Why “something else” needs to be taken more seriously

News Unsettled Opinions

Though it is good that people were able to find humour in “something else”, there does need to be a more serious discussion

News Unsettled Native Students Union column
Graphic provided by the Native Students Union.

November is Native American Heritage Month in the United States, and this year it is also the presidential election. During coverage of the election, CNN made a blunder on live air when showing their exit poll findings. This blunder was met with humour but also brings attention to a real problem in Canada and the United States.

CNN’s 2020 exit polls broke voters off into the categories, “White, Black, Latino, Asian” and the final category was “something else”. It has since been changed to “Other racial/ethnic groups,” but for the live coverage it simply said, “something else”. Yet, CNN thought that it would be appropriate to lump Indigenous people into the “something else” category.  

Exit polls are exactly what they sound like. A worker for CNN stands outside of a polling station and takes numbers of those leaving. On election day, when reporting on the findings of their exit polls, CNN showed a graphic that discussed the race of those leaving the polling stations.

According to the Washington Post, the US is on track for historic voter turnout. This would also imply that no matter the race, a larger-than-usual amount of people turned up to vote. 

On social media there were a slew of memes that were made mocking CNN’s choice of categorization and wording on both sides of the medicine line. Even our Office Coordinator made a graphic naming us the “Something Else Students Union”. 

While the humour is good, the choice made by CNN needs to be looked at seriously and there needs to be an examination of the important issue that it brings to the spotlight: Indigenous erasure.

Canada and the United States are on stolen Indigenous lands. These settler-states only exist because of the dispossession and genocide of Indigenous peoples. The fact that CNN made this decision completely ignores the true history of these lands and the continued relationships Indigenous nations have with them.

This slotting of Indigenous peoples to the “Other” category during Native American Heritage Month speaks volumes on settlers’ ideas on the importance of proper Indigenous representation. It is especially disheartening to have no representation when it was shown that the Indigenous vote had a huge impact on the outcome of the election, with the Navajo alone contributing just under 74,000 votes which led to the determining of Biden winning Arizona.

Though CNN reports out of the United States and the election was also for the US, Canada plays a huge role in the erasure of Indigenous peoples as well.

The US and Canada have been attempting to get rid of Indigenous peoples since their inception. For residential and industrial schools, the exact purpose was to get rid of Indigenous languages and cultures. Though these school systems have since ended, there are still mass methods of eradicating Indigenous cultures.

 In Canada, Indigenous children are severely overrepresented in the foster-care system, with some children being taken away hours after they are born. There is the forced sterilization of Indigenous women, which is still a practice in Canada today.

After dispossessing them of their lands, the Canadian government officially declared the Sinixt people extinct, which they are still fighting to have reversed to this day.

In March, the Trump administration suddenly decided to disestablish the land rights of the Mashpee Wampanoag people. Completely stripping the sovereignty over the land and essentially erasing any official power the nation has over their lands and their people.

Indigenous erasure is a vital part of justification of these illegal settler states. Though the category “something else” on CNN might be portrayed as a simple and innocent mistake, one that can be changed at will after outrage, it shows just how pervasive the efforts of colonial governments to get rid of Indigenous peoples are.

We are still here. We live on our lands, we practice our cultures, we speak our languages. We should not simply be put in some last-minute box by CNN, especially when these elections take place on our lands. The humour and jokes are just fine, but to a certain degree there needs to be a serious discussion on these types of choices to ignore Indigenous peoples.