(CNSNews.com) – Carol McBryant, the relevancy, diversity, and inclusion strategist for the National Park Service, said on Thursday that the continent belongs to indigenous people and that the most meaningful work she’s done during her 30 years with the federal agency is to “sit and listen” to them and “hear the pain” of their mistreatment.
“The most meaningful work that I think I have ever done is to sit and listen to the people who this continent belongs,” McBryant said at a discussion and film screening at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., to mark the 100th anniversary of the park service.
“And when I listen, I hear the pain of the taking of land, taking of culture, the taking of language,” said McBryant, who is returning to her post after serving as the acting chief of cultural interpretation and tribal tourism program manager at the park service for the past six months.
McBryant said one of those indigenous people, Faith Spotted Eagle, told her “healing of our indigenous people will be able to happen when we begin to set aside the denial and the shame that serves as barriers between us and our Native Nations.”
A short film was then shown made by the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Youth Programs that McBryant said provides “a deeper level of understanding” of what Native Americans face and allows for “sharing their indigenous knowledge with us.”
The film features a young boy and girl whose parents have abandoned them because of drug and alcohol addiction. When the girl asks her uncle why, he tells them this story:
“[There] were tepees as far as you could see. The water was clean. The land pristine. We were where we were meant to be. Then strangers came across the sea and brought with them their disease. Our people cried and prayed and sang, but it brought them to their knees.”
The uncle said they took the land and that children were taken from their parents.
“Then at school, they cut your hair and beat you if you spoke the language that creator gave our people when the earth awoke,” the uncle said in the film.
Other panelists at the event, entitled “A Century of Conservation and Conversation: Places of Healing and Expression: National Parks in the Next Century,” were other park service employees and Julie Rhoad, head of The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
The National Park Service was created by Congress, and the National Park Service Organic Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on Aug. 25, 1916. It is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior and is responsible for all national parks and monuments in the United States and its territories.