Dear fellow astronomers,
Protests against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation have been met with unacceptable levels of brutality by the authorities, and unsurprisingly limited coverage by the mainstream media. These disturbing events are yet another reminder that people of color, particularly Native Americans*, continue to be treated as second-class citizens in this country. This is in stark contrast to the treatment of the Bundy ranchers, a predominantly white armed group who were acquitted after violently occupying a wildlife preserve in Oregon, and whose actions included the bulldozing of sacred grounds. We hereby express solidarity with the Sioux Tribe Nation, and any other Native American tribes facing threats to their sacred lands, resources and livelihood.
Similarly, we wish to reassure every astronomer who identifies as indigenous that they can count on our unconditional support. The field of Astronomy has faced similar situations, in relation to the construction of observatories in Mauna Kea and Atacama. During such crises, astronomers have a choice: to react in hateful ways that alienate indigenous astronomers, or instead to reject our shameful history and present-day oppressive structures, and support the few indigenous astronomers in our community.
We invite all astronomers to educate ourselves and reflect on the reasons why the underrepresentation of Native Americans and indigenous people in US astronomy is so severe, and to challenge our preconceptions on systemic racism and colonialism. Although these ideas might be new or seem foreign to some of us, they have real life consequences on many of our colleagues. Lastly, we invite you to get to know, to reach out to, and advocate for the advancement of the few indigenous astronomers in our field. The undersigned value scientific discovery. However, we value our fellow astronomers more! We reaffirm our commitment to ensure the inclusion, support, and safety of every indigenous person in astronomy.
We support Standing Rock! No DAPL!
Prof. Jorge Moreno (Indigenous: Southern Texas and Northern Mexico)
Charee Peters (Indigenous: Yankton Sioux)
Dr. Lia Corrales
Nicole Cabrera Salazar
Prof. Jillian Bellovary
Prof. Kim Coble
Prof. John Asher Johnson
Prof. Aparna Venkatesan
Dr. Jackie Flaherty
Prof. Adam Burgasser
The above signatories are members of the AAS Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (CSMA). This statement reflects our own personal views, and is not an official statement by the CSMA nor the AAS.
*We adopt the term “Native American”, in lieu of “American Indian”, to avoid recognition of that first European colonizer who mistakenly assumed that he had reached south Asia. This terminology follows recommendations by the North Carolina Humanities Council.
The petition to stop DAPL:
A list of actionable steps for people to take:
Decolonising Science Reading List:
SACNAS Column on the TMT:
CSWA TMT Statement (and links therein):
CSMA Spectrum Article (Why so few Native American Astronomers?)
Mahalo No Trash Blog (Mauna Kea and Atacama):
Native American Persistence in Higher Education
Indigenous Education Institute