Native Americans and the Whiteman's Influence Essay

Native Americans and the Whiteman's Influence Essay

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“The biggest of all Indian problems is the Whiteman (Basso pg. 3).” The elusive Whitman is not a recent problem for the American Indians. For the Western Apache this problem first came to light in 1853 after the Gadsden Purchase was finalized. The Whitemen invaded the western Apache’s Arizona territory not with peace, but with demands and open hostility. Thus began a brutal thirty year war that led to Apache defeat (Basso pg. 24). The creation of reservations in 1872 was not enough for the Whitemen. They also created an assimilation program for the Western Apache because acclimating one’s self to Anglo American society was a necessity for survival.
“Three objectives were accorded primary importance. One of these was the economic development of reservations to a point that would provide the Indians with a reliable means of self-support. Another was the opening of schools so that Apache children could be instructed in reading, writing, and ‘proper etiquette.’ The third objective was the establishment of churches and eventual conversion of all Apache to Christianity (Basso pg. 24).”
Unfortunately for the Whiteman, the assimilation program didn’t work quite as they planned, “most Western Apache remain on the fringe of national American society (Basso pg. 26).” The increased relations between Whiteman and American Indians only served the purpose of giving the Western Apache fodder for their jokes. Whitemen became a cultural symbol that “define and characterize what the Indian is not (Basso pg.4).” So even though Whitemen are one of the American Indian’s biggest problems, they also became one of their biggest sources of laughter.
Imitating the Whiteman is not a regular occurrence in Western Apache society, but when it does happen, lau...


... middle of paper ...


...how the American Indian joker views themselves in comparison to the Whiteman (Basso pg. 4). The Whiteman created in their jokes is not an actual person, but a negative reflection of the American Indian participating in the joke. These funny and dangerous jokes are actually cultural statements.
American Indian imitations of Whitemen make me wonder if the same phenomenon can be found in other racial groups. Does everyone imitate the Whiteman? Do the Whitemen imitate other racial groups? How has imitation of the Whiteman evolved since Keith Basso’s ethnography? Although very clear in its intent to educate the masses on such a phenomenon, this book has left me with more questions than answers.




Works Cited

Basso, Keith. 1979. Portraits of “The Whiteman:” Linguistic play and cultural symbols among the Western Apache. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. First half.

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