Is it Native Americans, Indigenous Americans or American Indians? I have no idea, but I will say that the people I know, who have Tribal blood in them, prefer to be called American Indians. The government tends to make decisions for these people and never bother to ask them what they want. Seems nothing has changed in a few hundred years.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) isn't perfect and never has been. I think they've meant well and today they are doing a better job. But let's slip back almost 200 years ago and look at what was happening.
I'm going to say American Indians for this post even if that is not politically correct. I could write a whole book on just things I've learned about these people and the BIA, but I will spare you and just give you a a few tiny facts.
Once we put the America Indians on reservations, it was the beginning of the destruction of the lifestyle of these people. They were nomads and we confined them to land that wasn't prime. Then we assigned BIA agents to these reservations. Not all agents were horrible people. Some tried very hard to be good people. Most of the agents never learned to speak the language of the tribe. Yet, they were supposed to turn the tribe into Christians and civilized people.
The Indians didn't believe in our teachings, but they did acknowledge Nature. They were great stewards of our lands. Personally I find it difficult to understand why we were so determined to change them. I think we could learn a lot from them. They never wasted an ounce of the animals they killed. They honored (prayed for) the animals before they killed them.
We took the children from American Indians and sent those children to boarding schools in the east where many were horribly abused. We tried to take their heritage from them.We gave them English names. But something strange happened especially to the Navajo tribe while naming these people. They were given first names but their last names were listed as BIA. HUH? Why were they not given a real last name? We have no idea! (I've used the last name Bia in one of my contemporary novels.)
There were people who believed the American Indians were nothing more than animals, and they wanted to hunt them. Fortunately, our nation's leaders said NO!
After confining Indians to reservations, we offered them some humanitarian help in the form of a monthly stipend. We gave them an armful of wood and a bag of white flour. They had no clue what to do with that white powder that was tasteless. They'd never seen such a thing. So they dumped out the flour and used the material that held the powder. The wood was not enough for cooking or enough to heat their homes in the winter. By putting them on sub-prime land, they had no food. They starved and froze to death.
We tried to annihilate the Indians. Even today, our American Indians don't get a fair education. In some instances, less than 25 percent of those young people graduate from high school. (A friend is married to a full-blooded American Indian with a PhD.) Many do succeed but few return to the Rez. Why would they want to go back? The reservations are not exactly prime areas. The poverty is horrendous. The schools are horrible. Drugs and alcohol are abundant. Crime is high. Why?
Our government has given them land and taken it away. Some of these tribes are still fighting with our government to get back their lands.
Arizona has a reservation that goes to the Mexican border. There are signs along the border saying do not cross these lands. The Indians do not go there! Why? The summer is super hot and the winter nights are freezing. The new border situation is not helping. Many attempt it and there is no water. Dead bodies litter the southern end of this reservation.
The Indians followed herds of deer, elk, etc. After being confined to the reservations, they could no longer hunt as they once did. Wood eventually vanished off the land. Crops were limited. Life kept getting tougher and tougher.
Thanks, Elizabeth! for your supportive post. Cora Leland, AuthorReplyDelete
A friend awakened me about 20 years ago to the plight of many children and young people on reservations today. It's probably our biggest downfall. We need to support these children and change the way we think and the way they think. They need hope!ReplyDelete