A government official can say "WE!"

I'm sure that you all agree that the First Lady is a government official?

John Paul Brammer is a Contributing Editor at BNR. His writing on LGBT and Latino issues has appeared in The Advocate and Huffington Post. Find him on twitter.

What strikes me most about this statement is the ownership.

Michelle Obama Stands Up for Native Americans, Says Natives Were Stripped of Their Culture


“We” passed a law.

“We” made their culture illegal.

It’s a showing of respect. No one thinks the Obama's are responsible for creating the conditions under which Native Americans must live and survive.

Michelle Obama, a black woman, obviously shares in the disenfranchisement and historical trauma that are hallmarks of the minority experience in the United States.

But in taking ownership – in that powerful moment of


she acknowledges a truth that Native Americans have been trying to get people to understand for years:

that the United States government committed acts of ethnic and cultural cleansing against the tribes.

Native Americans are still facing enormous uphill battles in this nation, battles over land, hunting rights, representation, and autonomy.

It’s nice to know they have powerful allies in the Obama's.

The First Lady recognizes and affirms that many of the challenges Native American communities face have roots in systemic discrimination.

“You see, we need to be very clear about where the challenges in this community first started. Folks in Indian Country didn’t just wake up one day with addiction problems. Poverty and violence didn’t just randomly happen to this community. These issues are the result of a long history of systematic discrimination and abuse.”

“Let me offer just a few examples from our past, starting with how, back in 1830, we passed a law removing Native Americans from their homes and forcibly re-locating them to barren lands out west. The Trail of Tears was part of this process. Then we began separating children from their families and sending them to boarding schools designed to strip them of all traces of their culture, language and history. And then our government started issuing what were known as ‘Civilization Regulations’ – regulations that outlawed Indian religions, ceremonies and practices – so we literally made their culture illegal.”

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