The murder of George Floyd and conviction of Derek Chauvin brought forth emotions of sorrow, anger, and outrage across much of America. It was also a reminder for many in Indian Country of a long, painful history of racial violence directed against us, as well. President Biden recently remarked that “systemic racism is a stain on our nation” — indeed it is a poison that has burdened this land for more than 500 years.
While the guilty verdict cannot undo the pain and suffering of Mr. Floyd’s family and loved ones, our hope is that it does bring them some peace and healing.
The goal of creating a just and safe society is still a work in progress and there is much to do. The murder of George Floyd sadly served as a reminder of the racism and injustice far too many confront every day. Some tribal elders were admittedly pessimistic that justice would be served, having endured interactions with unjust police or instances of police violence themselves during the fish wars of the 60s and 70s. Our own law enforcement branch, CRITFC Enforcement, was established partly as a response to unfair and racist law enforcement actions against tribal members exercising their treaty-reserved fishing rights on the Columbia River.
As an organization that includes a law enforcement mission, CRITFC is committed to comprehensively assessing the justice system to identify needed and necessary evidence-based reforms. This will require more than just slogans and promises. It will require concerted, unrelenting work from us all. Successfully meeting this challenge will require reflection, exploring new approaches, embracing compromise, emphasizing dignity and respect for all, and building upon a fundamental commitment to the preservation of human life and the mental, physical, and spiritual health of everyone.
-Aja DeCoteau, Interim Executive Director, CRITFC