From my observations, the United States’ history is not as clean as the education system might present in its curricula. This country was built on stolen cultures and legacies. Our country was built on stealing the cultural expressions and subverting the great legacies of the original people, one of those legacies being the Native American people. Native American history is often omitted or altered in textbooks included in school curricula.
Georgianna Lincoln, a prominent Native political leader, reviewed American history textbooks from elementary school through college and found that native peoples are heavily misrepresented. Lincoln found that the textbooks portrayed them as savages. For example, these books do not explain how they become chiefs, how they determined boundaries, what the family structure was like or details as simple as transportation before the influx of white settlers. Their suffering is usually overlooked or just forgotten.
There are approximately 627 treaties between the U.S. government and Native American peoples, according to the “American Indians Truth” radio program in July 2015. But guess what — our federal government broke every last one of them, never followed through with one treaty, according to the same radio program. Before white Europeans landed in America, there were 1,200 thriving native tribes. But when the Europeans got here, the governments they set up manipulated the native peoples and conducted heinous genocidal practices on them. Because of their actions, there are a little over 500 tribes existing today.
The very little history we do know about native peoples isn’t enough. Our textbooks in high school and college don’t necessarily inform us that Benjamin Franklin — along with the “founding fathers” of the U.S. — “befriended” the Iroquois tribe and created the U.S. constitution. However, the ideas and principles in it were stolen from a document known as “The Great Law of Peace” written by the Iroquois Confederacy, according to the same “American Indians Truth” broadcast.
I never understood how any human being can take pride in the stealing and the raping of a people. I never understood the patriotism of a nation that practices the same barbaric tactics they did while conquering other nations centuries ago, seen today in the Middle East.
This generation is finally waking up to the problems that are often swept under the rug and completely go unnoticed. Today, we have movements that challenge the fundamental structures of society. Raising awareness to the physical and mental state of the Red community builds solidarity with the native peoples of this land. To show that, we must draw attention to their well being.
For example, in their communities there is a staggering suicide rate. Forty percent of suicides are between the ages of 18-24, according to the Washington Post in March 2014. Their graduation rate is 17 percent — that’s lower than the national average, according to the same article. Where is the national awareness for this? Where are the commercials and heavily funded foundations for this? Within the reservations, there is an abundance of human trafficking crimes that are not brought to light, according to Indian Country Today Media Network May 2015. Human trafficking in this community dates back to the very first day Columbus arrived, according to the same article. He provided indigenous women to his crew to do with them what they wanted — but very few people have bothered to research facts like these that contradict what is considered common sense.
There is a quote that always reminds and motivates me to be well-informed and bring awareness to the struggle by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, “our unity is more powerful than an atomic or hydrogen bomb.” True unity is what will produce change — it is what will prevent cultures from being forgotten the way Native American culture is today. I’m not just talking about sit-ins and protests — I’m talking about coming together for economic empowerment.
What does this have to do with understanding the Native American culture? By uniting and pooling our resources, we as a nation can come together and create our own corporations and our own textbooks that will provide the full truth and not negate or fabricate anyone’s struggles. For example as a first step, we could stop shopping at Walmart, Target or Schnucks. What would happen if we stop buying Coca Cola products? We could easily shut down much of America’s economy just on those corporations alone and nonviolently because America’s source of power is consumption.
Taking away from businesses and corporations that rarely help underrepresented communities will put a dent in America financially. With the unity of underrepresented communities, they wouldn’t need any assistance from this government and they wouldn’t be suffering the way that they are today.