Idle No More: Indians Are History

According to Professor Sarah Shear,  associate professor of social studies education at Pennsylvania State University in Altoona, her research has revealed that a large percent of elementary and high school text books present Native American Indians in the U.S. as a population that existed prior to 1900.  Anything current that has to do with Indigenous peoples in America seems to be non-existent in 87 percent of textbooks used in schools.

Her research began when she taught an undergraduate class in multicultural education and the students in her class stated to her that all Indians were dead.  Shocked by her students’ misperception about Indigenous peoples in America, Professor Shear began digging into the reasons why students held this incorrect belief.

According to Lisa Wade, professor of sociology at Occidental College in Los Angeles (CA), this belief is reinforced by the use of “feathers, buckskins, and moccasins” as the visual used when the subject of First Nations peoples comes up.

It does not require many words to speak the truth.
Chief Joseph, Nez Pierce, 1840-1904

Stephen Bridenstine, graduate student in social and cultural history, researched mapping tools and discovered that some such as OpenStreetMap don’t label Indian reservations, MapQuest does, and Google Maps, until recently, only showed them at the “state view” level. In December 2014, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) congratulated Google on the collaborative work done with their organization to improve how reservations appeared on Google Maps.

The misappropriation of culture by sports teams, celebrities, and others further reinforces the belief that Indians are a thing of the past, and that in misappropriating the culture, those doing responsible are merely “honoring” the culture.

When a non-native person lays claim to Indian culture, it’s almost a claim of being related to a Cherokee princess.  The problem with that claim is that the Cherokee did not have kings, and without kings, there are no princesses.   What people tend to overlook is that there was a positive and a negative use of the term Indian princess.

The term princess was used by some as a term of endearment in the early 1900s. If a man referred to his wife as a princess, it was out of love, not because her parents were a king and a queen.  The term princess was also used as a derogatory term around the same time in some of the Southern states to refer to light-skinned mulatto women, and at a time when many Americans didn’t care to differentiate between an African-American and a Native American Indian.

It’s time to realize that most of what people think they know about Indigenous cultures is incorrect (sometimes to the point of mythology), and that most of what’s true about Indigenous peoples and history is ignored or rewritten to fit an agenda.

In 1999, the Montana Legislature passed into law HB 528 known as “Indian Education For All.”  The upswing is that racist attitudes towards Indigenous peoples has dropped significantly in the school system, and Native American Indians are known to be part of today’s society.

While it’s true that the Trail of Tears, the Sand Creek Massacre, the Wounded Knee Massacre, and the assimilation policies the American and Canadian governments hoped would wipe out Indigenous peoples as an ethnic group are responsible for the deaths of millions or First Nations peoples, these events did not make Aboriginals extinct peoples.

Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.

Chief Seattle, 1854

It’s time people who aren’t familiar with the facts about First Nations peoples sat down and learned the facts instead of running on empty.  Your lives will forever be enriched by adding another layer of fact to history.

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING

Anachronism and American Indians
http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2008/11/18/anachronism-and-american-indians/

The Case Of The Missing Indian Reservations
http://drawingonindians.blogspot.com/2011/05/case-of-missing-indian-reservations.html

NCAI Congratulates Google On Changes To Better Acknowledge Tribal Nations On Google Maps
http://www.ncai.org/news/articles/2014/12/19/ncai-congratulates-google-on-changes-to-better-acknowledge-tribal-nations-on-google-maps

Six Ridiculous Lies You Believe About The Founding Of America
http://www.cracked.com/article_19864_6-ridiculous-lies-you-believe-about-founding-america.html

Strange Tan Blotches In South Dakota: Indian Reservations In Online Maps
http://drawingonindians.blogspot.com/2011/02/strange-tan-blotches-in-south-dakota.html

U.S. Schools Are Teaching Our Children That Native Americans Are History
http://www.psmag.com/books-and-culture/u-s-schools-teaching-children-native-americans-history-95324

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