This clip takes you to the northern part of Glacier National Park, where the arrival of trains brought the first big pulse of visitors to parks like these a century ago. Lodges in these parks often date back to that era. The view of Running Eagle Falls in the latter half of this clip is amazing.
Alaska, USA: “Eagle Glacier at sunset… Words cannot describe the sheer magnitude and size of this scene… To put it into perspective, the glacier you see winding down the mountain is nearly 1 mile wide,” writes photographer Mac Danzig.
You may have noticed if you roll in white liberal circles that, in recent months, they suddenly care about Native Americans…. As evidence of this, they come up to my brown ass at parties to anxiously educate me on #NoDAPL and #StandingRock.
At first I would reluctantly entertain these conversations, because I’m a delusional optimist who thinks that any minute now white people are going to surprise me by actually caring about POC, but it always ends up being this kind of conversation which first centralizes their outrage at corporations (whom they don’t name, let alone boycott) further endangering the environment, and then outsources any implications around race and settler colonialism to Middle America trailer parks and neo-nazis (or if they’re even more left leaning, they just say “white people” to somewhat tacitly identify themselves as one of the good ones, or “the resistance” lol).
Sometimes, they’ll say things like “Its so fucked up what they’re doing to the protesters, they’re literally shooting them” and sometimes they’ll just come out and say it because they can’t keep it in any longer –
“It’s horrifying the way this country treats Native Americans”
This is indisputably true, and it’s good that some white Americans can finally admit that, after committing the largest sustained genocide in human history.
But it still doesn’t add up: Why do white people suddenly care about Native Americans?
A few thoughts on this matter:
1) White people who don’t live near reservations can go their entire lives without noticing or interacting with a single Native American; which gives them the freedom to conceptualize indigenous people however they want – usually as cultural relics who need to be preserved.
Because White People have murdered most of the Indigenous Population and oppressed many of those still living into quarantined pockets of land with disproportionate access to resources, its fairly easy for a White American to keep the Disney romanticized image of the American Indian intact. More than likely, they will never be in a situation where they feel the need to be culturally sensitive to Native Americans, or rather in a situation where a Native American confronts them or calls them out on their racism. This places them in the privileged position of being able to revere and remember the Native Americans historically, as though the current Native population is an endangered species which needs to be preserved for cultural and historical edification. Like the bald eagle or the glaciers in Alaska, Native Americans are rarely seen by white people, but are important to the White national identity so long as they are oppressed into docile resignation under their assigned fate as forsaken cultural relics. By posturing them this way, it is not polarizing among white people to want to save them, especially when their politics can be whitewashed to align with white leftist ideals.
2) White liberals confuse ethnography with their own leftist politics, conflating themselves as like-minded or bound by circumstance to those they oppress the most.
Through the white lens, Native Americans – though denied a voice in the political sphere – are aspirational in their prescription to a white leftist ideal. They are anti-corporation, anti-military, anti-borders, and pro-environment, without being given the nuance or platform to invoke issues of race, gender, or sexuality. Exemplified by a White Hare Krishna or your average White Rasta with dreads, many white ethnographers form an unfounded connection with their interpretation of peoples and cultures, based on a vanilla blended understanding of history, mixed with a rejection of white middle class capitalist values and a deliberate ignorance of colonial power structures. This unfortunate practice spills over to white hippies and what started as their strategically necessary but ultimately problematic allegiance with Native Americans, to the point where the hippie movement and the new age movement became conflated with an entire cultural history that spanned back to the late Ice Age, reducing it to vague stereotypes of deep spirituality and living off the land. The early whitewashing of the Red Power movement by white hippies in the 60s and 70s makes less surprising the current iteration of white people coming to Standing Rock and treating it like a music festival, as the Woodstock generation of white liberals happily paved the way before them. From that standpoint, the #NoDAPL movement is attractive to white liberals who want to espouse what they perceive to be radically leftist politics without having to actually engage in discussions about privilege.
3) White liberals are able to feign solidarity with Native Americans without ever acknowledging colonialism or white supremacy, by framing #NoDAPL as solely a anti-corporate and environmental issue rather than an act of colonial violence.
The #NoDAPL movement, as co-opted by white liberals, centralizes corporate greed and environmental conservation as a threat which victimizes and oppresses white people, erasing the Native American struggle under the umbrella of the 99%. The hypocrisy of framing #NoDAPL as purely an environmental and anti-capitalist pursuit begs many questions – where was all of this white activism during Hurricane Katrina? Why aren’t white people flocking to Flint, Michigan to stand against environmental racism and privatization of public service? By positioning themselves in contradictory roles (the ivory tower of the white savior vs the identification with a hegemonic class struggle), white liberals can comfortably feign outrage at the election results and the rise of fascism while continuing to benefit from and further perpetuating the subjugation of the Muslim, Black, and Latinx Americans who are more polarizing.
4) White liberals outwardly express paternalistic solidarity with Native Americans to avoid advocating for more polarizing groups like Muslims, Black People, Undocumented Immigrants etc.
The romanticized image of the American Indian is not polarizing amongst white people. Both conservative and liberal whites have relegated the political identity of Native Americans to that of revisionist folklore – as a compassionate, spiritual, pre-racial foil to the civilized white man, teaching him valuable lessons on his ordained path toward manifest destiny, with the imagined resolution of “they don’t bother us, we don’t bother them” that pervades white American consciousness of Native Americans today. When white liberals tell me about the horrific treatment of Native Americans at Standing Rock, they are only referencing the violation of that imagined resolution, not necessarily in connection with the preceding genocide, displacement, and large scale accumulation by dispossession of indigenous people since the 1400s.
The historical mythology around Native Americans resonates with the White American national identity in a way that other minorities do not. The genocide of indigenous peoples in America, as a mechanism to justify the current occupation of the land by people of European ancestry, is recognized as a lamentable but ultimately inevitable means to an end, by which white people from the comfort of their settlements can now honor and praise the brave American Indian for his sacrifice. It is a strange relationship that both denies and admits settler colonialism, but ultimately determines its relevance only in relation to white subjectivity, which is able to go unchecked as Native Americans are largely excluded from modern American consciousness, and the accounts of surviving indigenous descendants are generally silenced. This allows for a deliberate de-linking of the Native American struggle with white supremacy. When it comes to advocating for Black, Muslim, or Latinx Americans, white people have to deal with a battle for inclusion that is ongoing, in their faces, and entirely dependent on the abolition of systems that privilege whiteness. Islamophobia and anti-muslim jingoism, systemic anti-black racism and police brutality, denaturalization and deportation of Latinx immigrants all share a common thread which is that these violences have been elevated to the white mainstream politic in a framework that makes them polarizing enough as “debatable issues” and not necessarily movements with which to align one’s white self. While fighting corporate tyranny and protecting the homeland from environmental hazard can be viewed as liberal American ideals – the inclusion or acceptance of Muslims by white people, the abolition of the systemic antiblackness, or the naturalization of undocumented Latinx immigrants are framed as diametrically un-American, as they require the undermining of white privilege and supremacy. In the domestic context of a Thanksgiving dinner (the height of racial tension for white progressives), these un-American positions are more likely to alienate white liberals from their white supremacist families, while issues framed as anti-corporate or pro-environment are seen as more topical and less divisive. The result of this is white liberals suddenly caring about Native Americans as an outlet to project liberal outrage so long as it doesn’t directly confront white supremacy.