Since I was a kid I thought Native-American culture was pretty dang rad. I enjoyed the idea of living off the land, being in touch with Mother Earth, tribal garb, and being skilled at stealth. [Call that stereotyping, but I was a kid. Baby steps.] Boy Scouts helped me appreciate American-Indian culture more, since Scouts, cursorily and respectfully, albeit clumsily, loan aspects—especially into their Order of the Arrow program. The rites, the religions, the conservation all interested me. Full disclosure: I do not claim to be an expert on indigenous Americans! Like most Millennials, one of my first primers in Native culture was Disney’s Pocahontas; a sad fact. Living in Alaska helped me gain more of an understanding; but not as much as I would like. The older I got the more I saw the cultural clash between whites and Natives [don’t ever call a Native Alaskan an Eskimo unless you mean fighting words, ya ignorant putz!*]. Sadly, many Alaskans suffer from the same jaded view that other states with high Native populations do, reducing them to tourist-trinket vendors and street drunks. It wasn’t until college that I began to appreciate these peoples again. Through my history classes and through reading Sherman Alexie’s brutally honest The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I learned who they were in the past and who they are now. I don’t know everything, but I do know they have very rich and complicated cultures and philosophies, which are intensely different from European-Americans. For example, to the Woodland tribes of New England, you couldn’t own land. You borrow and use what she gives you, and could be a caretaker, but you cannot own it nor especially sell it. Another is that justice was met in murder by murdering back. Similar to the Old Testament eye-for-an-eye, it puts in perspective many of the conflicts that the American Colonists had since one Native death meant a white life had to be claimed. Now, as an adult, living in the Pacific Northwest, where Americans try very hard to pay respect to local tribes, I’m gaining a clearer appreciation for Native Americans.
It doesn’t take a scholar to determine that the state of Indians is not the as favorable as it was before European-Americans colonized. The United States government has a history of crossed-fingered promises screwing them over. I’m not about to recount all of the instances. And it’s not all history. Some of it is recent. And this blows my mind. I’m pretty sure the Indian reservations are regarded as sovereign nations; and I feel stupid in having to state my lack of surety since it should be pretty common knowledge—yet, there is a difference in saying they’re such and legally regarding them as such. The tomes and tomes of legalese that govern them somehow maintain them as still being subject to the United States’ government. And I don’t know why! If a nation has to appeal to the court of a foreign nation for grievances then that nation isn’t actually sovereign. Rather diplomats from each country should meet to discuss terms. Presidents should speak. This is the normal course in geopolitics. Furthermore, Amerind nations should have the power to embargo or levy. They should have the power to raise militaries. They should be able to build a border fence. They should be enabled to do anything a recognized country should do. In fact, each of the United States should also be entitled do to these things, as the agreement was meant to be with the Constitution. Okay, maybe that’s a little more a la Articles of Confederation, but, the national government doesn’t need to boss any of the states around, and especially not any of the Indian nations.
When I’m president in 2036, this can happen. Not to be a white savior—but has anyone else said it?
- * You have probably heard that the native people of North America should not be called “Indians.” The citizens of the country of India, in southern Asia, are the Indians. Those 15th-century European sailors who mistook the Bahamas for the Indies mistakenly named the people they met “Indians.” Is it more correct to refer to American Indians as “Native Americans”? Strictly speaking, anyone born in America is a native American. And even if we’re careful to use a capital N for a Native American who is an Indian, and small n for a native-born American who is not an Indian, we still can get confused. The Term “Native American” also applies to native or indigenous people of the Hawaiian Islands, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Here is some advice from Dr. David Hurst Thomas of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Dr. Thomas learned “Indian lore” when he was a Boy Scout, and he credits his Scouting work for starting him on his career in anthropology and archeology. In his book Exploring Native North America (2000), Dr. Thomas writes: “Indigenous people throughout Native North America recognize the garbled logic behind all such labels. Most simply accept the imprecision and use terms such as American Indian, Canadian Native, Native American, Indian, and Native more-or-less interchangeably. . . .Of much greater concern to most Indian people is the tribal name. Today, those native Arizonans formerly known as ‘Pima’ and ‘Papago’ prefer to be called the O’odham people. Some Navajo people would like to be known as Diné, a traditional name meaning ‘The People.’ Some, but not all, Native people prefer the terms ‘Lakota’ and “Dakota’ over the more-common Sioux (which is a French variant of an Ojibwa or Chippewa word meaning ‘enemy’). Whenever discussing a tribe . . .try to use the term preferred by the particular tribe in question.”‘“American Indian or Native American?“ from Boy Scouts of America’s Indian Lore (1996, 2003 revision)
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