By Levi Rickert
Opinion. The internet has made our world smaller. What is published online in the United States is read in Europe and other parts of the world.
Last month, I received an email from an Italian sculptor who asked me a series of questions relating to the treatment of Native Americans in the United States. He asked questions based on his observations as a European.
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He writes, “I feel like if there were ‘underdog classes’, Native Americans would be in the last class, when I think they should be in the first class! (unwanted irony).
I thought I’d answer his questions in a column so others living overseas — and in the United States — might have a better understanding of Native Americans.
Question: I notice that there is a lot of talk about the rights of African Americans, the rights of sexual minorities or the rights of other minorities in general. Is there a difference in how Native Americans are treated?
Answer: There has been great progress in other minority or marginalized communities and this is largely based on the fact that, as you mentioned, other movements and minorities are addressed in school curricula, they are represented in various forms of pop culture media and platforms. . They have both a critical mass and an ally, because we talk about their experiences. For our Native American/Indigenous populations, we have no critical mass, alliance or representation and we have been politically alienated from the United States of America narrative. These factors cause us to fall behind other marginalized populations in our progress towards equity.
Question: Do you know if there are movements of American Indians, or individual native figures (writers, artists and journalists), who speak precisely about this particular aspect, that is to say the class differentiation among the oppressed ? I also see a lack of pressure groups for Native Americans.
Answer: Fortunately, there have been Native Americans who have spoken out and fought for the rights of Indigenous peoples throughout our history.
In 1969, a group occupied Alcatraz Island to draw attention to the mistreatment of natives. Around the same time, the American Indian Movement emerged as an organization that had its origins in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, which first spoke out against police brutality against Native Americans there.
In recent years, the resistance at Standing Rock, when dozens of citizens and tribal allies traveled to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to rally against the encroachment of the Dakota Access Pipeline on ancestral lands and waterways of the Lakota people. This anti-pipeline movement began with tribal youths who sought to protect Mother Earth from big oil.
We are represented in many areas of government policy making with national organizations such as the National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Health Council, National Indian Gaming Association, for n to name a few.
Since the early 1900s, our tribal nations have created places of gathering, camaraderie and influence in federal policy-making. We have many people who have had access to the policy tables and we are increasing our alliance and our critical mass where it counts.
Even though each tribal nation is independent of each other, working collectively together as sovereign nations has allowed us to make progress.
From your point of view, there is a lack of awareness of Native Americans because of the media. This lack of awareness has led to a general lack of power and voice.
This is one of the reasons I started Native News Online over ten years ago. I recognized the need for Native Americans to have a voice in America.
Question: While researching the Internet, I looked at several Native American web pages and often saw pictures of veterans who fought in World War II. Many Native Americans of North America fought in World War II. The photos present these veterans as heroes and very proud of what they have done.
What drove Native Americans to fight in an army that slaughtered and exterminated them a hundred years earlier? How do you fight for a nation and an army, which occupied your lands, destroyed your people and your culture?
While part of your question is true in that there were mass atrocities committed against Native Americans, the fact remains that some of us remained on the land once inhabited by our ancestors. Many Native Americans feel compelled to fight the land of our ancestors.
Answer: Historically, American Indians were known as warriors. It is a deep tradition that has been perpetuated until modern times. Perhaps that’s why the Pentagon reports that American Indians and Alaska Natives participate in the military at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.
For more than 200 years, Native Americans fought valiantly in the United States military even before Native Americans gained American citizenship in 1924.
The rich contributions of Native American code-speakers during World War II have been chronicled in recent years. Their codes were never broken — an example of the power of the indigenous language available to those who spoke it at the time. The Aboriginal language helped save democracy during World War II. Ironically, this precious language was beaten by this generation in Indian boarding schools in the United States and Canada. Fortunately, the language survived.
I fully appreciate the Italian sculptor’s interest in our natives and his gaze which raised great questions. If you have any questions about Native Americans, please send your questions to [email protected]
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