Native Peoples: Not Past Tense

Native Peoples: Not Past Tense
Magdalena Gómez

Standing Rock Sioux Reservation situated along the border between North Dakota and South Dakota along the Missouri River, is the site of the on-going protests against the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The pipeline would invade North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, a sacred burial site to the Standing Rock Sioux. It is also the major source for all of the people dependent on the Missouri watershed area for their drinking water. It will harm the drinking water; pipelines leak and they burst. A pipeline that will be transporting half a million barrels of oil to Illinois refineries from North Dakota places the future survival, health and well-being of countless human beings at risk.

We live in society where pop culture has consistently caricatured First Nations people in the most dehumanizing ways, reducing their identities to stereotyped mascots and their lives to past tense. On any given Halloween you will still see children wearing stereotypical “Indian” outfits, yelping “woo-woo” and saying “how.”  We use terms like “Indian giver” and “off the reservation” without a second thought. How many have forgotten the rape and devastation of 500 Hundred Nations and their children who were ripped from their families? Children who were brutally robbed of their spiritual beliefs, their languages, their cultural norms, the very soul of their identities and forced to assimilate in places like the Carlisle Indian Industrial Boarding School in Pennsylvania. The horrors perpetrated against them are unimaginable.

We have dehumanized First Nations people with the same impunity Black Peoples were legally enslaved; the Japanese legally rounded up into concentration camps; those suspected of terrorism legally tortured in Guantanamo; the legalization of the new slave mills of corporatized prisons and the rotting educational systems that feed them.

Here we are, in the holiday season, selling cheer and racing to malls for obligatory shopping. Wishing each other happy holidays, as water cannons are unleashed in sub-zero weather on the bodies of the Water Protectors in North Dakota. Despite the heinous cruelties and injustices perpetrated against native peoples, they are standing up for everyone whose water comes from the Missouri watershed, including the very people who are dousing them. This is not an “Indian issue”; everyone’s survival depends on clean water.

Many people are feeling helpless since the election.  I assure you, we are not helpless. Speaking only for myself, I am happiest when I am of use. I am happiest when I take action for justice. I am happier when I give than when I receive.

If I were to be silent about what is happening in Standing Rock, I would hold myself as complicit. I would feel complicit in what is happening as I write this. Law Enforcement are using water cannons against the Water Protectors in freezing temperatures. This is tantamount to attempted murder, and when the temperatures drop to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit,  it will very likely result in murder.

We are not helpless to stop this heinous violence. This is legal.  Can you imagine what will be legal in the near future as the President Elect gathers his cadre?  The round-ups are coming, and I assure you, those will not just be round-ups of immigrants referred to as “illegal.”

Please call the White House to register grave concerns about water cannons in freezing temperatures/concussion grenades/rubber bullets; #NoDAPL.  Please do it today while President Obama is still in office: (202) 456-1111.  You can also send an e-mail:

The people at Standing Rock are in profound need of all things that will help to keep them warm:  sub-zero tents and sleeping bags, for example. Please do not assume what is needed and check out Standing Rock Medic and Healer wish list:

And remember to make that phone call to the White House Situation Room. Please don’t wait, do it now.

Groups audience: 


Feb 24, 2017

In an age of mass media consolidation, access to public information to insure government transparency is more vital than ever. Amherst Media, one of the oldest community access centers in the country providing that kind of transparency to its community, is in a contract dispute with the Town of Amherst. And as with many other such centers across the country over the last ten years, its future is far from certain.

Democracy Now! Logo
Jan 18, 2017

Democracy Now! will provide special live coverage of the Inauguration on Friday, January 20 from 8am-3pm and the Women’s March on Saturday, January 21 from 10am-3pm.  Amherst Media will air the programming in full on Channel 12.

Pioneer Valley artist Elizabeth Pols at work.
Jan 17, 2017

Elizabeth Pols, a local Pioneer Valley artist, speaks to Amherst Media on the inspirations behind the many paintings and sculptures in her show At the Gates of Memory, hosted at the Smith The Alumnae House Gallery. Click through to watch the video.

Stand with Standing Rock
Nov 23, 2016

Native Peoples: Not Past Tense
Magdalena Gómez

Standing Rock Sioux Reservation situated along the border between North Dakota and South Dakota along the Missouri River, is the site of the on-going protests against the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Cable Franchise Negotiations Update
Oct 3, 2016

On Monday, September 29, The Amherst Select Board again took up the issue of the 10-year, likely to either accept the currently negotiated draft or issue a preliminary denial. Town Manager Paul Bockelman reported that negotiations with Comcast will continue until the eleventh hour of the current contract–October 13th. At Bockelman's suggestion, the Select Board removed the Cable Advisory Committee from the negotation team and replaced them with two members of the Select Board–Andrew Steinberg and Doug Slaughter.