Dear friend, I know you have been asking questions recently about Native Americans regarding their experiences, political and cultural issues throughout history, and how legislation has worked towards helping us as well as against us. I am writing to you today to try to answer some of your questions and to help you understand my people a bit better. If by the end of this letter you still have questions or concerns, I will do my best to help you find the answers.
Native American Indians were here long before the European settlers came to the United States. My people originally greeted the Europeans in the 16th and 17th centuries with delight. Soon after the arrival of the first white people, the Native Americans learned that many more were coming. These new white people were coming in overwhelming numbers, and they were bringing new diseases never seen before with them. The new diseases included small pox, yellow fever, measles, cholera, and many more. All of the new diseases were devastating the numbers of Native Americans, severely diminishing the population, and even killing off entire villages at a time. Between the diseases and the wars with the new white people, the population of Native Americans was declining severely. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Jackson. This allowed him to move southern Native Americans to federal lands so that white people could take over their homelands. The Battle of the Bighorn, also known as Custard’s Last Stand, took place in 1876. In the year 1890 the Battle at Wounded Knee took place. Native Americans were taken from their homes, forbidden to speak their native language, and had their culture taken away from them. Many dies on what is now known as the trail of tears, which was the relocation program when the Native Americans were forced to move. Children were taken away from their parents and sent away to schools where they were forced to become civilized in the eyes of the white people. The Indian Citizenship Act was signed into law in 1924. This granted legal citizenship to Native American tribes. Although Native Americans are not discriminated against as much today as in the past, many are not the people their ancestors were. There are more than 2.48 million Native American in the United States, but many are not the strong, resilient, resourceful people we used to be. The unemployment rate is five times higher in Native Americans than in general population, and many are suffering from depression, alcoholism, and even suicidal tendencies.
The Europeans viewed Native Americans spirituality as superstitions and devil worship. When they were forced to move to the federal reservations, they were also forced into Christianity. Unless you were born into the culture or have lived in it for an extended amount of time, it is very difficult to learn about it or understand it. Most authentic Native Americans are not forthcoming with information because they consider their faith and their culture sacred. There are many people in the world who think they know more than they do or that pretend to know about the traditional ways of life, religion, and culture, but they do not. They are spreading lies and passing them off as facts. Native Americans are so closed minded to outsiders because of this; we are tired of being portrayed in a false light. There are little legal resources available to Native Americans to protect traditional spiritual places. The new age ceremonies such as powwows are offensive to authentic Native Americans. The sacred pipe should never be sold or offered to non-Native Americans as it is in the powwows and at flea markets. Another issue is how television and the movies portray Naïve Americans. Native American people are being portrayed however outsiders want us to be. They create story lines and plots with no regard to our traditions, or the truth. All of this public exploitation of Native Americans in a false light