Since the arrival of Columbus in the late 1400’s as well as even before, Native Americans have been criticized, demeaned, enslaved, and tricked by most that came across them on their journey in America.
There is a common misconception placed on Native Americans that stems from the lack of education on them and their history.
As of 2014, 5.4 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives have been recorded in the United States.
12% of our population.
It is mostly by the English that we see this brutal behavior towards the Natives. Why, exactly, do they act this way toward the Natives? Coming to a new land with a European mindset, these explorers and settlers saw the American Indians as strange and different from themselves. Unable to understand their differences, many of these European travelers simply began to see and think of the Natives as inferior to them. This in turn resulted in the frequent enslavement and mistreatment of Natives by the English and others as well.
In a reading about Nathaniel Bacon, a leader of colonial rebellion in the 1670’s, it is said that, “For Bacon, no Indian had any rights that an Englishman need respect.” This meaning that Bacon saw the Natives as inferior to the English and thought that because they were inferior, their rights need not be recognized. Another man named John Smith, a British soldier and the founder of the American colony of Jamestown, responded to a Native rebellion of their treatment by the English by, “[responded by] waging attack on natives — ordering the burning of villages in some cases — and stealing food. Native people were also imprisoned, beaten, and forced into labor.
Through the views of these two men, we can clearly see the opinion that many of the English had on the Native Americans.
That was just the beginning of the long history of the mistreatment and appropriation of the Native American people. They since have been reduced to barbaric depictions in TV shows, skimpy Halloween costumes, and stereotypical logos for various sports teams.
Basically, there has been an intense romanticization of the Native American people and their struggles, such as in the animated Disney movie, Pocahontas, and erasure of their culture in our media. For example, time and time again, actors who are not Native American have been cast to play Native American roles. This is something that has outraged people for a very long time.
Throughout history, the Native Americans have been largely taken out by English explorers who came to the America’s to settle their land.
Throughout history, the Native Americans have been kicked out of their homes and taken over by new people who claimed the land that they created their lives and history on.
Throughout history, the Native American identity has been silenced and erased on the same soil that claims to be the land of the free, home of the brave.
There is such a rich and beautiful history to the Native Americans and they should be studied and respected. We tend to focus more on the English who “discovered” America than on those who were here all along.
It’s time we change that.