PERRY: Aurora lawmakers insist homage to Native Americans is divisive, and an affront to God. Really.

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Aurora City Council members discuss a failed proposal to offer land acknowledgement to indigenous Americans. SCREEN SHOT BY SENTINEL COLORADO.

Boy, was I ever wrong the past 834,423 times I said, “this was the wildest thing I’ve ever seen in Aurora.”

Monday night offered up the freakiest show on Colorado’s showiest city council — so far.

On what looked to be a relative yawner for a group that makes the Denver School Board look like a Microsoft Board Meeting, some fresh hell broke loose during a study session when the topic of land acknowledgment came up.

Land acknowledgments have been around since I was sporting bell-bottom corduroys in the 1970s.

It’s a public acknowledgment that land or labor or something of value can and should be attributed to someone, often who never gave it up willingly.

In Aurora’s case, the proposal was to acknowledge that the Colorado and Aurora land we all enjoy, sell, exploit, plant and build roads on wasn’t given to us or purchased. European invaders stole it in small pieces and huge land grabs from the indigenous people who had lived here for thousands of years, even before “Columbus sailed the ocean blue…”

The proposal was to publicly acknowledge that neither we, the French, the British, nor the Spanish were here first. And that those who were here had very different lives than the ones they were forced into after Europeans invaded the entire continent.

Denver does it. The Auraria Campus does it. Hundreds of governments here, and around the world, do it. It’s not to impose guilt, shame or blame, but simply to observe the truth in hopes of increasing our understanding of our shared, real history and the real results of that.

In the world of controversial, hyperpartisan, bulging-carotid-artery melees that bump headlines all day long, these acknowledgements have become as contentious as mandates to shovel your sidewalk after it snows.

With pro sports teams and even Colorado schools acknowledging the sick cruelty of imposing mascots like “redskins” and “savages,” also acknowledging the victims’ stolen culture is not a bad idea. 

Not, however, in Aurora.

Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky couldn’t seem to gush adequate aspersions fast enough on offering an Aurora land acknowledgement.

“I can’t even believe this is coming to city council,” Jurinsky said. “The only way that I would support this is if we also acknowledged that this is actually God’s country. I am adamantly against this.”

She continued that God was the rightful landlord. She didn’t say, however, whether that should be her god, the gods of the indigenous citizens that European settlers took the land from, or the gods of the Chinese and Black people some of of those settlers kidnapped and enslaved to build railroads and do stuff for free.

Jurinsky wasn’t alone in seeing nothing but oh-hell-no in acknowledging Aurora’s past and the past of those who were forced from their homes.

Councilperson Angela Lawson questioned the wisdom of acknowledging Native Americans for being ousted when she felt that “the land has been conquered from all racial groups.”

She said she saw that as being divisive.

It’s unclear what definition of “indigenous” she thinks describes the nations and tribes that existed in the Colorado region for longer than 20,000 years. Their survivors, and every expert I’ve encountered, has been clear that nobody told any invading Europeans, “Go ahead. Take over everything and force us into squalid pockets of property.”

Councilmember Francoise Bergan capped the high-level discussion by sneering at the idea for two reasons. She didn’t like the idea that Aurora would be expected to trot out this land acknowledgment thing at select city council meetings and big public events.

“Why would we do this more than one time?” she asked.

Her biggest beef, however, was the wording of the acknowledgement, which, like hundreds of others like it used by hundreds of other organizations, acknowledged that this land was “stolen” from its original citizens.

“I can’t support this,” she said.

Indigenous nation leaders and credible historians all agree, however, European invaders didn’t borrow, buy or beg the land. They stole it and forced their victims to suffer one of the cruelest, racial calamities in human history.

Not so long ago, Colorado “natives” outright looted the property of hundreds of thousands of original Americans, murdered them a few at a time and also en masse during the Sand Creek Massacre.

Not only did white invaders steal the land of numerous indigenous nations, the cruelest of the white masters then kidnapped the children of their victims and forced them into “schools.” There, they were indoctrinated, sexually and physically abused, and even murdered.

Acknowledging the history of Colorado and the West makes the notion seem pretty tame compared to the credible criticism of the practice as disingenuous exchange for reparations.

Despite what you or your grandparents learned in school about our benevolent American history, what happened here in Colorado and across the continent was little different than what Russia is doing to Ukraine right now.

Acknowledging reality isn’t a divisive or harmful thing for a community and its society. It’s like growing up, which is something that seems to regularly evade this city council.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]

 

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Dave
Dave
1 month ago

What’s next? Give the 13 colonies back to the British? There was no shortage of sinners during the American expansion west. We should be glad to be living in comfort today in a society that cherishes life and liberty. Even if the path to get here was ugly.

Tawny Fox
Tawny Fox
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

No one is saying give anyone anything except acknowledgement.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago
Reply to  Tawny Fox

And that requires little effort and no cost.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

An acknowledgement of true history is honorable. The comparison to Ukraine is accurate. Difference being the true Americans didn’t have the ability to fight back the invaders on an equal basis

Rhyan
Rhyan
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

The British stole the land from the indigenous people, a fact the proposal was trying to acknowledge. It’s clear how little we know or understand about the history of this country.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rhyan
Tawny Fox
Tawny Fox
1 month ago

We have a city council that can’t even say some words, how can we expect them to actually do anything helpful for the communities that exist in Aurora.

And Dollar Tree MTG needs to read up (or have someone read to her) on the separation of church and state.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

Divisiveness? Only on the conservatives side

Avoiding Racist Harassment
Avoiding Racist Harassment
1 month ago

This GOP council is a joke. Homeless Mike and Zealots are an embarrassment. I hate that these people running our city. But glad it’s not a strong mayor city or they would KKK Aurora in a heartbeat. And Lawson? She’s showing her ass.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

Well let’s just say she has an opinion.

Yikes
Yikes
1 month ago

The fact that “Christians” like Jurinsky have decided that everything that isn’t white and rich is “anti-God” is the grossest distortion of the church that preaches love and community support. An acknowledgement of real history isn’t against God, it just makes lily white rich landlord Jurinsky uncomfortable. Jesus was brown and poor and homeless, and he did not preach ‘prosperity’ gospel or ignoring history. Shame on Jurinsky, if she wants to “honor God” than she should support programs that uplift people in poverty and use her position of power for teaching and loving instead of hate.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago
Reply to  Yikes

But she cannot, because she’s a tool.

John
John
1 month ago

Shame on the council members who oppose this acknowledgement of history. What, does this make them feel uncomfortable? What would Jesus do?

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago
Reply to  John

Jesus would never have treated native peoples in the manner in which the white invaders did. But knowing this makes some folks very uncomfortable, so they attempt to deflect and revise history. Sorry folks–it happened as it happened, whether we like it or not.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

I suppose it could be said that the entire world is “God’s country,” but that is a callous way of dismissing any proper use of the land. It begs the question: “Did God intend for the land to be used in any particular fashion?”

This issue should not be a divisive one. However, use of the word “homage” may be viewed by some as inflammatory. I would suggest using the word “honor” instead. We should never be fearful of honoring those who suffered needlessly at the hands of others. Indeed, our Native American predecessors in the Western Hemisphere were the most mistreated and maligned people of any culture on this side of the world. We can never make adequate reparations for that, but it would do us absolutely-no harm to admit what actually happened historically.

This proclamation by our City Council would not harm anyone, but the actions and words of some certainly do. I am left to wonder how we can be so mean and so cruel to each other in this Country.

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
1 month ago

Apparently what the council needs is a huge blowup of the First Amendment.

And a mandatory Remedial Civics class.

Publius
Publius
1 month ago

I am curious. Perhaps the Sentinel can get the answer. Has not the CityCcouncil issued Proclamations in the past as to various historically disenfranchised aggreived, and abused demographic groups? It seems to me that in my memory they have issued Proclamations honoring Black groups, LBGTQ+ groups, Native americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders including former enemies of the U.S. Has not the Council extended sister city status to nations arounfd the world, some of those nations with whom we have had historic differences? What would be substantively different about this one?

Me, I don’t see this particular acknowledgement as controversial in itself. I can see some trying to use it as a basis of future claims, but that possibility does not disturb me as there is nothing binding in this particular statement.

At some point I suppose it becomes excessive to read it at all City events, but as a matter of record, I simply don’t see the need to oppose this.

Now I do personally believe the ongoing flagelation and virtue signaling on every issue is a silly waste of council time if and when it goes to any or all national issues. I don’t want our council becoming like Boulders where they feel a need to comment on every national and international issue. In the present instance that is not the case. We are speaking about matters which happened not terribly long ago on land right beneath our feet.

Amend it to a simple single proclamation, read it proudly before an appropriate meeting on an historical anniversary or two, present copies to the mentioned or referenced gruops, place a copy, framed, on file in the History museum, and move on to pressing present matters.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

SACHEEN LITTLEFEATHER:
1972 Oscars: Hello. My name is Sacheen Littlefeather. I’m Apache and I am president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee. I’m representing Marlon Brando this evening and he has asked me to tell you in a very long speech, which I cannot share with you presently because of time but I will be glad to share with the press afterwards, that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry – excuse me – and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee. I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening and that we will in the future, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity. Thank you on behalf of Marlon Brando.
[Ed. note: When Ms. Littlefeather approaches the podium, she refuses to take the Oscar statuette being offered to her by presenter Roger Moore.)
Now? We have Danielle

Jane Barber
Jane Barber
1 month ago

And that my friend s is why we must teach real history to our children’
if inf Jurinsky’s remark insulting and appalling.

Den Voran
1 month ago

Land acknowledgements at the beginning of events tend to be performative. The third-most populous county in Colorado and the county in which most Aurorans live is called ARAPAHOE County – what more of a land acknowledgment can you get? As Far East Aurora develops, boring and placeless street names like 26th Avenue and 56th Avenue could be given Native American names. These would be permanent acknowledgements, attached to actual land – obviating the need for vapid, performative meeting openers.

Rhyan
Rhyan
1 month ago

All well said. It’s easy to shoot down a proposal that does not benefit you or align with your “values.” If it was God’s then we should do more to acknowledge that one group of people did not abide by God’s law by stealing and murdering others (a few of the very 10 commandments the Christian law makers abide by) for their means, while also coveting land that did not belong to them. The enslavement, entrapment, and mass killings of the indigenous people isn’t “of God,” nor is the idea that the land was “conquered for all racial groups” a reason to reject the truth of the European ancestors. No one wants to teach history. If that is the case, why don’t we remove history from the public school system to avoid discussing the issues that make us feel icky and allow us to stay in blissful ignorance because the simple acknowledgement of any truth is just too much for the current people on this planet. Lest of course, until we repeat the same actions of our ancestors because of the lack of history. Bravo Aurora council people, thanks for once again for displaying your lack of critical thinking, insight, and over humanity. God forbid you apply your primary education to a simple issue because of how it makes you “feel.”

DICK MOORE
1 month ago

Thank You, Danielle and Council for eliminating these non governmental, non essential, time consuming projects from going forward. Please continue to use your time to make Aurora more safe as crime is really out of control here in Aurora.

Strange how it’s the four socialists that seemed to really like this idea. Please keep the Council dealing only with true useful governmental issues. This certainly should be one of those non governmental issues.

Karen Kokos
Karen Kokos
1 month ago

Mr. Perry – Well said! Thank you.

Booster Blake
Booster Blake
1 month ago

Wow! I was suitably impressed by Mr. Perry’s writing style. It was witty and informative, more than I would’ve expected from a local ezine. Well done.

As to your point, I’m flabbergasted by anyone denying that this land was stolen. That is some pretty hardcore cognitive dissonance right there. Usually, I hear the much more common and reasonable rationale: Well, history is full of bloodshed and violence. Conquering other peoples was part of the norm centuries ago. Can’t judge history’s mistakes by today’s standards.

But all they were asking for is an acknowledgement. I assume as one step closer to reparations, which we should make because we owe it to them. There’s no argument on whether we stole the land, the argument is what we owe them now for having done so.

Beverly Bennett
Beverly Bennett
28 days ago

I emailed Councilwoman Lawson about her opposition of the proclamation, which if you read it is nothing! It’s very well-stated and completely harmless. She replied in part that she was getting text messages during the meeting from people opposed. I was dubious that she was on her cell phone, but said that if she was, it seemed like a violation of the sunshine law re: public meetings. She told me to go ahead and file a complaint. This was very unkind treatment of a constituent who went to the trouble of contacting her.