I did some research about Native Americans prior to our trip and wanted to share that as we enter their world in South Dakota. It is difficult to comprehend but do read on.
Approximately 56.2 million acres are held in trust by the United States for various Indian tribes and individuals. There are approximately 326 Indian land areas in the U.S. administered as federal Indian reservations (i.e., reservations, pueblos, rancherias, missions, villages, communities, etc.). The largest is the 16 million-acre Navajo Nation Reservation located in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The smallest is a 1.32-acre parcel in California where the Pit River Tribe’s cemetery is located. Many of the smaller reservations are less than 1,000 acres.
The Black Hills of Dakota are sacred to the Sioux Indians. In the 1868 treaty, signed at Fort Laramie and other military posts in Sioux country, the United States recognized the Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation, set aside for exclusive use by the Sioux people. However, after the discovery of gold there in 1874, the United States confiscated the land in 1877. To this day, ownership of the Black Hills remains the subject of a legal dispute between the U.S. government and the Sioux.
In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. had illegally appropriated the Black Hills and awarded more than $100 million in reparations. The Sioux Nation refused the money (which is now worth over a billion dollars), stating that the land was never for sale.
The name “sioux” is short for Nadowessioux, meaning “little snakes”, which was a spiteful nickname given to them by the Ojibwe, their longtime foe. The fur traders abbreviated this name to Sioux, and it is now commonly used. The Sioux Nation is made up of seven groups collectively called Oceti Sakowin, or “Seven Council Fires.” The seven groups identified themselves as Dakota, Nakota, or Lakota depending upon which of these three dialects they speak. They prefer the latter names since Sioux is derogatory.
Natives are the only minority that have to prove who they are. If the American government doesn’t recognize them, they lose their identity. Many Indians were sent to native boarding schools. Tracing family history is nearly impossible. Many don’t know what tribe they are from, who their parents were, what their language was, where they were born, or what their real name is. Many Indians call this “Paper Genocide.”
People denigrate their culture by:
Mocking their religion and sacred items. A feather is a holy object awarded for notable acts. They don’t just stick feathers in their hair because they think it looks good.
Dressing as Indians for Halloween or parties.
Making Natives a mascot which equates them to animals.
Celebrating Columbus Day, Red Skins, or the missions in the West, one is celebrating the massacres, the holocaust, the ethnic cleansing of Natives. A mass murderer of Natives is honored on the $20 bill. That’s like putting Hitler’s face on a bill and expecting Jews to like it.
East coast Natives are nothing like Plains Indians. They don’t have all the same culture. Most of them didn’t live on reservations. They don’t have teepees. Never hunted buffalo. And the only history taught is Thanksgiving and Pocahontas. Then, somehow, Native history disappeared until 1860 or so.
Until recently, Natives could not prosecute non-Natives for rape.
Native women are assaulted at a far higher rate than other women: 34% of all Native women will be raped in their lifetimes. 67% will have prosecution denied to them.
Native women are murdered 10 times more often than white women.
Native Americans are the ethnic group most likely to be killed by police officers, far more than even Black Americans.
The overall death rate from suicide for American Indian/Alaska Native adults is about 20 percent higher as compared to the non-Hispanic white population.
Up until June 12, 1967, all interracial marriages were declared illegal. This refers to all mixed marriages.
Of American Indians living on reservations:
Roughly 20% of their homes lack indoor plumbing.
More than 30% of residents live below the poverty line.
More than 40% of residents are unemployed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, the unemployment rate on some reservations exceeds 80%.
In some areas up to 50% of their homes have no telephone.
American Indians have the highest poverty and unemployment rates of any major racial or ethnic group in the United States.
Oglala Lakota County in South Dakota is the poorest county in the nation with an average income per capital of $8,700. The average life expectancy is 67 years.
“America! Where they kill the Indians, then name towns and states after them.”
Kind of depressing, don’t you think?
To end on a more positive note, a book called Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer was recommended. It is fascinating as she is an Indian and a Botanist. It is full of wisdom.