By Aaron Golding
Aaron Golding gya:söh. Agegë’ge:ga:’ hae’gwah. My name is Aaron Golding. I am Beaver Clan. My mother is Antoinette Golding (Blueye). My grandmother is Kathryn Shongo. My grandfather is Ralph Blueye. My father’s name is John Golding. He is non-Native. His mother’s name is Jean Starr and my grandfather is Harold Starr. I grew up in Michigan and have always lived off-territory. Without going into too much detail, my family has felt the generational effects of colonization and attempted erasure of our people. My grandparents were swept away to boarding schools and my mother found herself at the mercy of numerous foster homes. And yet, after generations of attempts at erasing us, we are still here. I currently live in Chicago with my family.
I want to first thank Councillor Bova for inviting me to share my thoughts. I recently spoke virtually at our last council meeting on June 13th, and asked our leaders when we could expect to see a statement from the Nation in support of Black lives. I, like many, have been overwhelmed these past few months by the pandemic, which I know has found its way onto our territories and left families and networks of kin devastated and heartbroken. My heart goes out to those that are grieving. And, my heart also goes out to those that are grieving the loss of Black lives at the hands of the police. I am overwhelmed by the protests against the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the many other Black people that have lost their lives at the hands of the police. And so I posed my question to our President and Tribal Councilors because as of Saturday the only messaging I had seen was a post on the Media and Communication Center’s Facebook page about a protest and march through Cattaraugus. It was great to see folks marching for the liberation of Black lives, and I thank the organizers of that event. And, I think it’s extremely important that we as a Nation take a stance and make our position clear that we believe Black lives matter.
I recognize that Native people are just as likely to be killed by acts of police violence and aggression as Black people. And, that our history is filled with genocidal policies and actions by the United States meant to erase us and take the land. And to be honest, I can hear the voice in my head whisper, what about us? What about Native lives? You all took our land, tried to wipe us out, and yet we’re still here. When is it our turn? And there’s a couple things I think about when those thoughts creep into my head. One, when I say Black Lives Matter, included in that statement is Native lives. There are many Black and Native people. Just as my father is white and my mother is Seneca, I am Seneca. Our system accounts for the inclusion of a wide collection of racial diversity. Another thing I think of is it to remember that I was taught to think this way. Institutional racism has socialized all of us to devalue the lives of Black people. It is woven into the fabric of the United States. Slavery and the theft of Native land are two sides of the same coin, forever linked. Our liberation is intertwined with the liberation of Black people. The system of colonization, which requires land to be taken for free, and an growing demand free labor to transform the land into settlements, cities, and states wants our liberation to remain separate because it’s afraid of the power we would wield if we joined together in solidarity.
I was heartened to hear during the Council meeting that the Nation was already in the process of drafting a statement. It may have already come out when you read this. I want to thank Tribal Councillor Bova again for reaching out and offering to amplify this message.
I’ll leave you with this, remember that when you say Black Lives Matter, you’re talking about Seneca lives, and Haudenosaunee lives, and Native lives all across Turtle Island, and most-importantly, you’re talking about non-Native Black lives. Now is a time for solidarity and support of Black liberation. I encourage you to say it with me: Black Lives Matter.