Professor Roufs

Anth 3625



Down through the years since the white man first set foot on the soil that is now called the United States of America, there has been a problem of relationship between them and the Indian. Because each faction possessed a different way of life, the problem festered and grew as one party grew stronger than the other. Even the name, Indian, is used to refer to a race of people who represent varied cultures and distinctively different nationalities whose value systems are diverse.

This paper states the view of and focuses on Indian-White relations.

More than two hundred years ago, immigrants from other countries came to the North American continent in search of opportunity. Upon arrival here, these immigrants found an established culture quite different than the culture they were accustomed to. The culture they found here was that of the American Indian.

As America grew in size and importance she became known as a place in which a person could determine his/her own destiny. America was a place where a diverse group of people came to fashion a life style for themselves and their children. However, the opportunity for Indian people to continue their own life style diminished greatly as the country called "The United States" took form.

In order to deal with the Indian situation, laws were passed and treaties were signed. The treaties were written according to white man's laws which the Indian tribes did not and could not comprehend. As a result, a majority of the treaties served to take land away from the Indian tribes and give it to the white settlers.

The fact of the matter is that Indian people were the original owners of this continent. Through no violation of their own, but owing to economic and political forces over which they had not control, they have been encompassed by a social, economic and political system for which they had no preparation.

Today, the American Indian nation has little if any opportunity in such areas as employment, education, decent income and a chance for a full and rewarding life.

Of all minorities, Indians suffer from the greatest poverty, the lowest life expectancy, the worst education, the highest suicide rate, the highest percentage of alcoholism, and, for most a sense of frustration that is nearly unbearable. They exert practically no political pressure of federal or local governments, and their attempts at self-help are limited by their lack of education and the impotence of the one bureau of the federal government that has the most to do with how they live their lives - the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Why has there been a lack of opportunity for the American Indian nation in America, and what can be done to overcome the disastrous plight of American Indians?

Perhaps the biggest reason is ignorance on the part of the people in America about the Indian nation. This can be seen in the fact that the educational system does not deal with Indians and/or their history hardly at all. When their history is presented, it is most often in a negative sense. This could be the reason for the many stereotypes and misconceptions about American Indians that exist today. American Indians are also least understood and most misunderstood in terms of their culture and values. The Indian way of life, their views of the land, religious rites, and the lack of knowledge of their historical background and historical understanding of American Indians.

Because the Indians refused to give up their culture, their heritage, their religion, they were considered savages, and placed on reservations so the nation could turn its attention to other matters.

These problems and the answers to them have been ongoing for many, many years, from generation to generation. Only in recent years has the bad state of American Indians been brought to the attention of the country through a series of well-written books, a few motion pictures departing from the old cowboy-Indian formula, some documentary films, and one or two good plays. It seems that the answers to the problems are in the problems themselves. Break down barriers of ignorance of the people in America about Indians, their culture, values, religion and way of life. Put more emphasis on Indian history in education on all levels. Make education the number one priority for Indian people so they can learn to survive in the dominant society. Reorganize the Bureau of Indian Affairs and its employees so that it functions in a way that will be beneficial to the American Indians without white man's bureaucracy. Finally, band together as one nation to combat these problems, to fight for our right, our land and broken treaties. Only them will we be free and at peace, the true first American, the Anishinabe.

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