The Invisible Native American

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The Invisible Native American

When most people think of "Indians," they think of the common stereotyped of the wild, yelling, half-naked "savages" seen on the television movies. With more modern movies like Dances with Wolves and some of the documentaries like How the West was Lost, some of these attitudes have changed. But the American public as a whole is still very ignorant of what it means to be a Native American-today, or historically.

Whose fault it this? The public school system is one problem. When I was in school, if I wanted to learn anything of my heritage, I had to search it out myself. Trying to find the truth was difficult, if not at times impossible. Today it is not much better. It is a well-known fact that February is Black History Month. In all the schools, posters, special projects, and literary contests motivate students to learn the value of Black Americans. This is good. But, is it not also important that students learn about all races, including Blacks and Oriental, as well as Native Americans?

School children do not know that November is Native American Month. Even few adults know this fact; it is not on the radio, and seldom on TV. In fact, my son once asked his teacher why they (the students) didn't have anything special to do on the subject of Native Americans for November. Aside from the fact that she didn't know the significance of the month, her answer was, "Native Americans have not contributed anything of value to our nation!" Was that a statement of ignorance or bigotry? How often do we hear of Europeans getting credit for "discoveries" of land, mountains, and lakes already well known by the native people who inhabited the area? Governmental, social, ...

... middle of paper ... area, unless they grew up around Native Americans, wouldn't recognized an Indian if they saw one. The cliches they were taught in school abound. A friend of mine, who is from Omaha, was told, "You need to go back to your own country!" I suppose this person thought my friend was Oriental. My son, who has very dark hair and green-brown eyes, has been asked if he is part Chinese. He says that he is part Native American. The people's usual reaction is to insist that he is wrong!

Native People are either invisible, non-existent, misunderstood, or falsely represented in school, in media, in history, and in art. Progress has been exceeding slow. And that is a shame because the knowledge, the beauty, and the wisdom of a very old culture have a lot to offer, not just for those searching their heritage, but for anyone concerned with humanity as a whole.

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