Adam J.E. Koeneman
November 4, 1996
Prejudice Against Native Americans
These people began migrating thirty thousand years before Christopher Colombus
"discovered" the Americas. Native Americans migrated from Asia, crossing a land bridge
where the Bering Strait off the coast of Alaska is today. Over the centuries these people
spread throughout the continents of North and South America. Since the arrival of the
Europeans in 1492 the American Indian has been dehumanized, decivilized and redefined
into terms that represent a dominate European view. The Spanish explorers under
Colombus were the first to use the terms "Indian" to mean a Native American. These
explorers were under the false impression that the had reached the West Indies. This term
is still used today.
From the first interaction with the native peoples the Europeans inatiated dominance
and superiority. There are three distinctive reasons that the Europeans were able to
dominate and later oppress the Native American culture such as; the Native American
relgious beleifs and practices, the lack of interaction between Native Americans ans
Europeans and the lack of orginization of the Indian tribes. All of these aspects had a
strong influence the Europeans to become dominate figures on the Native American land.
These factors can still be attributed for the way that Native Americans are viewed in
After the Revolutionary War the new United States government sought to gain land
through treaties. The payment offered for the land was far from fair, however, and when
Native Americans resisted the surrender of their homeland the US government simply
used superior military power to evict them. The Europenas knew nothing of the new
civilizations they encountered. Most Native American tribes viewed the lands they
occupied to be no one man's property. They believied that they were alowed to occupy it
by the grace of the "Great Spirit", in return the tribes took care of the land the used.
Usually Native Americans harbored a great respect for the land they were allowed to use
. When the European leaders attempted to purchase this land from the tribes the Native
American leaders often thought they did not have the authority to sell the land. In their
view the land wasn't theirs to sell. Often times, payment offered was refused because of
this view The Europeans, on the other hand, did not understand or care to understandthe
Native American way of life, culture or philosophy. Instead, they saw the land as a great
buisness oppurtunity to be bought and sold. Sometimes payment was accepted because
the American Indians did not fully understand the consequence or implications of the
sale. It was difficult for the Indians to comprehend the ownership of land because in their
view the land would always be avaliable for everyone to use.
Europeans feared these new people with a seemingly savage way of life. The dances
and othe cultural traditions that Native Americans practiced were extremely abstract and
foreign to the European settlers. These displays of savagery by the Native Americans
sparkedf fear within many settlers mainly out of ignoranceto their practices and cultural
traditions. The NAtive American lifestyle was, in fact very organized and very practical.
Most American Indians have little or no interaction with the everday lifestyles of the
average American citizen. They have been residents of reservations for almost two
cennturies. Two hundred years of social oppression has to be overcome inorder for the
American Indian socities to become more accepted into our modern culture. The
prejudice that American Indians endure rivals that of the African-Americans. In order for
the Native American tribal nations to become equal in social standings ther has to be
reform and awarness of the prejudice.
Lack of orginization is a strong contributing factor to why Native Americans are
dicriminated against. During the 1960's the African-American population united and
fought for reform and equality. This has not yet fully occured in the Native American
social setting. Many of the tribes still fued with each othe instead of trying to create
social reform. This is especially apparent during the 1800's when Indian-White relations
were especially full of tension. Crazy horse, the great Oglala Sioux leader, expressed his
concern for better relations between the American Indian tribes on his death bed
(Nabokov 178). The European settlerhad a problem understanding the differances
between the tribes. Many times they could not comprehend that one tribe of Native
Americans was seperate and sometimes enemies with another tribe.
Another major factor that helped develop the dicriminatory views against Native
Americans was the American Indian religious practices. The Europeans settlers during
1700's and the 1800's were mainly Christian fundamentalists. They viewed the practices
of the Native Americans such as dnaces, sacrifices and other religious ordinances as
against traditional Judeo-Christian ethics. The Europeans would recognizethese dances as
acts of evil. They did not take into consideration the Native American religious beleifs of
harmony, unity and equality in all things.
The last signifigant cause in why the Native Americans are dicriminated against are
the terms used to describe their race. The term Native American refers to hundreds of
distinct societies- including; Aluets, Eskimos,Cherokee, Zuni, Sioux, Mohawk, Aztec and
Incan- who first settled the western hemisphere. Indians in today's society are often
looked down upon as not as productive or not as stable as other cultures. The high
alcoholism rates and the third world living conditions found on reservations do not
improve the terms used to describe the American Indian.
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