Since a trip last year that led me onto Diné territory, my mind has remained on the current situations of many Diné and other tribes around the U.S. And I’d like to clear something up for the average reader.
Many argue that Indians need to assimilate into Western culture. That the U.S. provides them their own sovereign territory. That anything that happens on that sovereign territory is their own problem, their own fault. They are just backward.
This is false.
One, these beliefs rest on an understanding that it is the natural and right path to follow to be come Westernized. I don’t think I have to point out to the average reader of this blog the outright Eurocentric nature of this belief.
Second, the U.S. has done little in terms of “giving” Indians sovereign land. The land was theirs to begin with. But lets assume for now that this whole argue is ancient. That was then. This is now. We can’t make amends for what happened several generations ago. Besides, if Indians cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps within that time, to hell with them. Maybe it’s in their nature to be lazy and unproductive.
However, few in the U.S. (except the Indian tribes themselves) know that as late as the 1980’s Indian tribes were forced to relocate to lands that did not suit the needs of the U.S. economy. In the 80’s, entire towns were “relocated” because the tribes lived in or around ancient buildings. Because those buildings were so old, they were classified by U.S. government as national treasures to be preserved. Also, during the same time, tribes were relocated to enable rich white cattle ranchers to graze on more fertile lands.
Less than 30 years have passed since the last time the U.S. government blatantly disregarded the “sovereignty” it so kindly provided to tribes around the country. But, like Palestinians, their situation does not matter to anyone but themselves.
Post Script: I use the term “Indian” instead of Native American because the latter term tends to denote a willingness to assimilate. There is no great term. But I choose “Indian” because of this and because “Native” tends to come with connotations of “savage.”