Hello, Nature

Ep. 4: Hello, Glacier

Episode Summary

In Glacier, Misha learns about what it means to be indigenous to a place from Derek DesRosier, Tom Rodgers and David Treuer. She learns about the Blackfeet tribe and their experience with Glacier. Misha also talks to Vivian Wang about what it takes to become a park ranger, and how hard it can be for people of color.

Episode Notes

In Glacier, Misha learns about what it means to be indigenous to a place from Derek DesRosier, Tom Rodgers and David Treuer. She learns about the Blackfeet tribe and their experience with Glacier. Derek then leads her on a tour of the east side of the park, to Two Medicine Valley, and tells her how his dad fought to become a park vendor. Misha also talks to Vivian Wang about what it takes to become a park ranger, and how hard it can be for people of color.

Glacier is the land of the Blackfeet, Salish, Pend d'Oreille and Kootenai tribes. 

More about the podcast:

Hello, Nature host, Misha Euceph, didn’t know about the National Parks until she turned 21. But after an experience in Joshua Tree and watching 12 hours of a national park documentary, she sets out on a road trip to answer the question: if the parks are public, aren’t they supposed to be for everyone? In this podcast, she goes out to see America and tell a new story of our national parks.

Hello, Nature can be found on Apple PodcastsSpotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts. 

Learn more about the podcast and our season sponsor, Subaru

Episode Transcription

  ACT 0

Remember when I told you I grew up in a big ass city in Pakistan? 

I spent most of my childhood in Karachi, but that’s not where I'm from. Like that’s not my ancestral homeland, you know? 

Both my parents' families historically are from these mountainous regions. Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, the mountains of Pakistan-- places with snow-capped peaks and icy streams. Over time, their families migrate to what is now known as India. 

Because before 1947, there was no Pakistan. It was part of a massive India. And all of India was colonized by the British. 

I don’t wanna get all history lecture on you, but after a bunch of rebellions and riots and civil disobedience from the Indians, the British were like okay, okay, we’ll leave you alone.

But before we do, we’re gonna randomly divide you up into two different countries. And we’re gonna draw these lines based mostly on our random British opinion. 

One land will be for Muslims. And one for Hindus. 

So then, Indian Muslims like my family had to decide if they were gonna stay where they were or if they were gonna “opt in” to moving to the new country for their people-- Pakistan. 

So a couple generations ago, my family moved to what is now known as Pakistan. 

And then a couple decades ago, my family family-- like my immediate family-- moved to the United States. 

When I was 11, I left a place I barely knew to come to Los Angeles, a place that I now call home. But I don’t have like a physical connection with LA, you know? 

I feel like people who are from somewhere always say they feel like this intense pull to the land itself. Like it’s a part of them. And they’re a part of it. 

I’ve never felt a physical connection to ANY land, until right now. [scene tape ] 

Misha: Oh my gosh. 

This moment. When I find myself in Glacier National Park. 

Misha: It’s so beautiful. 

This is Hello, Nature from REI Co-Op Studios brought to you by Subaru. I’m your host, Misha Euceph. 

ACT I

SCHIFFLET

This campsite rules.

EUCEPH

This is beautiful. We're like right by river. This is the most beautiful campsite I've ever camped at. This is better than Cherry Valley, better than our hipcamp. Right? 

SCHIFFLET

Yeah

EUCEPH

Would you agree? Okay I’m going to back in.

Jonathan and I set up camp at the Big Creek campground inside Glacier National Park. 

It’s the end of May. It snowed just a few days ago, so it’s still pretty cold-- around 40 degrees. But light pink and lilac flowers are peaking out from the ground. The greenish blue stream next to our campsite is flowing with excitement, almost like it’s ready for hot girl summer.

EUCEPH

Damn, dude. What a vibe. What a viiiiibe! 

There are these thin, tall trees-- kinda look like pines. And deer walk by occasionally, scared but also curious. 

Not gonna lie, this park literally looks like Pakistan. Snow capped mountains. Icy streams.

EUCEPH

I am not gonna get over this. 

The one thing that makes this park not like Pakistan is that I’m the only Pakistani person here, as far as I can tell.

This is my fourth park. And I haven’t actually seen any Pakistani rangers on this trip. 

Like I can literally count on one hand the rangers of color I’ve seen this whole time. 

And it makes me want to know-- why? 

WANG
It was definitely after I graduated from college, I was just at hanging out with like three other friends. And we were all just sitting and chatting like, whoo, we just graduated from college, like, we’re unemployed. And I remember, we're all thinking like, well, we don't have money to like, do these big celebratory trips to Europe. And I don't know, across the state, and one of my friends suggested, why not go to like Yosemite National Park? 

Vivian Wang and her friends end up taking a road trip to Yosemite. This is Vivian’s first EVER time camping. So she has no idea what she’s doing. 

WANG

And, I remember like when we went on, like our first hike, I was sweating so much, my back was hurting, because you know, I didn't have like supportive straps. And like, my shoes, my Nikes where they were fit just right. But you know, that's not really good. Because when you go on your way down your toes, just jam the front of your shoe. And so I remember my toes like hurting. And it's so funny, because I feel like at that moment, I could have been like, Why do people like this, but for some reason, I was like, I love this... 

This trip-- her first time in Yosemite-- She can’t shake it. 

So, in her mid-twenties, Vivian’s working at a consulting company. She’s doing it for the money. But what she really wants to do is be a park ranger. And hang out in places like Yosemite.

WANG

And I was like, I remember thinking like, I don't know, like, these positions are so highly coveted. Like, you know, like, everyone wants to work for the National Park Service, like hundreds of people apply, like, each year. And I remember thinking like, why would like why would they choose me?

She sees this specific job online-- it’s for a Mandarin speaking ranger. Vivian’s like… I mean, I can speak Mandarin. But do I really have a shot? And her friend’s like, Vivian!! How many Mandarin-speaking people are gonna apply for this job? Just do it! 

So Vivian listens to her friend. Sends in her application. 

And then she waits. 

She knows that if she gets this job, she’s gonna take a pay cut. Like a BIG pay cut. She has student loans, like me. She has a car loan. Normal people bills to pay. 

And a job as a park ranger-- this job, specifically, is seasonal. 

But then, she gets a response from the Parks service. And she gets the job! 

VOICE

Congratulations Vivian you are now a park ranger. 

And not just ANY job-- a job as a park ranger in freaking Yellowstone! One of the biggest, most famous National Parks of all time. 

Vivian’s soooo excited. 

She gets her uniform in the mail, and she can’t wait to put it on.

WANG

But yeah, I remember like putting on like, my uniform. And I remember when I put on like the hat.  I was like, Oh, I felt this aura, like on me. And I was just like, yes, like, I am a park ranger.

The uniform fills her with a sense of purpose and pride. She walks through Yellowstone like she was meant to be in the place.  

WANG

I remember, like, one or two visitors like, screamed once. And I was like, oh, gosh, are they okay? And like, running towards me. And I was like, Oh, my God, like, what is happening? And then being like, wow, like, I've never seen like an Asian Ranger before. Like, this is so exciting.  Like, can I take a picture with you? Like, this is super cool. And I'm just like, oh my gosh...like yeah!

These visitors LOVE her. 

But then Vivian starts to notice how her colleagues talk about her. 

WANG

I had to be very hyper aware of my actions and my words, because if I did anything wrong, literally all they had to say was like, Oh, yeah, it was, like, I was talking to like, the Asian Ranger. I was the only one like, they would know exactly like, who they were, like talking about.

WANG

I did have, like, an incident with one of my co workers where like, not sure if they were aware of it, but you know, they mocked my language, you know, in Mandarin. 

And when I brought it up to the supervisor, they pretty much dismissed it. And looking back on it, like, ugh, I wish I pushed it, like more, but yeah, it's just, that's like an incident where I was just like, man, like, that was just not very good. And I don't feel very good about that. And then when it comes to like, the visitors? 

She means white visitors.

WANG

they asked me, you know, where I from, I just kept pushing it when they weren't satisfied with, you know, when I would say California. 

Sometimes the white visitors... 

WANG

would come directly to me and be like, can you tell them…

Asian visitors.

WANG

...to, like, you know, not do this and that, and I'm like, they're not doing anything, they're just standing around in the parking lot.

Vivian Wang  

And I'm just like, I don't know, what you want me to do. We're all we're all trying to see this, like one view, you know, like, maybe come at a time where it's not that crowded, you know? And then they would just, yeah, I mean, it's just really interesting when they would yeah come up to me and ask me like, Oh do you speak their language? And I was like, I do, but they're literally not doing anything. They’re just being a visitor like you too.

So you might feel like, okay, Vivian, this sucks! These aren’t really even micro-aggressions. They’re like aggression aggressions. You must hate your job! 

I mean, Vivian didn’t love these moments. But she STILL feels a sense of purpose.

Vivian Wang  

Um, I felt proud to represent the National Park Service, because I love the national parks and the outdoors. 

But when it comes to being an American… 

WANG

I think because of my identity, like, yeah, I'm like an Asian American, but I feel like I identify more with like, the Asian part of that. And I think I'm not, like treated in a way that like, quote unquote Americans should be treated like in their, you know, I'm like, I've had to deal with discrimination and like racism.

When the season ends, Vivian’s like, I still have student loans to pay. And I’m not making a dent on this salary. Plus, because the job’s seasonal, she would literally have to find another job to apply for in the Parks service. 

WANG 

Why make these positions seasonal? Like it's such a, I don't know, I just as a very unfortunate that you kind of have to like earn your way there. Like you got to do like this, this many like hours, this many like seasonal positions to maybe gain the status of like permanent.

So, she decides not to.

WANG

So like I've known people like in the like I've met people in the Park Service has worked there for like, I don't know, 20 plus years, and they're still seasonal, because they're not able to find like a permanent job. But somehow they're able to still make it work for them, which is good for them. But you know, not everyone is able to do that. 

WANG

I think there just needs to be a lot more like partnership work within like the organizations and the financial aspect, transportation providing a welcoming space. 

Because I'm sure there are people, you know, folks of color that have gone out to these places and have was met with like, very, like racist, harmful, like have these like racist harmful experiences, and they may never want to go back. 

And you know, and I think, like we in general, as a society just have to make it like a more welcoming, more of a safe place for them to like, be there. 

Talking to Vivian, hearing about how hard it is to make it into the parks service, deflates me a little. 

If most of these jobs are seasonal, how can someone like me, with 200 thousand dollars of student debt, ever afford to take a job like this?

If other rangers don’t know how to be around someone like me, to make their colleagues of color feel safe, why would anyone like me want to stick around in a job like that?

If the visitors treat visitors of color like they are different, like they don’t belong in these spaces-- how could we ever belong as rangers?

And if I don’t feel like I belong, if Vivian doesn’t feel like she belongs-- what must it feel like for the people who are indigenous to this area?

ACT II

RODGERS

I had the beauty and the the luck of growing up in a world of incredible space. 

RODGERS

And then you look up and you see that sky. A sky that is limitless. And at night, It's like, think of diamonds, take a handful of diamonds and just reach down and grab a handful in your hand and throw it on blue velvet. 

RODGERS

My name is Tom Rogers. I am an enrolled Blackfeet tribal member from the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. 

RODGERS

There's no building taller than maybe 15 stories in the entire state. So you get off a plane. And you can see from horizon to horizon, sometimes even the barbed wire, singing in the air as the wind travels across it. 

And you have these fabulous waves of grain in June and May that are green. And they will almost look like the creator's hand moving across the face of the green grass. And they're like waves. 

So you take the, the sea of grass of green as it moves like a wave would across the ocean. And then look up and see that beautiful diamonds and velvet. That's Montana.

So even though I feel this pull to Montana, it’s not like actually my homeland-- it feels like the northern areas of Pakistan, but this area--

It is the land of the Blackfeet, Salish, Pend d'Oreille, and Kootenai tribes.

It’s Tom’s ancestral homeland. 

In the 1960s, Tom grew up in Glasgow, Montana. Population: 3,322 today

RODGERS

The title of the article when it was profiled in the Washington Post was captioned as the middle of nowhere. So when I talk to you,I can truly say to you, I am from the middle of nowhere.

During the year, he goes to school and works at a gas station.  

But in the summer, he stays with his grandparents on the Blackfeet reservation near Glacier National Park. His grandfather takes him horseback riding. 

RODGERS

The Native Americans, my native brothers and sisters, the Blackfeet were so connected to the land.

And almost every day, Tom catches trout from the brook right outside the house and eats it with his breakfast.

RODGERS

So it is of two minds that I come to this issue, because it’s like, Oh, my God, this is so beautiful. Yeah. And at the same time, this is so sad.

David Treuer 

Blackfeet history is so painful to think about, in some ways.

You might remember David Treuer from the first episode. He’s a writer and member of the Objibwe. 

Treuer writes in his book:

In 1837, a packet operated by the American Fur Company in the Blackfeet homeland knowingly sent a smaller boat with traders who had smallpox deep into Blackfeet country. Between ten and fifteen thousand Blackfeet died of the disease, thereby ending their dominance.

TREUER

Their population at one point, you know, in the early 19th century was 20, to 30,000, maybe, maybe more. 

And by 1900, I think there were around 1000 Blackfeet left. 

The Blackfeet were tiny, impoverished, politically disenfranchised. 

And on top of that, the Americans purposefully kill their Buffalo by the thousands. The settlers want to starve the native tribes.

TREUER: Their primary food source was gone. It was being actively disappeared by buffalo hunters paid by the United States government and private industry as well. 

And you know, the Blackfeet don’t just rely on Buffalo for food. They rely on them for warmth in the winters, and for all kinds of tools. 

TREUER: And they basically made use of the fact that the Blackfeet were literally starving to death in great numbers every winter. They use that vulnerability to get them to agree to cede the land that became Glacier in exchange for whatever provisions would get them through a winter or two.

 

So, in the Treaty of 1895, the Blackfeet sell 800 thousand acres of land to the US government for $1.5 million dollars. 

The median house in Bozeman, Montana, costs almost a million dollars today. And is less than a single acre of land.

At this point, the Blackfeet have barely any land. Their population has been decimated. And they’re almost out of Buffalo. 

And here comes President Grover Cleveland. And he’s like I’m gonna help the natives. 

I’m gonna create something called the Dawes Act. 

The Act takes the land that belongs to natives from a land trust managed by the government and gives that land back to the indigenous people. Seems like a great idea!

But instead of giving it back to tribal leadership as a whole, he gives it back to individual members of the tribe. 

Remember partition? How the British randomly decided that they were gonna split India up before leaving?

Anyway, these members of native tribes, at this time, are pretty poor. 

So a lot of them do what anyone in their position would do. They decide to sell their land for money.

In terms of native land loss, the Dawes Act is the most damaging piece of legislation ever passed in Congress. 

It’s a combination of the Treaty of 1895 and the Dawes Act that strips the Blackfeet of most of their land. 

And that land… becomes Glacier National Park in 1910. 

RODGERS: Treaties are made. They're dishonored. We were promised the ability to hunt on our lands. No. We were promised the ability to fish. No. We were promised to do our ceremonies. No. This is no longer your land in any way. Even to this day, we've had to fight to have our story told throughout the park.

One of the people trying to tell that story in Glacier National Park is Derrick DeRosier. 

DEROSIER: I am the general manager for Sun Tours. I've worked for Sun Tours for I think this is going on five or six years.

Derrick’s dad is Blackfeet. So, you know, most people would be like Derrick’s ethnically Blackfeet. He’s grown up on the reservation. He’s a huge part of the Blackfeet tribal community as a descendant. But he’s not technically an enrolled member of the tribe. 

In the 1930’s, the U.S. government promoted something called “blood quantum,” in tribes like the Blackfeet.

Treuer: Blood quantum is a way to use the idea of race as the basis for citizenship in a federally recognized tribe. It was started by various people who work in the government as a way to finally divest this country of what it considered its quote unquote, Indian problem. 

The idea was, if you set a blood quantum -- a threshold -- below which you'd no longer count legally, as a native, so you might culturally be one you might identify as one but you're legally not one. You don't receive benefits, you can't run for office, you don't have treaty rights, and the idea was over time through intermarriage, Indians as a legal category would no longer exist. 

So in the Blackfeet tribe, if you’re a quarter Blackfeet, you’re an enrolled member. But if you’re less than that, then you’re a descendant member, like Derek.

DEROSIER

So it's an arbitrary distinction of qualification of being a Blackfeet member. 

Even though he’s not legally a member of the Blackfeet, he lives on the reservation, outside the east entrance to the park. 

We’re staying on the West side, so we drive over to meet him at his house.  

Driving over to meet Derek, it makes sense why Montana is called big sky country. 

The way you can get lost in a night sky, I am lost in the blue sky of Montana. There’s nothing to block the sky, and there’s no end to it. 

And the sun is shining on us through little pockets in the clouds. Dense white clouds. They almost look cartoonish.

DEROSIER

This whole area of the mountains that, that we see from the plains, uh, going up into Canada is what the Blackfeet called the backbone of the world. 

DEROSIER

And, and the backbone of the world that's, you know, represents a spine along the landscape because as a, as a tribal people here that has existed on the plains and, and lived off of the Buffalo or bison, uh, we could, you can see it on a clear day, for a hundred miles away or more.

This is the place where the Blackfeet tribe began a long time ago. 

You can still find traces of their ancestors inside the valleys. 

DEROSIER

Traditional campsites are places where the Blackfeet would go to camp, usually, you know, in the spring into the summer so we would travel into the mountains as the snow would melt. And we would camp around the lakes once we were able to.

Teenagers would seek guidance on becoming an adult. Others would pray for sick family members or just express gratitude for the good things they had.

They would have sweat lodges and healing ceremonies. They would go on vision quests -- fasting for days on top of a mountain or in the middle of a lake. 

DEROSIER

We talk about it now as being an incredible area, right going into the mountains, and it's so pretty and beautiful. And, and the Blackfeet thought the same thing. And so, you know, that's part of what informed our, the power of our ceremonies, as we would go into the mountains and the, you know, not just the beauty, but the power that the mountains hold, when you're in, in the valleys.

DEROSIER

When we talk about our history of Glacier National Park it plays right into our history as a tour company, as well.

So, in the early 1900’s right after Glacial National Park becomes official… 

TREUER

They actually promoted what I forget what it's called now like an Indian village where they would pay tribal members -- who were going through a very hard time in the early part of the 20th century -- pay them a pittance to set up teepees until live and to act and dress as they had when the park was stolen from them, that's the deep irony. 

It’s like the park is creating this whole fake performance for people to see what native life was like. 

A way of life that supposedly doesn’t exist anymore.

TREUER

So you had like, a museum exhibit essentially of an Indian village. With Blackfeet people, I don't know making baskets or tanning hides or having a mock pow wow, or, you know, living in teepees and sitting around and buckskin and being quote unquote, real Indians. Whereas 20-30 years before that, um that’s the very thing they were penalized for.

 

TREUER

The stories that America tells about Native people are stories that are convenient for America. And by that, I mean, you know, the way that most Americans understand us facilitate the settler state. 

TREUER

And it's a really convenient story for this country because, you know, it's, it's easier to feel like you're living out your democratic and constitutional ideals, if you're not in the constant process of stealing someone else's stuff and the best way to tell yourself, you're not stealing someone else's stuff is to tell yourself that those people are in fact gone. 

The Parks wanted the relationship they had with indigenous people to seem like a romantic past, not an occupation of land. 

DEROSIER

So Ed DeRosier, my dad he was a tribal member that saw the potential of owning, or doing a tribal tour company in this area in the National Park, being able to, you know, utilize some of our knowledge and sharing what it means to be Blackfeet with all the visitors that we have as a tour business. 

It’s the early 1990s. Ed is in his late 30s. He’s grown up in Browning, on the reservation. 

He works for the state highway department. And he recognizes that there are almost no native park rangers and like no native businesses operating in the park. 

DEROSIER

He wanted to start this kind of on the side. 

DEROSIER

he reached out to the National Park and he approached them and said, Hey, I want to start a tour company. I'm a tribal member, I want to share our Blackfeet culture with with tours, and they had the red buses already established. They had been there since the 30s. 

These red buses, they led historical tours of the park. A private company owned them, and they were telling the non-native history of Glacier National Park and the areas around it.

DEROSIER

And, and they denied him, they basically said we have a tour company here, we would have to grant you a permit and B and you know, blah, blah, blah. And they didn't they didn't want to do that. And so they said no, essentially.

DEROSIER

And he was like, Well, well, well, I just kind of want to do it anyway. So he got a van --

The van is white, like the size of a school bus. Fits 24 people. 

DEROSIER

And he started doing tours. 

He gets licensed from the state and the Blackfeet tribe. 

DEROSIER

And he started doing tours. 

He straight up hustles. He’s an entrepreneur! He tells everyone he meets about it. And then he heads to town.

DEROSIER

He would go and park the van at the train station. And he got like a little logo. And so he would he just said you know, I, we we do tours in the park. We can take you up there like it'll be however much money he was charging at the time, probably just cash and jump jump on the van and we'll take you for a tour.

 

And he starts actually taking the van into the park. And doing the tours.

The rangers are like… um, you’re not a legit vendor. 

DEROSIER

They gave him a warning. You know, they said, you know you you don't have a you don't have a right to be here.

Think about how messed up that is. The park is telling this native man, whose ancestors have lived in this area for literal THOUSANDS OF YEARS, that he has no right to be here.

That he has no right to tell people about the indigenous history of the land.

That he has no right to make money off of that. 

Except they don’t say it like that. 

DEROSIER

You don't have a license, you're not a concessionary, you're not a business, we can’t allow you to do this. 

But Ed wasn’t asking for their permission.

He lays low for a minute and then starts back up again. He loads up his van with tourists. He drives into Glacier… 

DEROSIER

And they pulled him over. They gave him some tickets, they sent, you know, some fines to his house. And eventually they said, you know, if we see you up here again, you know, we're, we're gonna arrest you, we're gonna throw you in jail. 

 

The friends that have been doing the tour with Ed are like, we’re out. We are not about to get arrested over this. 

But Ed is like, I’m not giving up that easy. He goes to Blackfoot leadership and tells them the problem. 

And the tribal leadership is like... okay, we’re gonna fight this thing. 

 

DEROSIER

They ended up having a huge protest and they had a bunch of tribal members. They had signs outside of the front entrance that you know, that said Glacier National Park is racist. 

A local newspaper wrote that signs read - Boycott Glacier Lodges, United we Stand and more jobs for indians. 

And then there was another protest. A bigger one. 

DEROSIER

So they had, they had Rangers, they had law enforcement out there guarding the mini glacier Lodge, they had automatic weapons, and they were had all these tribal members up on top of the hill with signs. 

And you know, these protests make headlines. 

Ed, being the badass he is, is like, yes, I’ve got momentum. And, the only way to keep that momentum? Keep fighting. So he does and he gets all the way to the ninth circuit court of appeals.

Which is the court right before the Supreme Court. 

And the Park service and the tribe are both like… okay, okay, we don’t wanna go to the Supreme Court. 

That, my friends, is how Sun Tours came to be. The non-hustle, LEGAL business that takes people on native-led tours throughout Glacier National Park. 

EVEN TODAY, almost 30 years later, it is one of the only native tour companies operating in a National Park, in the whole country.

TREUER

So it's very important to look back over the past 120, 130 years, and notice the ways in which we've been surviving, and not just surviving, but growing and achieving and accomplishing things, if we don't notice that, we're screwed. Because there's nothing in front of us. If our story's a descending line, how are we going to ascend? 

DEROSIER

it can set a precedent, right whether you're talking about recognizing treaty rights, or sovereignty, or federally recognizing a tribe, or all of those types of things. So all of those types of cases are a big deal, especially if they go in favor of the tribe.

We’ve been driving with Derek for over an hour. We took one of the Sun Tours buses, and drove in from the east entrance of the park. 

DEROSIER 

So I'm really proud and thankful to be to be a part of that.

We’ve driven all the way to the top of a mountain.

 

EUCEPH

So beautiful!

DEROSIER

So, uh, yeah. Welcome to the Two Medicine Valley. 

Two Medicine is like quintessential Montana. Like, it captures the entire beauty of the area. 

Giant, pointy mountains surrounding bright blue lakes. Snow everywhere. 

It literally takes my breath away.

Somehow, it has a 4.5 on Trip Advisor. 

There’s this J.B. Priestly quote where he’s talking about the Grand Canyon. And he says, “I’ve heard rumours of visitors who were disappointed. The same people will be disappointed at the Day of Judgment." 

In other words -- haters gonna hate.

DEROSIER

There's significance of like every place name, every, every peak, every valley, every lake. Um, and it just depends on how far you want to go back and, and what stories have been told and passed down.

DEROSIER

And, you know, for us, the Blackfeet, we, we didn't, as many other tribes didn't have a written language and it was, our histories were told orally and passed down and, and that's where a lot of our, our knowledge comes from is from our grandparents and their grandparents and, and pass down and, and that's, what's so tough about tribes being displaced from territories is the land, like literally provides a space of remembrance for history.

And when you're cut off from that, you lose that.

I have never ever set foot in the places that I am indigenous to. 

I haven’t even been back to Pakistan in 13 years. 

I feel like a flower that was cut off from her tree, from the roots. I’m living in water, still alive, but misplaced.

So, I know what it’s like to be cut off from your ancestral land. 

I know what it’s like for that land to have been ravaged by war and corruption, looted and left in poverty. 

Sometimes it feels like we live in a globalized, post-colonial world. 

Like almost every inch of land on Earth was once colonized. Destroyed. That almost every culture was torn apart. That almost no one is connected to their roots anymore. 

And like it doesn’t even matter. We must just move forward, because it’s too late or something. 

But I think it does matter. It matters to me. 

I think it matters because of the feeling I have in Glacier, in Montana. The feeling of just being in a place that’s like my ancestral homeland. The faint hint of belonging. 

A feeling so powerful it creates an even more intense longing. 

A longing to connect. To know my history. To know my culture. To know myself. 

To let my feet touch the earth that created me.

If this feeling is so visceral, so intense for me, standing in Montana, more than 7,000 miles from Pakistan, what would it feel like to be connected to my roots? 

To be connected to my land? To my traditions and stories?

Here’s the thing-- my homeland was colonized but not permanently. If I wanted to, I can go home. I can live there. I can work and make money there. No one is going to stop me.

I mean, here, the colonizers never left— they settled permanently. 

And despite that… DESPITE the fact that the American government has broken EVERY single treaty with the people who are indegenous to this land - native people are still fighting. 

Ed DeRosier, his son Derek… so many others refuse to let their culture be trapped inside an exhibit. 

 

You know, for me and my family, as immigrants, becoming American was a privilege. Being American allows us to own a dream-- a collective dream. It comes with perks, and rights and freedoms. 

Like coming to these parks. 

But coming to these parks, I’m finally realizing what it means for me, as an immigrant, to buy into that dream. 

My family may have come here for a better future. 

But we are coming to stolen land. 

We may not be coming with the intention to colonize, but we, too, are settlers.