Basic Call to Consciousness
History & Imagery
In the Beginning
First Nations Governance
Trail of Tears
Impact of European Immigrants
Called ‘Indian’ or....
Cultural Genocide - Boarding schools
Native Values &
Way of Life
Living Two Lives
Leaders or Rulers
Written or Oral
In the Beginning
In the Beginning - the First European arrivals to this land. Christopher Columbus, from Spain, arrived on the shores of what is called San Salvador Island, an island and of the Bahamas in 1492. The Island people treated the Spanish strangers with peaceful hospitality and generosity, as was their custom. The European, although commenting on the People’s sweetness and gentleness, because they were also naked, this was all taken as signs of weakness and heathenism. Over the next four centuries millions of European immigrants and their descendants, as a result of their unquestioned belief in their racial superiority, undertook the task of imposing and enforcing their customs, beliefs, religion and language upon the people they found living in the New World--and who had been living in organized societies for thousands of years.
This same racial superiority was exhibited in Jamestown, Virginia. A Dutch slave trader exchanged his cargo of Africans for food in 1619. The Africans became indentured servants, similar in legal position to many poor Englishmen who traded several years labor in exchange for passage to America. The popular conception of a racial-based slave system did not develop, however, until the 1680’s. The legal end to slavery did not occur until December 1865--spanning almost 200 years when the Northern abolitionist States, winning of the Civil War against the proponents of slave-owning in the South, ended slavery.
European immigrants to this land, from the fifteenths century on, portrayed the First People, Asians, Africans & Pacific Islanders as a godless, ignorant and savage people desperately needing to be so-called civilized. This practice continues; it has become painfully obvious in Iraq. The U.S. administration, it’s disguised mercenary motives now revealed, invading Iraq to bring a so-called better way of life to the poor Iraqis. Of course, they, like First People of this land, are all but destroyed in the process of our improvement of them. Like the Iraqi’s, there was something that the European immigrants wanted from First People--they wanted the land upon which the indigenous peoples lived and they wanted the gold in the hills of the sacred burial grounds of their ancestors. They wanted access to the cotton on the land where Natives lived in the Southeast. Today, our government wants access to the ‘black gold’, known as oil in the land of Iraq; while corporations seek operations free from U.S. governmental restrictions, there.
First Nations Governance
When the European immigrants arrived on the shores of the so-called New World in the early 1600’s, the First Nations People of the Northeast--League of Iroquois--welcomed them and taught the new arrivals survival skills & planting methods in an unfamiliar land, as well as directions on setting up a partnership model of governance unknown to those first settlers. The League of the Iroquois were comprised by five sovereign nations who had a council composed of delegates called caucuses which originates from the People. Unlike the European immigrants’ model of government of monarchy: kings and queens and their class system of higher and lower, the League of the Iroquois blended the sovereignty of their several nations into one government. Our forefathers, escaping oppression in their homeland, adopted this concept in creating the Constitution, and today we call this a federal system whereby states monitor their own affairs and the national government regulates all affairs in common. The Iroquois Confederacy exhibited an advanced social organization requiring no written laws, no police, no jails, no lawsuits. Honor and truthfulness were inner guides in their society. In fact, lying in Indian nations was punishable by death.
In Profiles of Wisdom, author Steven McFadden interviewed Slow Turtle of the Wampanoag Nation in what is now called Massachusetts, who states: “We had democracy here before the Europeans came, but we had spirituality in our democracy. We had respect for each other, respect for differences in other people’s way of life. This is a partnership model of governance. White people don’t allow for that in their system, today. They have removed the spirit out of democracy, so it can’t work right--because there’s no respect.
“You’ve got a power structure here; you've got the pyramid type of government. For Native People of this land, our form of government was always in a Circle. There was never a hierarchy. Our traditional form of government is always in that Circle where everyone contributes. When you contribute that way, then you become part of the whole. And so we all considered each other equals. No one was ever greater or lesser than the other person. It doesn’t matter that I’m a medicine man--I’m no greater than anyone else, and I understand that. I just have a position. We don’t have that hierarchy and for that reason we don’t have the competition and the jealousies that go with it. And we don’t have the fears that the rest of society has, and the anxieties, and all those kinds of things where you have a few people at the top who have it all, and the rest are always wanting something they don’t have.”
The welcome and assistance offered by the tribes was gradually and increasingly repaid by ingratitude and aggression as more boat-loads of immigrants moved onto the land in search of their own land. First Nations Peoples who inhabited their long-time ancestral areas were being pushed back by the immigrants who wanted The People’s land. First People were asked to sell their land to the immigrants or the government would take it from them. Superior European weaponry and European disease overcame the First People - their nations were forced off the lands where they had lived - Reservations were established and required re-locations, often to the poorest soil and in the most undesired locations - First Nations’ children were taken from their families and required to attend boarding schools-or were ‘adopted’ by White families - their native languages, traditions, and spirituality were stripped from them and forbidden - European language, customs, clothing and religion were foisted upon the First People in their arrogant and xenophobic belief that these Indian ways were "savage" and "uncivilized" and that these "ignorant" Indian people were in need of being taught a better--meaning, Christian--way of life.
Natives removal from their land was two-fold: the Indians were viewed as impeding progress and expansion of white settlers; Indians were viewed as dangerous and uncivilized, and the whites--government coveted the gold along with other natural resources found on Native land. So, Indians had to be moved. The arrogance of ethnocentrism of the Europeans--they saw the Indian as heathen; and the xenophobia of the European mind-set all contributed to a near annihilation of a People who listened to and lived close to the earth.
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