Native Americans (by -13,000), also called American Indians or just Indians, are those people who are native to the Americas, who were living there before Columbus arrived in 1492. Examples: Navajos, Aztecs and Comanches.
About 1% of the people in the US are Native. This post is about them.
Culture: mostly Anglo American. That comes partly from the Indian Boarding Schools of the late 1800s and early 1900s, where Whites separated Native children from their parents and forced them to take on White American ways. For years Natives had no freedom of religion. Some of their languages are dead, others are barely hanging on.
Land: Now known as the US. For hundreds of years Whites have been separating Natives from their land – by massacre, war, ethnic cleansing (Long Walks, Trails of Tears), genocide, broken treaty, and so on.
Reservations: Even the bits of land Natives still have left, called reservations, are controlled by the US government, which often favours, say, mining companies over Natives.
Sovereignty: control of their own government, laws, land, schools, etc. On paper the Indian nations that are left are on an equal footing with the US. But in practice the US government and its courts have done little to uphold treaty rights.
Both the Black model of civil rights and the White model of “a nation of immigrants” sidestep the issue of sovereignty. Blacks can also be viewed as a nation within a nation that lacks sovereignty.
Blacks and Natives face many of same issues: racial profiling, police brutality, high rates of imprisonment, unemployment and poverty, lack of good schools, shortened lives, internalized racism, cultural destruction, cultural appropriation, stereotypes, racial slurs, media misrepresentation, etc. Unlike Blacks, they have high rates of suicide.
Counter-frame: Natives counter the White racial frame in many of the same ways as Blacks – stereotypes are untrue, Whites are hypocritical, etc – but add to it:
- Treaty rights;
- Whites as despiritualizing the universe just as they dehumanize people of colour;
- UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Stereotypes: The main stereotypes about Natives are the Noble Savage and the Merciless Savage. The one too good to be true, the other too evil to be true.
The two most damaging parts of the savage stereotype:
- Natives are naturally more violent than Whites.
- Natives are seen through a deficiency model where their lack of Westernization is viewed as being “backwards”.
The lies taught at US high schools (as of 2007):
- North America was mostly empty.
- Natives were backwards, too backwards to learn how to farm.
- Natives are incapable of change.
- The tragedy was unavoidable.
These are galling and self-serving. In 1491, for example, what would become the US was no emptier than it was in the pre-industrial 1840s. Most Natives were farmers. To this day White Americans get most of their food, in one form or other, from maize, a plant that Natives taught them how to plant! It was Natives who got it to grow well in what is now the US.
– Abagond, 2016.
- also in this series
- National Museum of the American Indian
- The three pillars of American white supremacy
- Western views
- Real Indians
- growing up Native American
- John Trudell
- Sacheen Littlefeather
- Adam Fortunate Eagle Nordwall
- Wamsutta James
- John Mohawk
- Sherman Alexie
- Fake Indians
- -1500: Olmec heads
- +300: Teotihuacan
- 1050: Cahokia
- 1311: Abubakari II ??
- 1492: Columbus
- 1492: The Taino genocide
- 1499: Amerigo Vespucci
- 1500s: Basque whalers
- 1531: Our Lady of Guadalupe
- 1545: Potosi
- 1551: The Valladolid Debate
- 1613: Juan Rodriguez
- 1626: “Manhattan was sold for $24”
- 1637: Mystic massacre
- 1700s: Notes towards a Native American history of George Washington
- 1749: Junipero Serra
- 1800s: Manifest Destiny
- 1838: The Cherokee Trail of Tears
- 1864: Sand Creek Massacre
- 1880s: Racializing Native Montana
- 1930: Mount Rushmore
- 1947: Chief Wahoo
- 1969: The Occupation of Alcatraz