Independence Day for a Native Woman

“He [King George III] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

The Declaration of Independence

This was the Independence Day of my childhood: Fireworks we could barely see because of the 24-hour daylight, races, cheers, prizes, sand. In my village, this day was spent with the entire community on the river bank, what we called “the beach” because of the fine sand that covered it. There were running races for all ages, various games, and a few booths where snacks and pull-tabs were sold.

These memories are dear to my heart. As a painfully shy kid, being at these events made me feel part of something significant. Especially when it was brought up that we were celebrating the day that we consider our country to have been freed from the tyrannical British control.

However, nowadays, this freedom that is sung about in so many songs, that is proclaimed in the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Declaration of Independence…sounds like an empty, feel-good sentiment.

The 4th of July means something very different to me as an adult, and it is not a meaning that rings with the bells of freedom. I live in a country where murder is the 3rd leading cause of death among Native women. I live in a state where a white man kidnapped, choked, and masturbated on a native woman, pled guilty to those acts, and was released with no jail time and no sexual assault charges.I live in a country where migrants looking for safety and a better future for themselves and their families are kept in filthy detention centers.

Because of this, I cannot and will not, in good conscience, hang the US flag outside my home as so many of my neighbors do. Because of this, I cannot joyfully celebrate with a feast of burgers of hotdogs. Because of this, I cannot and will not recite the pledge of allegiance nor sing the National Anthem.

Still, do I feel like I can fully abandon this holiday that is so engrained my memory?

No. Old habits die hard. And a day off of work is always nice, right?

Am I saying that indigenous peoples of the United States should not celebrate Independence Day?

No. Each person will choose on their own. This is something that I have decided to do.

I am saying that because of the current political climate and atrocities against marginalized peoples, I cannot celebrate a mythical ‘freedom for all.’ On the 4th of July, I will celebrate the blessed life that I do have with my family, I will spend time outdoors to enjoy what is left of the short Alaskan summer, I will mourn my murdered and missing indigenous sisters and brothers, and I will contemplate what I can do to bring use one step closer to being a country that truly offers freedom to all.