For many Native Americans, the 4th of July whitewashes history

Kendra Lowden, MS, EdD candidate. Director of Leadership and Tribal Initiatives at CWEL.
Kendra Lowden, EdD Candidate, MS
Director of Leadership and Tribal Initiatives
June 28th, 2024
Sage stick laying next to a drum with a drum stick on top of it.

For many Native Americans, the 4th of July is a holiday that whitewashes history and glorifies colonization.

The Declaration of Independence, which is widely celebrated as a symbol of American freedom from Great Britain, refers to this nation’s first people as ‘merciless Indian savages.’

The creation of the United States represents a painful story of colonization, broken treaties, forced removals, and calculated genocidal efforts.

We invite you to spend this time—like all of us at the Center for Workforce Equity and Leadership—honoring the resilience and survival of tribal nations despite centuries of oppression. To start, spend part of your day learning about the unique challenges faced by tribal child welfare professionals.

While public child welfare professionals operate only within state systems, tribal child welfare professionals work within tribal courts and state courts across the country. They are CRUCIAL to the well-being of Indigenous families while also facing obstacles that public child welfare professionals don’t.

These challenges include:

  • Navigating multiple jurisdictions in their daily work—both tribal and state court systems. For example, there may be a case with concurrent jurisdictions, meaning that a tribal and state system are both legally involved. A case-carrying professional would then need to navigate the legal requirements in each setting.
  • The challenges of intergenerational trauma; Historical and ongoing traumas can lead to a deep mistrust of social service systems. This can hinder efforts for tribal child welfare professionals to provide support and services.
  • Being a community member AND supporting families involved in child welfare
  • Being a shield for tribal sovereignty, which means ensuring that the rights of children and families are protected
  • Working in holistic ways that don’t always align with Western system processes
  • Incorporating cultural practices, languages, and traditions into their work to help children stay connected to their heritages

Tribal child welfare professionals play a major role in protecting and uplifting tribal sovereignty, and we MUST make sure we support their well-being.

On days like today, we have a collective responsibility to reflect on the harmful histories that have influenced our current world, particularly the racist practices that have perpetuated inequities in child welfare for Native American children, families, and professionals.