This video was created by AJ+, a digital news, politics, and current events channel by Al Jazeera Media Network, and features a range of Native Americans from different tribes talking about their thoughts on “illegal” immigration, which in 2015, has once again dominated the U.S. election season. At the beginning of the video, text is shown stating, “The current national debate on illegal immigration has left out the voices of the people who are native to this land – voices that challenge who exactly is ‘illegal.’” The Native Americans talk about how they dislike the word “illegal,” how they feel invisible, forgotten, and unrepresented, and one woman says, “I don’t think people realize that the first illegal immigrants were European settlers.” Similarly, another woman says that, “if we’re going to talk about illegal immigration, we need to go back in the last 350-500 years ago, of starting with Plymouth Rock and who had permission to come over to our lands.” In another section of the video, the women and men talk about national and state borders, how they impact their families, traditions, and ways of life, and what it would mean to certain tribes that would be split if these artificial boundaries were imposed on them. The video closes with the message that many Native Americans and indigenous people relate to land and the earth as “belonging” to no one, because people are seen not as owners, but as stewards of the land.
How are Native people represented in the media? How often and where do we see them represented, and hear their voices? Why?
What groups and countries are the focus of the immigration debates in the United States? Which groups are left out of the conversation? Why?
One of the women in the video says, “I don’t think people realize that the first illegal immigrants were European settlers.” Similarly, another woman says, “if we’re going to talk about illegal immigration, we need to go back in the last 350-500 years ago, of starting with Plymouth Rock and who had permission to come over to our lands.” What are they describing and what is your reaction to these statements? How does this change the conversation about who is “illegal” and who is not? Do you agree or disagree with their framing? Why?
Describe the section of the video where they talk about state and national borders. How are they saying different groups conceptualize these borders? How does this affect their communities? Do you think they have a say in how these boundaries are drawn? Why?
What racial, ethnic, or national categories are Native Americans assigned? How do they typically enter into conversations about race in the United States?