November is Native American History month. I am always prompted to write about my heritage during this month specifically because I don’t think that enough is widely known about this beautiful group of people, which are my family.
My teenage daughter has never, been taught anything about Native American History in her school system; in fact the only information she has…comes from our conversations. I, of course, do not mind telling her about my heritage…as I find it to be the most significant thing about me. This week, however I posed a question to myself and did some research to try and understand why we don’t hear anyone speak in a Native American tongue. I wanted to understand what happened when Native children were placed on reservations. The information I found was startling and disturbing.
It all started with something called “Kill the Indian and save the man”. The title alone left me in chills. How does one separate the two? What I learned brought me to tears. Native American children were placed in boarding schools, under the guise of giving them the benefit of an “American” education. Their culturally significant hair was cut, so the children wouldn’t stand out. The children were also told that if they spoke in their native language or spoke of their culture, they would be punished. And, dear readers, they were severely punished. The children that attended the boarding schools were as young as 6 years of age. The children who had difficulty remembering to not speak in their indigenous language were beaten and made to eat soap. I even read about an incident where a young boy died from choking on the soap. As a result of this conditioning the children and later adults became afraid to speak or participate in their own culture. The way they dressed was changed, as it was part of the Americanization process which was started by George Washington.
These indigenous people were forbidden from participating in their traditional dances and feasts, polygamy, funeral practices and the “medicine men” were prohibited in the ways of their culture. The people of the United States also felt that it was the responsibility to convert the indigenous culture to Christianity and suppress the native religions and practices that had been a part of their culture. This practice was referred to as “making apples”; where the man would be red on the outside, yet cultured to be white on the inside. In fact, if a Native American was found guilty of practicing “heathen rituals” it was punishable by serving up to 30 years in prison, until the law changed in 1978.
I found these facts to be very unsettling. I was upset by this because these practices are just another way for man to try and control another group of people…using fear.
Please understand that we were not placed on this earth to manipulate or control anyone else. It is our nature to be loving…we were created to do so. It is never okay to degrade or tear another person or group of people down. One culture, religion or race is not better than the other. We are one group of beings…always created to be ONE with our Creator. It does not matter by what name we refer to Him. We are supposed to find peace and give it others. We are supposed to love ALL people, not just those who we understand or those who have an understanding of us. It is our job to promote the love of God, who is the Creator of all things. We have no right to restrict, ban, isolate, or segregate people from their way of life. It is not fair nor is it GODLY of us to say that a group of people must adhere to our culture…or else.
I am of Indigenous descent…I am proud of my culture. Unfortunately, this blog is necessary. It is necessary because if we do not change our way of thinking…we will continue to hold back entire groups of people. We are brothers and sisters under God’s Heaven…we should start behaving as such.