Vincent Schilling is tired of people asking him why he cares so much about the past.
In a heartfelt post published Wednesday, the Indian Country Today Media Network editor explained the mission behind the hashtag he started #NoIWontJustMoveOn.
"As a Native American/First Nations man, (Akwesasne Mohawk)," Schilling wrote, "I have been asked on too many occasions why I am still talking about the atrocities that have befallen Native American and First Nations people and told, 'Why don't you just get over it,' or 'Why don't you just move on?'"
The answer, it turns out, is pretty straightforward:
"Because my history, no matter how far away it seems, still affects me and my fellow indigenous brothers and sisters."
Other indigenous people have since answered Schilling's call to highlight this issue online. Here are some examples of the tweets they've shared using his hashtag:
There's plenty of truth to Schilling's statements. The legacy of American and Canadian violence against indigenous peoples reverberates today in countless ways.
Disparities facing Native Americans are especially stark: disproportionately high rates of depression, substance abuse and suicide among Native youth; staggering poverty rates; rampant exposure to police violence; and sexual violence against women, all add to a pattern of multigenerational trauma that has affected Native Americans since the colonial days.
Their Canadian counterparts face similar challenges. An epidemic of deaths and disappearances of First Nations women has prompted a full-blown government inquiry. Suicide rates among indigenous youth are making headlines across the continent.
Residential schools in the U.S. and Canada, where curricula were designed to force First Nations youth to assimilate into mainstream Canadian culture, are now notorious for their deep-seated institutional violence and sexual abuse against children over the course of 120 years. The last of these schools only closed in 1996, leaving thousands of survivors behind to process their trauma.
Schilling's point is that people ignore these facts to their own detriment. Failing to acknowledge this history is a barricade to actual healing.
"Instead of acknowledging a horrible history and massive acts of cultural genocide, people attack us for talking about our trauma," he wrote. "To those people who tell me that I am complaining or need to get over it, let me say this: People tell me I am whining when I am suffering over the death of a child. People tell me to get over it when a sacred-life creator is missing, killed or raped."
Hopefully this conversation continues long after the hashtag stops trending.