Prejudice Against Native Americans
Adam J.E. Koeneman
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
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 society today.
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.