Justice? It depends

Burial site

Burial site

Scholars have long debated the tenets that underpin justice.

Interesting that a word we take for granted—justice—would roll over like a tumbleweed, subject to interpretations.

Definitions have emerged from many quarters—from St. Augustine, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Emmanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham and Julia Kristeva—to name a few.

Today, for indigenous people, I argue the most compelling action is having a seat at the table.

If justice refers to the act of being just (morally right and fair, according to the Oxford English Dictionary), then we would expect all dimensions of rightness and fairness would be considered. And that includes indigenous perspectives.

But what occurs in daily practice is that such views are disparaged and discarded.

Take the example of a burial site in Northern California.

Builders discovered hundreds (some say thousands) of indigenous remains at what turned out to be a funeral site in Emeryville.

Anthropologists and archaeologists from local universities were asked to assess the remains and funerary objects, and one remarked the site is “crucial to understanding early cultures in California.”

Indian perspectives went unheeded and the burial site was covered with concrete and asphalt a decade ago.

An investor defended the construction, saying, “time marches on.”

Justice, in this case, is cloaked in moral relativism.

When looking at who gets to sit at the table, we also need to ask: who benefits?

Instead of preserving an indigenous burial site, city officials provided shoppers with a shiny new store: Banana Republic.

8 November Blog for National Native American Heritage Month

Photo of the burial site called the Shell Mound in the 1920s from http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Emeryville-Filmmaker-tells-story-of-forgotten-2690138.php#page-2


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in Indian, Native Science, science, science communication and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Justice? It depends

  1. johncoyote says:

    Few respect the past. It is sad. The USA who once held the old with pride and care. Allow the old people to suffer. Little respect for Native American land. The Bush’s laws allowed the federal government to take at- will the land they desire. if you don’t respect the dead. How do you respect the living? Thank you for the information.


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