Today our country celebrates our independence and we remember the declaration of independence which laid the foundation for our democracy. President Jefferson was a gifted writer but he was not addressing all Americans. If you were white, Anglo-Saxon and protestant then this document rang true for you. All others need not apply.
The founding fathers had these words to say about our people. When they say he they meant the King of England at the time. “He has excited domestic resurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare , is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.”
The part I want to focus on in merciless Indian savages.
Merciless would be the last word you would use to describe our people in 1776. We took very good care of our families. Child abuse and neglect were almost nonexistent. Homelessness was not an issue as everyone was taken care of. Poverty was unheard of as everyone shared what they had. When non-Indians were captured by our people and they were returned to their families a number of them would go back to the Tribes who took them in because they felt they were treated better. It never happened the other way around when non-Indians took our people as prisoners and they returned to their people. Generosity is one of our traditional values and it is still one we follow. If we hadn’t shared corn and other food crops with the early settlers many of them would have died and they might never have colonized the United States. How soon we forget.
Indian is not the name we go by. As you all know Columbus was trying to find Indian and thought he had found it and thus we were given this name. We are very grateful he wasn’t searching for Turkey. Ahhhhhh! We prefer to be called by our Tribal names be it Lakota, Dine’ Anishinabe, Salish or countless others too numerous to name here. Many Tribes have gone back to their traditional names which is a way of reclaiming our identity and it also strengthens Tribal sovereignty.
Savages is a despicable name and is another way to dehumanize our people. If you think this is just a term of the past and it is no longer in use there are other words that have similar meanings which are socially acceptable in many circles. Exhibit one would be the Washington Redskins. Can you imagine a name like the Washington Chinks, the Washington Wetbacks, or the Washington Sambos? This would never happen in a million years as the blowback would be swift and appropriate. And yet it is o.k. to continue to use the term Redskins in this context. It is true we have other issues but this is just one of the many ways we continue to be oppressed and disrespected.
The definition of savage is a member of a people regarded as primitive and uncivilized. On this day let us remember that the three branches of our government come from the Iroquois Confederacy not from Greece which never had a true democracy. In many ways we were a very advanced civilization. Just because we did not have some of the same technology as the Europeans does not mean that we were not wise to the ways of the world. We were the last group of people to be given the right to vote in the United States in 1924 even though this country was founded on the principles of our government.
Many of our people have served in the military going back to when our country was founded. Let us remember those who have sacrificed so much so that we can celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as Americans today.