On native grounds
In "On native grounds,"
Philip Jenkins traces the
shifting image of the Native
American in the eyes of
the broader culture, which
over the past century has
increasingly seen America’s
first inhabitants as models of
ecological stewardship living
in spiritual harmony with the
land. As the new National
Museum of the American
Indian opens in Washington,
how should the country
understand the role Native
Americans have played in
our history and culture?
We should view the American Indians with great reverence. Before the first settlers set foot on this land, there were over 300 distinct tribes, all with their own unique differences in language, religion and sciences, honed over thousands of years which aided them in surviving this amazing, yet harsh country. We, as Americans, owe a lot to this knowledge and way of life. If it wasn't for their help, the English would most likely not have been the ones to successfully settle the East coast. We, as Americans, have a long way to go to achieve the same harmony in life as the Native Americans possesed before we arrived. It is now our time to pay attention to Mother Earth, Father Sky and all that dwells between, and learn from those that have come before, to become true stewards of this awe inspiring land.
Carlos , Boston
I get livid when I hear, usually politicians, say, "We are all immigrants. Our families came to this country for a better life." Hey folks, you found US here. We were not lost. We had our own culture. We don't need the Statue of Liberty to greet you. We had our ancestors kindly treat your invading people. If only they could have seen into the future, your folks would have been sent home within a few days. We don't need your faces carved on Mt. Rushmore or Stone Mountain. Besides wiping out many of our Nations you wiped out the animals and serenity of an entire land. What did we get? Disease, rats, and the likes of so called President Andrew Jackson, broken treaties, and reservations and poverty.
YellowBird OnWing, Pembroke, GA
We, the white invaders, conquerors, and settlers, from the first have perceived the Native peoples as a threat to our existence and have tried every means to eradicate them, from trickery to massacre to displacement. We need to allow them to build not only a museum to their culture, but to live as fully in the first class citizen environment of their own lands and traditions, helping them to bring to reality what we consider the basics of living such as clean water systems, electricity, decent housing and schools, and educational opportunities. They do not need our charity as they have learned how to generate their own monies through casinos. While that may be a sad commentary on what they emulate from exposure to the white culture, it does give them a viable autonomy. What it does not give them is the wisdom to handle the responsibilities inherent with wealth. Maybe that's because our white leaders have not shown wisdom in handling those responsibilities, only greed. This is where the white culture needs to step up to the plate. That is not to say that the Native peoples do not have qualified leaders among their own, but without the white culture backing and cooperation in context with the Native culture(s), the burden of bringing the Native peoples fully into the 21st century is not only daunting, but a veiled disguise designed to maintain the status quo. With fewer and fewer friends around the world today, doesn't it seem only logical that we, the white culture, need to start mending the broken and misperceived relationship(s) within our own country and rebuild ourselves into a true living of what our nation stands for? This is not so hard. It only means we stop being greedy, stop being narrow-minded and self-serving, stop living in the downward spiral of class and ethnic separation, stop cooperating with the hypocrites who have kept most of us white class in pseudo comfort. Start living what the majority of white Americans really in their hearts believe, that we all have the right to the pursuit of happiness, the right to a good education, and the right to live peacefully.
Camille, New Durham, NH
We should understand Native Americans, simply, as people. They are part of the wonderful variation of humanity, who managed to survive (and thrive) in spite of being horrifically penalized by intolerance and an unwillingness to appreciate that variation.
What happened to the Native Americans when foreigners came to this land was just the begining of what has escalated and continues to this day Still today as our government oppresses other world cultures as we deem what they ought to be,... in the name of freedom, economic and christian beliefs that are hypocritical at best. For all time,..not just with native americans, the pattern of our governments behaviour is so self evident it's pathetic,....but nothing ever changes does it. We oppress and inflict our self proclaimed superiority for reasons of greed and capitalistic supremicy over all other cultures to suit our definition. Injustice then and injustice now! What started with oppressing native americans has now come home to roost with the world despising all we stand for as a people. No museum of any kind is restitution for that wrong. We continues with our behaviourial trademark and the worlds sees clearly.
I think we did them wrong. if you look at history, many times the native Americans conformed what the government wanted. The government broke all of the treaties and agreements. The native american should be the number one minority in this country. We owe them alot back.
The role.. They were standing on the shores when Christopher Columbus "discovered" America and immediately began wholesale slaughter and enslavement of the Native Americans. They saved the pilgrims and three years later were slaughtered by Miles Standish..They were the victims of Biological Warfare when Jeffrey Amherst ordered that Smallpox laden blankets be distributed to the Native Americans at Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania in order to exterminate them to seize their lands for European colonization. Call them "Victims" of European avarice and greed. They are owed up to 200 billion dollars stolen from their trust fund. They are victims alright and will remain victims as long as the "Carpetbaggers" have Native Americans as window dressings soothing the Natives while the whites pee down their backs and call it rain.
Curtis, Tanana, Alaska
Narive Americans, like any other people trying to survive and see a better day for the future offspring, have played a myriad of roles in the development of American cultures (North and South). To limit them to one or two roles is to make them 1 or 2 dimensional rather than real people. To me, though, their most important role is that of fighting successfully to maintain their existence as separate peoples. Particularly those who maintain traditional ways stand in stark, beautiful, contrast to the commercial and consumption culture that has sucked in white, black, and brown alike. As those who proclaim their love for the American earth as their mother, not merely as a commodity to be exploited, they spritually are now, where our ancestors were with the grounds under their feet in Europe, Africa, and Asia, and where a century from now I trust we also will be.
Ray, Woodbridge, VA
The Natives of this great land were the most beautiful race that ever existed. They were clean, respectful, and only took what they needed, nothing more. Learning from their ways and spirit is the only hope we have to save what's left of our environment. They knew how to live in harmony with the earth, and the lessons they can teach us are the only hope we have. It's a shame what the settlers did to them.
People need to realize that Native Americans are victims of genocide. Not only did European settlers invade their land and conquer their tribes, but they destroyed their homes, their food supply, and their culture. The US Government moved entire tribes hundreds of miles to land that was nearly unfit for habitation. They sent the Army to crush any tribes that resisted. The US Government duped Native Americans into signing treaties they barely understood, and broke them when it was convenient. As a result, what used to be hundreds of unique cultures with thriving civilizations were reduced to far smaller groups who were and, to a lesser extent, still are dependent on their conquerors for survival. With this in mind, Native Americans need to be remebered as people who helped European settlers adapt to a harsh environment thus facilitating our survival, and were severely punished for doing so.