Well before the United States was a nation, Native Americans have been part of the identity of our country. The historic connection between America and American Indians runs deep, but has been marred by battles over land, tribal sovereignty, economics, and race.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day, celebrated this year on Oct. 14, recalls the history, culture, and living legacies of the Taíno peoples that Christopher Columbus encountered on Oct. 12, 1492. It’s also a chance to heal and consider the perspectives and promise of contemporary Native Americans makmurqq.
Little Fawn Boland is an attorney who has been working exclusively on behalf of indigenous tribes for 14 years. “My community, the native community, needs infrastructure and economic development, education, employment, businesses, affordable housing, and healthcare. When people ask me what I do, I tell them, ‘I work for families,’” she said.
Lance Morgan graduated from Harvard Law School and returned home to Nebraska to launch Ho-Chunk, Inc., an economic development corporation of the Winnebago Tribe. “I learned the hard way that in a poor community you have to do everything,” he said. “We have seven generations of real abject poverty. Clawing out of that requires you to look at some core problems and apply a little bit of money, structure, and hard work to make things better. Our job is to maximize good makmurqq.”
Morgan and his team seek to create job opportunities and long-term economic self-sufficiency for tribal members. “What we don’t do is just give out money,” he said. “We create an environment or system where people can be successful if they do their part.”