Written by Trisha Etringer
I was born and raised in what most Iowans call the “Heartland of America.” I grew up with grandparents who raised 14 children on their farm which eventually would become my uncle’s property. I remember my grandparents having a garden in their backyard. Anytime that my father, brothers, and I came over, they picked fresh tomatoes or apples from their backyard and gave them to us. I remember my grandma tending to her garden on the days that I spent with her when I was a little girl. It seems like once they were gone, so were those days.
Over the centuries, one can see that Iowa has depleted its own biodiversity where the state has become unrecognizable when you compare a side-by-side map from 1800s to present-day. Mark Edwards, a retired trails coordinator who worked for the Department of Natural Resources for 30 years, states that 93% of Iowa is now used for agricultural purposes (2013). Thus, making Iowa the most biologically-altered state in North America. Coming from an indigenous woman’s perspective, it’s frustrating to know that capitalism is what destroyed the vast biodiversity here. The Big-Ag, CAFOs, and other corporate entities have destroyed and continue to do so without consent and “consultation” of the First Nations. We have allowed the colonial mindset to ravage our lands and no one even thought to ask for the indigenous perspective.
I believe that as an indigenous woman living in Iowa today, I have a say. I still matter. I am still here. I never thought that we would have to fight the government for the right to clean water, clean air, and clean soil. However, Iowa has collectively turned their eye and allowed corporate entities such as Energy Transfer Partners, Big-Ag, and CAFOs to rip through our lands and watersheds while endangering the livelihood of most Iowans – and it seems that the majority of Iowa DOES NOT CARE. I feel that it is time for the indigenous perspective to be included in these conversations.
How do we do that? Aside from decolonization, we can also encourage our indigenous people to get involved and flood the political system. I am for decolonization, but I also encourage indigenous people to join the political system in efforts to change the public opinion that is so desperately needed. We need our perspective out there and to be heard beyond the frontlines. VOTING is another huge factor that the indigenous communities do not take advantage of because they feel that their voice does not matter. However, if our people took the time to go out and vote, they would see that it does matter. It does make a difference. Especially when vote counts are so close that a state could flip in a monumental win. I would like to see more indigenous people out there voting and taking their voting right seriously. We have the power to change public opinion.
I personally have decided to become involved because my children’s future depends on the decisions I make today. I have to set an example for them because once I am gone – my only hope is that they continue the work that I have left behind. I can only put the footwork down, but I hope that they realize how important their voices are and they find their own path. After all, they are going to be the caretakers after this next generation is gone. It is our responsibility as parents and caregivers to instill morals, values, and ethics.
My question for all indigenous people living in Iowa, what are you doing to actively take part and letting your voice be heard? If you aren’t involved, how would you like to become involved? What are you strengths and talents that you can share in order to help the indigenous story to be heard. It seems as once the land started to deplete, so did the history and the voice of our indigenous tribes. We need those back and we need them heard right now. Join me in my fight to help keep our voices strong.