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Native Americans

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Native American Identity

        The original inhabitants of America led a simple and happy life living off of the homeland of their ancestors. They held a strong tie to their culture and traditions passed down from generations. However, the simple and happy life of the Native Americans would soon no longer exist, “…strange white people would come to crowd out the red men…” (Takaki 27). The Europeans grouped the Indians as the minority and pushed them out of their homeland by means of force, manipulation, assimilation. The Native Americans were once a sovereign nation with a definite identity of self, but the treatment received from the dominant group began to change and affect their identity over time.

        During the 1800s, Tecumseh, a leader of young warriors wanted to combine all Native Americans. He wanted traditional tribes to get rid of older identities to build a United Red Nation. Tecumseh and his group of warriors refused to make room for the White people. The Bennit sensitivity scale gives us a better understanding of this intercultural relation between the Native Americans and the Europeans. Native Americans refused to interact with the dominant group and would not accept their European culture and lifestyle which placed them in the denial stage of the Bennit scale. They continued to resist the Europeans until they were defeated.

        In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was established to move all eastern tribes west of the Mississippi river. According to the Bennit sensitivity scale, Europeans were in the defense stage believing their culture was superior and the minority group was inferior to them. This produced consequences for the Natives and influenced a change in their identity. The consequences of physical genocide on the Native Americans were caused by war, such as the Battle of Wounded Knee. It caused a massacre of about one hundred and forty-seven to three hundred people. The physical genocide of disease brought over from the Europeans, like small pox and the flu killed many at a fast pace because there was no cure. When the uprising of public hanging occurred amongst Indians they began to fear causing their cultural identity to slowly weaken.

        The consequence of relocation genocide moved American Indians to reservations. The reservations were land reserves for the American Indian tribes to live on, but they faced many problems. Alcohol was first introduced to Native Americans to manipulate them into signing land treaties by the Europeans. The alcohol was abused and the rate of alcoholism was high as eighty percent on the reservations. There was a high rate of unemployment leaving most of the people stuck in poverty. If there were no jobs available then the only thing there was left to do on the reservation was to drink. American Indians use to value family, but alcoholism destroyed that value causing high rates of domestic violence. They once valued respect and modesty, but the American Indians now valued money. They accepted a pay from companies allowing them to dump landfills of everyday wastes and nuclear wastes. The Indigenous people depended on their land and on the annual salmon return for spiritual and physical richness. It had an impact on the tribes, economic, religious, and cultural identity. The Native Americans believed their tribes were purposely placed where the salmon return every year which allowed generations and generations to pass on the traditional values. The landfills caused toxic waste and pollution to their environment and the Indigenous people could no longer continue their traditional hunting. They lost a part of their cultural identity because of the relocation onto reservations.

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