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Racial Intolerance
and the Native Americans of the
United States of America


Danny Kinser

The purpose of this writing is to discuss racial intolerances, focusing on the struggles of the Native Americans of North America, specifically in the United States of America. Racial Tolerance is nothing new to this world. It has been happening since races became a distinction among people. A good example would be the Jewish people. Everybody knows about the tragedy of the Holocaust, in World War 2, but it didn't start there. Jews have been the target of many races since before biblical times. They were persecuted and hated at that time by the Romans, and still today, Jews of Israel fight against the neighboring Palestinians. Many wars have been fought in the name of racism. The Holy Crusades were an attempt to convert "heathen" Moors and Saracens to Christianity. While this was not totally racially motivated, it was the beliefs of a race that were a catalyst. Later examples of bigotry include slavery of Africans in the New World, and eventually, and in some ways to this day, Native Americans.

Native American Indians have many similarities to other cultures. Time has erased many facts, and caused misrepresentation of others through history. Take Bows and Arrows for an example. Primitive weapon-making, in Native American culture, culminated with the introduction of the bow and arrow approximately 2,500 years ago. This is a relatively recent introduction (or invention) in this part of the world. The earliest known archaeological evidence for the bow and arrow comes from Western Europe, where some Neanderthal sites found are dated to approximately 40,000 years ago. How the spread of such inventions occurred is not fully known, but the Western plains and desert Indians of the US made the most accurate of any ever made.

Another common thread exists in the basic religions of the Native Americans and Europeans who tried to conquer them. While the native religions were very different, they had some of the same values. Sources say that first, at the time of European contact, all but the simplest indigenous cultures in North America had developed coherent religious systems that included cosmologies--creation myths, passed down orally from one generation to the next, which intended to explain how those societies had come into being. Second, most native peoples worshiped an all-powerful, all-knowing Creator or "Master Spirit" (a being that assumed a variety of forms and both genders).

They also revered or appeased a host of lesser supernatural beings, including an evil god who dealt out disaster, suffering, and death. Third and finally, the members of most tribes believed in the immortality of the human soul and an afterlife, the main feature of which was the abundance of every good thing that made earthly life secure and pleasant. Many key Indian religious beliefs and practices bore a great resemblances to those current among early modern Europeans, both Catholic and Protestant.

These cultures, too, credited a creation myth (as set forth in Genesis), venerated a Creator God, dreaded a malicious subordinate deity (Lucifer), and looked forward to the individual soul's immortality in an afterlife superior in every respect to the here and now. They, too, paid honor to their deity with prayers and offerings and relied upon a specially trained clergy (shamans, priests, medicine men) to sustain their societies during periods of crisis.

Movies, in more recent years, have served to educate and distort the truth about Indians in America. Some Movies portrayed whites who learn to admire natives when in their care and friendship, learning their ways of life. Some examples are Dances with Wolves, where a US soldier, sent to fight Indians, "turned native', over time coming to love and respect the ways of the Sioux Indians he met. Comparable to this movie is Quigley Down Under, set amongst the Australian Aborigines.

The hero of the story is left for dead in the Outback, having refused to kill the natives. He is found and nursed to health by the people, and in turn becomes their champion. Another example is Last of the Dogmen, where modern Americans find a hidden tribe of Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, or an elite warrior class of the Cheyenne, who evaded man well enough to be lost in time.

The Dogmen initially take the two Americans captive, but a relationship of admiration and respect develops as barriers are broken and the two races come to share their ideas and ways. Other movies educate us of how Native Americans have made a difference in our country. One such movie is the true story of the Navajo code talkers, who lend their name of "Wildtalkers" to the movie's title. The language of the Navajo is said to be the hardest known language to learn, making it impossible for the Japanese to break the code they spoke in WW2.

Still other movies have underlying messages about a different role played by Indians to the white man, the role of savior. A small scene in the cult classic, Natural Born Killers, shows a Navajo who wishes to exile the demons living inside the murderous white couple. In The Patriot, with Steven Segal, a man-made biological virus is released in a small town in Montana. After exhausted attempts to find modern cures, including a failed vaccine developed with the virus, the cure ends up being a mixture of plants that the Indians used for a native "herbal tea".

There exist, today, some popular inaccuracies based on legend and myth. One is scalping. The Indians actually learned it from the European settlers who attacked their villages. A few Indian tribes had practiced scalping to a very limited extent before the Europeans arrived. More often than not, scalping was practiced as a response in kind. The Apache became masters at the techniques of the Spanish, while the Iroquois people learned their skills from the Dutch settlers who came to their land. Another misrepresentation is Dream Catchers.

They are a popular item sold at shows and in shops, being held as a symbol of all Native Americans. The dream catcher actually was used by one tribe, the Chippewa, and was important to nobody else before the commercialism of "things native" hit the world in modern times. One last great myth has been recently discovered for it's fallacies in the past few years, and that is the true happenings at "Custer's Last Stand"...the Battle of Little Bighorn. Custer was a revered and respected friend of the Indians, who called him Long Hair Custer. All friendship was lost when he followed through on orders to attack several Indian tribes, brutally killing mainly women and children.

The many thousands of warriors, who finished Custer's existence, were camped on the Little Bighorn River, having run from the US Soldiers commanded by Custer. The death of the general was retaliation, not a deliberate attack of the Indians. Custer brought the fight to a large force of Indians, again mostly women and children. When the warriors were alerted, they made their way to the action to protect their loved ones. Custer disregarded the safety of his men and orders to wait for the incoming reinforcements. Had he followed orders, instead of seeking the glory for himself, he may have lived to tell the tale himself.

To his credit, he had no idea of the massive force he was up against. Another fact, destroyed by myth and Hollywood, is how he met his end. Custer is shown in movies fighting to the end, circled by his dead troops, gallantly fending off hundreds of charging savages with two revolvers. In fact, modern forensics proves that he in fact died of a self inflicted wound, having used the common practice of saving the last bullet for himself. In the teachings of the day, it was indeed a brave act to do, but for some reason history was recorded making Custer a hero.

In the infancy of our great country, an Eastern "civilized" tribe was being maligned by the U.S. Government. The Cherokee, who lived on forty thousand square miles of the United States, occupied most of Kentucky, Tennessee, portions of Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas, as well as Virginia and West Virginia. The Cherokee were not warriors or wanderers, but organized into a community of hunters, trappers, herb gatherers, planters, tradesmen, craftsmen, artisans, and teachers. In 1809, laws were enacted by the Cherokee national council; by 1819, a government commission was established with legislative powers, guaranteed by law, in a committee of thirteen elected members; in 1827, a constitution was ratified and a legislative body composed of two houses was formed, resembling today's U.S. Congress. The Cherokee also developed a written syllabary, or alphabet system, as well as a court system, school system, a publishing house, and an international bilingual newspaper. These are well defined standards of a civilized people.

Sequoya, a Cherokee intellect, was born around 1760. He is credited with the invention of the Cherokee written language, the only among Native American tribes at this time. As a young man he was a fine hunter, warrior, trader, and silver craftsman. Also an able linguist, he learned French, Spanish, and English. Sequoya was determined to preserve Cherokee culture. Recognizing the power of the written word, Sequoya developed a Cherokee syllabary of 86 symbols by adapting letters of the English alphabet to represent sounds in the Cherokee tongue. The generally accepted date for its completion is 1821, although Cherokee tradition dates the syllabary earlier. Although there is some question whether Sequoya was its inventor, he certainly popularized the syllabary, which led to the founding of the Cherokee Phoenix, a Cherokee language newspaper, on Feb. 21, 1828.

This written language, and the other advancements, were achieved without influence from the Europeans who were invading their lands. Modernizations in Cherokee government were not only great, but also fast. Only three years after their constitution was written and their factions joined a nation, eighteen schools were established; the first school after only one year. Just 7 years after removal, the Cherokee Advocate, Oklahoma's first newspaper, was published. It was written in both English and Sequoya's syllabary. This international paper joined the Cherokee Phoenix as two publications made by the people. Their government and way of life were so admired and respected that Europeans and Americans came to visit these people. The greatest source of amazement came from the fact that "primitive" people had become so civilized in only two generations.

The Cherokee were at peace with their neighbors for over two thriving generations by the time they were forced onto the Trail of Tears. With their removal to Oklahoma, the Cherokee were robbed of 90 percent of their lands by way of twenty-eight treaties. The great Cherokee nation had survived more then a hundred years of the white man's wars, disease, and whiskey, but now it was about to be blotted out. The Cherokee numbered several thousand, so their removal to the West was planned to be gradual. The discovery of Appalachian gold in their territory made it necessary to accelerate their removal. In the fall of 1838, General Winfield Scott's forces rounded them up and concentrated them into camps.

Many left their homes in the cold dead of night, with little more then the clothes on their backs. Several hundred managed to escape to the Smoky Mountains, and were later given a small reservation in North Carolina. >From the prison camps, the people were started westward to Indian Territory in modern Oklahoma. During this long winter trek, at least 3500 died, many from cold, sickness, and starvation. Many had no shoes or blankets, and the rations were so limited that even soldiers went hungry on the journey. The survivors numbered 14000 weary souls. One of every four Cherokee who made the journey died along the way, including the wife of their leader, John Ross...

The removal of the Cherokee was done under orders of President Andrew Jackson. He was influenced to remove all of the Eastern tribes by statesmen who wanted the lands and mineral rights for their own greedy purposes. The injustice in this is the great history the Cherokee had shared with Jackson. As a General, fresh from great victory in the war of 1812, Andrew Jackson was ordered to subdue the Creek Indians of Alabama. They were stealing and murdering white settlers, and needed to be stopped. General Jackson, with his Tennessee Volunteers, knew he would not be victorious with his limited troops, so he asked the Cherokee, the enemy of the Creek, to help him. The hero of the Battle of New Orleans, Jackson was promised many brave warriors, under the leadership of their chief, John Ridge. The Cherokee outpaced the forces Jackson led, and beat the Creek Indians before Jackson could see action. Jackson was pleased with the victories and the war progressed well. The Americans lost little to no soldiers in action, but gained all of the glory. Eventually Jackson's forces had to fight, most notably in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814.

The Cherokee leader, Major Ridge, was even said to have saved Jackson's life in battle. His reward was eventual assassination at the hands of his fellow Cherokee people. He, along with son John Ridge, and nephew Elias Boudinot, was killed after Jackson tricked them into signing the Treaty of New Echota on December 29, 1835. By this time the Cherokee land was reduced to lands in Georgia, with the capital being New Echota (1825-1839). Another notable Cherokee to sign, and escape the assassination, was Stand Watie, who later became Brigadier General Stand Watie, C.S.A. Watie was in command of the Cherokee, Creek and Seminole cavalry, totaling 800 men, who fought alongside Texas soldiers. Two months after Robert E. Lee's surrender, he officially surrendered his command of the First Indian Brigade, C.S.A to federal authorities. He was the last Confederate general to surrender.

Both preceding and following the struggles of the Cherokee, other indigenous tribes suffered similar situations. Some tribes were totally destroyed long before the English, Dutch, or French arrived. The Spaniards tried to convert small tribes in present day California. If the peoples resisted, they were simply destroyed, removing them from history, other then the records and writing of Spanish monks. Many treaties were made with the Indians that robbed them of their lands. Most treaties the Indians agreed to were designed to control and regulate the Indians and their lands. Few of these were meant to protect or help the Indians in some way, and all were either revoked or new treaties were made undoing what the previous treaties had set out to do or promise. There are a many examples of these acts that could be discussed, but mentioning a few specific would be enough to show these facts.

In 1851, a treaty was reached with the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, and several other tribes. This allowed the United States government to establish railroad systems and military posts throughout their respective territories. By 1861, the Indians saw the arrival of wagon trains, chains of forts, stagecoaches, still closer knit forts, pony express riders, and even "talking wires." The Teton Sioux leader, Red Cloud, eventually engaged in a war with the Union troops, who had told them that they could not hunt on traditional hunting grounds. The main premise of the treaty allowed the use of traditional hunting grounds, and sites where the Indians wintered their people.

Denied the use, Red Cloud saw no other option but war. After a war that was costly in money, property, and life, the United States agreed to allow the use of the Powder River country and the removal of troops from the area. The Teton Sioux were granted the right to trade at Fort Laramie, just outside the Powder River country. This new treaty, later known as the Treaty of 1868, also stated, "No white person or persons shall be permitted to settle upon or occupy any portion of the territory, or without the consent of the (Sioux) Indians to pass through the same." Also given to the Sioux were the Black Hills of present-day South Dakota, which were at the time considered "invaluable" by
the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and were promised to them "forever."

When the Sioux, led by Red Cloud, arrived at Fort Laramie to do some trading
and to collect provisions allotted to them by the US government, the soldiers told them to go to Fort Randall, some three hundred miles away. This was not acceptable to Red Cloud. Instead of going to Fort Randall, the chief went to Washington, D.C. to talk with the BIA and the President himself. He met with Secretary Cox of the BIA, whom they called their "Great Father" in Washington and their "Little Father," an Indian named Donehogawa. Due in part to a language barrier and the blatant lies by the soldiers, the treaty had different terms then the Teton Sioux leader had agreed upon. To better the cause of Indian sovereignty, Little Father Donehogawa bargained with Great Father Cox into a position where the Indians would be justified. In addition, the Indians were told before that they could not live in the disputed Powder River country. It was added to the treaty that, although the Powder River Country was outside of the reservation boundaries, it was inside the hunting grounds. Now the Indians were allowed to live on their hunting grounds if they chose to. Red cloud was victorious.

This outraged many Americans, so the government tightened its reins on the
Indians. The Indians, of course, rebelled, and Washington officials retaliated, declaring that the Indians had broken their treaties by taking part in rebellions. These rebellions soon ended when Congress sent seven councilmen from the BIA to the reservation to try to buy the Black Hills. The settlers moving west at this time had been invading the Black Hills in search of yellow rocks, which had some, but quite smaller value, to the Indians. General George A. Custer, himself, once said of the area that gold could be "easily found in the grass roots" of the Black Hills. To end the slaughter of the invading settlers, the US Government wanted to purchase the Black Hills so that the settlers could prospect without being killed. The treaty of 1868 also stated, "No treaty for the cession of any part of the reservation herein described... shall be of any validity or force... unless executed and signed by at least three quarters of all the adult male Indians, occupying or interested in the same."

Under these terms, it would be difficult to acquire the Black Hills, but the US Government seemed to care very little. Over twenty thousand Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho stood in defiance of the seven councilmen. Knowing the risk they were taking in trying to buy the Black Hills from the Indians, the seven councilmen brought with them one hundred and twenty cavalrymen on white horses, hoping to impress the warriors they had to bargain with.

Several thousand warriors on painted horses surrounded the visitors. Intimidated further, the council offered their proposal very carefully. After several days of talks, all 127 visitors left to Fort Laramie. About two weeks later, they returned with a much greater number of troops (for protection, not might). They were circled once again, but by a still greater number of warriors. The extra troops proved to be a near-fatal mistake. The only thing that saved the visitors from being butchered was Red Cloud who, although angry, did not want bloodshed. The councilmen went back to Washington, morally defeated. Eventually congress simply undid the treaty, winning the rights to the Black Hills for settlement.

Reservation lands today, including tribal, allotted, and government land, total 86,322.68 square miles. While this is a significant amount of land, being a little more then twice what the Cherokee possessed, it only accounts for 2.51 percent of the total U.S. land area. Doing the math, that is a loss of 97.49 percent of what was once free to roam by the Native American Indians. Reservation life has been plagued with a high poverty rate, unemployment, alcoholism and depression. Government officials on reservations are elected. These tribal leaders offer as much reform as possible, within their powers and resources. The people who live on the reservations do so in substandard housing.

As recent as 25 years ago, 90 to 95 percent of these houses were unfit for living. Many today still suffer these conditions, both in the United States and Canada. Most houses are without running water, sewage, or electricity. The average African American living in the Ghettos of New York City, during the 1970's and 1980's, earned 300% more income annually then the average Native America. Most of the social problems are blamed on depression, alcoholism, and severe anxiety, caused by lies from over a century ago that still impact their lives. American Indians were moved to a different type of land, with different soils, different climate, and even different vegetation. Water quality on reservation land has always been poor, as well as the amount of wild game for feed, clothing, and shelter.

In some areas of the country, Native Americans have found ways to deal with their problems, with little assistance form the government. The only real help came in the form of tax-free gambling. Many people today know of Indian Casinos and Bingo. The Indians are able to profit largely from these ventures, not having to pay the US government the large amount of taxes most establishments are forced to pay. The proceeds from the legalized gambling has aided in rebuilding impoverished housing, paying for mental health, alcoholism, and medical treatment much needed by the people. Organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, have also aided in providing better housing for the Indians on reservations. While helpful in returning the less fortunate Native Americans, they still face many enemies today, ranging from racism to moral and legal objections from religious organizations and watchdog groups. Many Indians are content to face the struggles ahead as their father's fathers did; fighting until there are no battles left to fight.


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