Eminent domain is a real pain. It is the legal eviction rug used by society to take one’s home, land and possibly wherewithal if those affected are living off the land. Yet, this is the history of Indigenous Native Americans. The United States government wanted the land for itself. And it took it from them.
Taking their lead from the Spanish conquistadors who came before them, newly arrived settlers to North America began employing such brutal tactics themselves. In the United States, the first white settlers on the east coast began pushing people off their land, and soon, this practice spread to the entire continent. Out west, there were precious minerals such as gold that speculators and developers wanted to take for themselves. It has happened over and again throughout the history of this country. Unfortunately, this legacy has continued throughout the years.
In the early days of Washington, D.C., eminent domain was instituted to rid the city of “ugly” and “blight eyesores” found near the Capitol and White House. At the time, people in power wanted to distance themselves from other people living in poverty. Many Black Americans were living in poverty in these years in slums that had later been cleared out.
Throughout his presidency, Richard Nixon was particularly vocal about this so-called “blight.” And so have many other politicians and people in power who followed him. Over the years, many inhabitants of this land were forced to move from places they called home.
I recently came across this Native Youth Alliance tent on the mall. I felt as though it was ironic because this was the land that originally belonged to the American Indians until they were forced to leave it. I found it even more ironic that the Native American Youth Alliance has to get a permit from the United States government park service to pitch a tent on the mall itself. The alliance was here to lobby Congress for the rights of the indigenous. And I strongly feel they deserve all the support we can give them.
Angie Whitehurst is an artist and vendor with Street Sense Media.