contact Jess Landgraf.
Unworthy Republic: The Disposition of Native American and the Road to Indian Territory by Claudio Saunt (Norton, 2020) is a deeply researched and detailed narrative about the efforts of the U.S. government to remove native peoples from their lands. Indian removal, or “deportation,” was characterized by greed and incompetence, as well as by the willingness to violate treaties and principles of common decency. Starting in 1830 with the passage of the Indian Removal Act, Federal troops, state militias, and private contractors rounded up 80,000 native inhabitants and transported them to what is now Oklahoma.
The trek to Indian Territory involved transportation by steamboat and barge as well as forced marches of many hundreds of miles across uncharted wilderness. Thousands of Creeks, Choctaws, Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Seminoles died from disease, injury, and starvation, giving rise to the phrase Trail of Tears to describe the journey. Those who resisted expulsion, and there were many, were shot, whipped, chased by dogs, or driven from their farms and villages.
The stated reason for this effort was the protection of Indians from advancing white civilization. The real reason was to steal the rich land belonging to the tribes. The growth of the cotton market and the availability of enslaved Africans made the land ideal for the expansion of the plantation economy. Indigenous people who had occupied those lands for generations stood in the way.
During this period, white southerners tried out ideas about states’ rights and white supremacy that gained traction during the run-up to the Civil War. Such notions are still heard today in the U.S. and wherever greed and racism join forces to benefit the majority. It is both a sobering historical story and one that feels all too fresh despite the intervening years.
Unworthy Republic was a finalist for the National Book Award and named one of the ten best books of the year by Publishers Weekly. —Reviewed by Louise Merriam, Library-Bookstall Team.
Wednesday, March 31, at 7:00 p.m., Online
Register here: https://bit.ly/DianeWilson
Diane Wilson (Dakota) is the author of a memoir, Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past, which won a Minnesota Book Award, as well as a nonfiction book, Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life.
Unworthy Republic and The Seed Keeper are available to purchase in the Unity Online Bookstall and at your favorite local bookstore. Or contact the Library-Bookstall Team for mail order library service; a limited number of library copies are available. Look for more useful antiracism resources in Unity’s Justice Database.