The Americanization of Native Americans


I understand from uh… from conversations that
we’ve had that you you also uh… you were i guess ripped out of your own background
in terms of you were on the reservation I assume when you were a young child and you
were taken away to a boarding school and that’s fairly typical of people of your generation
correct It’s typical most people thought this happened in the early first half of the nineteenth century right
or excuse me nineteen hundreds uh… and uh… it happened up until nineteen
eighty eight and continues in more of a legal way within the child welfare act
where a lot of the native children are adopted fostered out or just plain
taken away from the parents because of economic the economic plight of most native people in the
west where I’m from in south dakota whereas we are non casino tribes in a sense
that we we uh… we are held under the stigma
that we are rich as native people because native people have tribes I mean have casinos but we
as one are the poorest people in the western hemisphere behind the people of Haiti only and uh… as a young child part of the government policy was to take
the children away to teach them culturalate them into another society of america basically the motto
was and still stands somewhat in my mind that
to kill the indian and save the man is the policy so that we don’t retain culture we don’t speak our
language we don’t think differently than what americans are taught uh… mainly by their educational
methods and also a disconnection to the land i think that’s the main theory main theme
about why natives become American is that we will leave the land so that
the rest of america can be had as private property uh… I know that uh… i think it was red
cloud was a chief I’m not sure of your tribe or not
but red cloud who said that the the white man
has made us many promises and only one has he kept and that is he promised that he would
take our land and he took our land and that continued I mean that was part of the reason
for the uh… american indian movement gaining strength in the seventies right was because
even though they had said okay this is your reservation this is where you can stay they recognized
there were a lot of minerals and various other valuable things on the land so were gonna take more yeah in that time of fifties and sixties when
the multinational in that case international extraction corporations were coming onto land
and doing export expiration exploratory drilling holes and they discovered uranium and oil and gold and coal and all the precious minerals and reserves of energy uh… that are on that america’s worst lands that we were driven
to or relocated to well it was more than just that it was the of course we attack the culture first we
we tell the kids that they have that it’s not good
to be a native or an indian so that’s drilled into the people then we become
welfare state people that we we look to the handouts of america and
the good people of america to help us along and then we lose face because we weren’t beggars
in the first place or thieves it goes against our philosophies of life to
be that uh… we always shared we were fiercely self sufficient as people uh… we didn’t have concepts of course but i think what happened with the u_s_ government
is to come and take that land away from native people uh… but not give them give the rest of america the true knowledge
of why they were doing uh… those forced relocations uh… because of the land right ok not so much the land
really as what was under the land right yes and i think you mentioned earlier the or within that last answer something about the
the worst lands of america well to the average white person i guess or as i describe
them euro american they might look at the black hills of south dakota and see nothing but
wasteland or see a reservation where there are poor people as you said the welfare
state right where as you view that as as sacred lands right and part of the
reason for your outrage at the united states government coming in and wanting to take more of
it is that those are your holy places is that right yeah the whole earth is holy to us as
native people and in the sixties again if you add uh… fact that we had no religion or freedom of religion we
could not vote you know we any resources we had were inadequate and so it was either a blessing in disguise that
some of us did retain culture as Lakota people uh… to not have running water or to have any services that the rest of this country
did have i think most of us at that time were choosing
not to because we see and we have seen was done to the soul our spirit of the land and the people as we understood that uh… we have a term
for the type of behavior that describes described as greed is called wasicu wasicu meaning and it could be anybody
not a certain race right but it means takes too much or takes the fat so we wanted to avoid that even today there
are people not wanting to be an american because you know when i go home i’m teaching about
the etymology of what these words like Ame rica mean in in latin form in romance feminine form
Ame means the love of Rica means riches when you become an american you become one who loves
riches so it’s very uh… dichotomous to native which is non material as to material so you have these
two philosophies in clash in a sense

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