By request, adding a comparison-contrast essay I wrote on Native Americans and “new” Americans. I received a 96% for this submission.
“Tradition and memory, culture and being among Native Americans is thousands of years old while the “new” American definition of what it is to be “American” is scarcely a few centuries old yet there are beneficial properties which can be learned from both. The European occupation overwhelmed and purposely attempted to decimate the indigenous population of North America though not every invader or their descendants thought of it as such. In this current age of globalization, in many ways, the past is now moot since it cannot be relived or changed, we must simply go forward. Combining the wisdom of the ancients and the knowledge and technology of the new Americans could institute a new age of enlightenment and a lessening social ills and ennui which have long plagued Native Americans.
In the Native American past, people lived by the “law of the land”. The seasons, the need for safe locations to sleep, restore and have children, the elements and other creatures defined what was needed, who lived, who died and what was learned and new knowledge enacted. The world around was seen in terms of mystery and things known. Things which were a mystery were seen as curious and something to be learned if possible or something which simply “was”. Life simply was. You lived as the seasons, the creatures and nature dictated. The elders determined which path was best to take. You utilized new things as needed. You discarded without a second thought anything else that didn’t keep you or those you cared for alive.
When the European invaders arrived, some of which were not on the North American shores simply to gain land and wealth, but merely to have a safe place to live away from their former homelands, they brought with them many religions and ways of thought and behavior which were radically different than anything Native Americans of that time understood, or even now struggle with. Many of the European settlers were hard workers, striving to carve out a new life in what they considered wilderness and open land. They did not, by majority, understand Native American life or peoples and so strove to make those people conform to their own ideas. As they had greater numbers and strength at deadly arms, they were able to enforce their own beliefs and kill or remove those who did not comply. In many ways, a number of those ones were not purposely trying to kill all Indians, they only wanted to utilize for their own benefit or profit what they felt was not appreciated by natives. This would primarily include land, as they had different systems of what they considered wealth. Also, many of the European invaders long had systems of subjugating those who they thought of as less worthy and educated to do tasks supplied by the “victors”.
In this day and age, long centuries after the first Europeans came to the North America shores, it is almost immaterial the early struggles if the Native American people wish to survive with their traditions, memories, culture and community being intact. Either side can list the rights and wrongs, the unjust deaths and horrors that have been committed but the reality is: these people share a common home now.
Native Americans, whatever their tribe, tend to be rather modest and scarce with revealing certain person details. From long negative experiences there is a failure to trust in anyone who is not native. Much of the history continues to be passed down by oral traditions and as young people move away from ancestral homes and locations, our languages and stories and histories are being lost to the next generation. “New Americans” take advantage of technology to record and log almost all events, and many educate themselves on how to they can improve themselves even if it is rather a self-absorbed and materialistic type fashion. Native Americans depending on tribe have the tradition to give away what they own because it is considered wealthy to do so, to be generous in that way. I don’t advocate all aspects of Native American life and certainly have many issues with “new” Americans, but there are good benefits which can be learned from each side.
“New” Americans can lose the self-centered, nearly xenophobic ways many are continuing to grow although they are relatively recent settlers on our ancestral lands. They can go closer back to the land and realize if the land doesn’t live, there is no way mankind can do so. They can learn and appreciate that just because someone is different from oneself, whether it involves religious beliefs, sexuality, or anything else, that is no reason to discriminate and treat them poorly or deny them rights. Many native Americans can take advantage of the deep knowledge some newer Americans have regarded improvement of life medically, psychologically and techno-wise. One does not have to lose one’s traditions and cultures to be in the 21st century in the USA, and others do not have to scorn indigenous wisdom and lifestyles in progressing into the next centuries.”
Written by Red Haircrow DYS, November 22, 2010.
Other articles by me on Native American life and living:
The People: The Power of the Pow-wow, a photo entry and essay about what going to pow-wow means to me.
Counting Coup with a Pen: Online Life, sometimes you’re just compelled to smack someone on the head.
“There was a boy…”, a view into the tragedy which too often plague us, a boy I knew….
Writing is a Grass Dance: Welcome to my pow-wow, for me writing is like a grass dance, follow my steps.