The University of Michigan-Flint
Native Americans: A Marginalized Population
Over the course of time in our country, many groups in our society have experienced being set apart from sustainable communities. Among them are the immigrants, the homeless, the African Americans, those with physical or mental disabilities and the Native Americans. According to McIntosh (1988), “Whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that we work to benefit others, this is seen as work which will allow ‘them’ to be more like ‘us’ “ (p. 1). Unquestionably, this was the case back in the nineteenth century when the “White” people thought it would be better to have the Native Americans be more like them. Marginalization of the Native Americans is a result of colonialism; they were considered to be ignorant and hostiles by the “White” settlers, forced to live on reservations, lost their culture and values through assimilation and stripped of their rights in society. Segregation, Social Darwinism, and other discriminatory practices have led to the marginalization of Native Americans, resulting in the lowest standard of living in the United States, high rates of alcoholism, and a significant loss of heritage as they are cut off from native rituals and language and encouraged to meld into the cultural expectations of mainstream America. Research has shown us that the Native Americans were looked down upon by the “White” people and even thought to be savages. Reyhner, the author of the “Indian Assimilation Overview” (2006) says that: The necessity to assimilate Native Americans and other minorities is based on the human characteristic of ethnocentrism. Experts who study cultures, anthropologist, coined the term ethnocentrism to describe how virtually every culture in the world tends to think that their own culture is superior to all other cultures, and that their way of doing things is normal and other ways of doing things are strange, abnormal, and inferior. (p. 2) Certainly when studying this, we see not only has this happened to the Native Americans but to other groups as well in our society past and present.
Not only did the Native Americans lose their identity they were forced to leave their communities behind and live on reservations. Our history tells us that the “White” people educated the Native Americans by sending some to boarding schools in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The education they received was not as good as the “White” students so as a result of this they were not prepared to be productive in society. According to Reyhner, the author of “Contemporary Native American” (2006): Success in school and in life is related to people’s identity; how they are viewed as a group and individually by others and how they see themselves. Identity is not just a positive self concept. It is finding your place in the world with both humility and strength. It is, in the words of Vine Deloria (Standing Rock Sioux), “accepting the responsibility to be a contributing member of a society”. (p. 3) Furthermore a sustainable community reflects a sense of social well-being, when all its members play a significant part.
Noddings (1995) states, “Caring implies a continuous search for competence. When we care, we want to do our very best for the objects of our care” (p. 2). Obviously, the Native Americans were thought to be savages at one time, so they were not cared for by the White people. If the White society would have been more compassionate toward the Native Americans, history may have had a different outcome. Perhaps they would have been motivated to adapt to the “White” communities freely. Accordingly, they would not had been so isolated or separated from the “White” population. Imagine if both populations respected and trusted each other from the very beginning. Maybe together they could have...