ON BEING AN AMERICAN INDIAN
STEREOTYPE & REALITY
This is what it is to be Indian !
My people, Native American Indians, have among the non-Indian American people, almost as many stereotypes as we have tribes: the stoic, the drunk, the savage, the noble red man, the meek "squaw", the proud princess, the pathetic Indian; all of these types drawn against the image of a nickel Indian profile or dream world valiant Pocahontas.
We suffer from being asked stereotypical questions also: Are you a real Indian? How do you say something in Indian? Why can't you Indians get together and unite? Can you do the Indian dance?
These stereotypes imply that we Native American Indian people are all one and the same. We are not. The American non-Indian's failure to recognize the distinctness of one tribal Nation from another has resulted in a tremendous cultural loss to the United States. Such a monumental oversight might be excused by the fact that the Europeans who first invaded these shores could not understand each other.
The Norwegians, Italians, Spanish, Dutch, French, and English presumably could not compare among themselves their experiences with the newly "discovered" native. Had they done so, they might have perceived that there were national cultural differences among the native people, similar to what they themselves experienced.
Through the ensuing centuries to the present moment, however, ignorance seems the only explanation for why the descendants of those early Caucasians were still unaware of the diversity of American Indian tribal cultures. This national blindness has not only distorted American History, it has created a situation which diminishes the impact of the one universal quality that did indeed apply to all of America's indigenous peoples.
Every tribe surrounded itself in beauty regardless of region or mode of existence. Some tribes were agricultural people, some were forest people, some were desert people, some were fishing folk and some were wanderers; each was of a culture that included as part of their natural lifestyle what today is described as the arts.
Clans had their own songs, their own poems, their family symbols; tribes had their own dances, their own religious ceremonies, and their own stories, which today are called myths/tales by non-Indians. Theirs was a natural and effortless Life Beautiful.
Thus an entire race has been denied its one genuine identifying characteristic, lost in the imposed stereotypical images which are rampant in the non-Indian American mind. Even the word "Indian" is not my true name, for it is created and lives in men's minds.
We descendants of America's aborigines are trying to re-establish our proper cultural legacy. We have managed to undo the horrendous federal program initiated in the 1950's whereby Native American Indian people were removed from reservations to certain selected cities to be taught vocations that would enable them to earn livings.
The vocations were such as shoe repairer, beautician, machinist: all trades which required manual dexterity but which permitted no freedom of spirit to apply that manual dexterity to beauty of design. The relocation program was wasteful, and worse, it was spiritually detrimental.
History upon these shores has always seemed to be a battle between people advocating love and respect, and those advocating enslavementónot merely restricted to physical enslavement, but that which also encompasses thoughts and ideals.
We are different than the American culture, and those differences will always prevail as long as there is one last Indian alive. We will never become a part of the American dream of a national melting pot.
Our spiritual values, our love and respect for the Mother Earth and all Her inhabitants, and how we conduct ourselves in this world in pursuit of truth, humbleness and humility, honor, and grateful respect for all life, and all things, are our one true image despite individual tribal differences.
The American society's egocentric values, motivations, and pursuits are alien and unacceptable to my beliefs. And they are temporary, ephemeral, and do not contribute to peace and the sanctity of living. They only substitute for a spiritual lack or void. All that ever was, is, and ever will be is internal. Knowledge of, and the living of this is what characterizes the true "Indian" identity and the mark of "Indian's" which transcends tribal differences and unites us as a race, as one people.
Only when the non-Indian American understands and makes the necessary transformation of the essence of mankind: from hate into love, selfishness into generosity, aggression into peace, greed into generosity, will he know me and my peopleóhe will not refer to me as "Indian", a name so misunderstood,
but as "Brother".
We must return to the flow and ebb of life, and move away from embracing too much the false ideals that have been thrust upon my people as being more important. We must return to the memory of who and what we are with basic human rights grounded and founded upon Universal Law and Universal Spiritual Truths. We must return to solidify my tribal instincts which is the real way to self-determination and not the imitation of others.
We must retain our own pride and not substitute it for the standards measured by others, but by ourselves. At that point, we will have self-determination. We must retain to respect differences as well as similarities we find in others. Difference is strength.
Perhaps Native American Indians could one day have the opportunity of reaching the non-Indian world through our one true image, the people who surround in beauty. And that day is today . . .
Written & composed by : J.C. High Eagle Oklahoma 1997
Just what does it mean to be an Indian ? Is is the verification of Aboriginal DNA, a few feathers, an Indian name, the ability to go through traditional ceremonies and rituals, leather garb, or maybe living on a reserve ?
ARE YOU AN INDIAN ? ( or a WINDIAN ? )
These things are often associated with being an Indian, but they are just for outside appearances or to access certain benefits or rewards not afforded the non-Indian population .Being an Indian is much more than the above - mentioned ! It is much more than carrying a card from the Canadian government stating you have " Status " or even being able to access some of the treaty rights.Being a true Indian means you know and respect the ways of the creator and your ancestors . It means you know who you really are in a world of make-believe .It means you actually respect your culture, community and people . And that you understand what it was within your ancestors that allowed them to survive on this land for over 10,000-years or longer without outside assistance or influences.It is the ability to look at yourself in a mirror and see a real Indian instead of a WINDIAN or WHITE-INDIAN who is interested in personal gain through the ancestry that was Indian.It is the ability to give! To give to the community and members purely because of love and respect toward your real family.When you go to bed with a full stomach while other Indians are still hungry, you are a WINDIAN !When you live in a mansion while your Indian cousins live in poverty, you are a WINDIAN !When you make large salaries while other Indians are forced to live in poverty, you are a WINDIAN !When you get a paycheck, and other Indians get a welfare check, you are a WINDIAN !When you drive in a fancy car while the other Indians are required to take a bus, taxi or walk, You are a WINDIAN !When you make over $100,000 a year as the leader of an Indian organization whose members live on welfare or in poverty, You, are a WINDIAN !When you sign special deals over our land & resources, you are a WINDIAN ! ( And you are more of a WINDIAN when these deals omit efforts to have Leonard Pelltier released )You are a WINDIAN when you think and act like a WHITE individual working to promote the corporate structure .You are a WINDIAN when you refuse to join the struggle for the the reclaiming of lost or stolen human, aboriginal and treaty rights passed on to you through your ancestors.You are a WINDIAN when you fail to understand your place in the plan of the Creator.You are a WINDIAN when you refuse to join your INDIAN COMMUNITY as a family member working side by side to allow our descendants to know what being an Indian really means .
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