In an essay published by Time magazine on Thursday titled “The Truth About My Arrest,” the Fault in Our Stars actress, who pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal trespassing and rioting, said she was not protesting, but standing “side by side” with “those who were here before us” — Native Americans.
Her essay began, “[Indigenous people] are still putting their lives on the line to protect the roots that feed our existence. And, guess what else, dear America? They are still being ignored. We are still throwing them in jail. We are still silencing their dedication to protect us from the planetary consequences that will catastrophically bleed from our ignorance.”
She then criticized Americans for exploiting the Native culture that they wholly ignore.
“We wear their heritage, their sacred totems, as decoration and in fashion trends, failing to honor their culture. Headdresses, feathers, arrows. Moccasins, sage, beadwork. You know what I’m talking about, Coachella. Walking around the flea market this weekend, I can’t even tell you how many native references I saw being used in a way that feeds our western narrative.”
She continued, “We buy plastic teepees from Toys-R-Us and set them up in our living rooms for children to play in. We grow up romanticizing native culture, native art, native history… without knowing native reality.”
Shailene said issues like marginalization, sex trafficking, and governmental integrity rarely include Native Americans on a mainstream level.
“Treaties are broken. Land is stolen. Dams are built. Reservations are flooded. People are displaced. Yet we fail to notice. We fail to acknowledge. We fail to act,” she said, pointing out the irony that these issues are only now being brought to light because she, a famous actress, was arrested.
“It took me, a white non-native woman being arrested on Oct 10th in North Dakota, on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, to bring this cause to many people’s attention. And to the forefront of news publications around the world,” she noted.
“The day I was detained, 26 others had to dress in orange as well, as they were booked into the Morton County jail. Did you hear about them? Twenty-six men and women who put their livelihoods on the line, to protect their children, your children and my future children. Twenty-six men and women who realize that millions of people depend on the Missouri River for drinking water.”
Despite her disappointment in the publicity surrounding her arrest and the treatment of Native Americans, Shailene still made sure to thank those who’ve sent her well wishes.
“I appreciate all of you out there who supported me while I was arrested. I am humbled and grateful for your love, your prayers and your hashtags,” she wrote. “I am not scared. I am not afraid. I am grateful, and I am amazed to be standing by the sides of so many peaceful warriors. Standing Rock “protests” are rooted in ceremony and in prayer. I’ve been there. And all these narratives about riots? Just watch my Facebook livestream and decide for yourself who looks more dangerous: police in riot gear with batons, or native grandmothers and children smudging sage and singing songs.”
She concluded the poignant essay by thanking the people with whom she’s fighting, and pleading with her fellow Americans to “stand in solidarity” with Native Americans.
“Thank you, to all the tribes who have gathered. To all the nations standing as one. To all the people who know that if not we, then who? And if not now, then when? Simply feeding off the hype of a celebrity’s arrest ain’t going to save the world. But, standing together will. Please stand in solidarity with the Sioux people of Standing Rock Reservation to ensure that we still have rivers to swim in, springs to drink from and lakes to float on. Will you join us?”
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