Professor Marlys Eggum
Native Americans: Brief History and Race.
Native Americans are a very well known ethnic group in the United States. People in our society have learned and used different ways of the Native American lifestyle probably without knowledge for many years. I would like to take a deeper look into the history of the Native American people. Were there concerns or issues with the Native Americans within American culture, politics, and society? Were the Native Americans accepted at the time when they were introduced to other ethnic groups? Did they face discrimination? Also, what were the Native American experiences with prejudicial boundaries? There seems to be much to learn about this ethnic group.
It seems that the Native American people have faced a tremendous journey throughout history. When Christopher Columbus first came into contact with the Native Americans, he described them in such a positive manor. Upon meeting the Native Americans (Indians) Christopher Columbus recorded and entry into his log. “They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned... . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane.... They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” (Log of Christopher Columbus) Although it seemed that the Native Americans were thought of as hospitable and generous, the Europeans took full advantage and became greedy over many things including land. Settlers brought diseases to the Native Americans and most of the disease decreased the Native American population. This decrease gave the “whites” an advantage over the Indians and provoked control over the Indians. In 1546 “new laws” that barred the enslavement of Native Americans had been repealed due to the happening of the new world colonists. The new world colonists developed a society that was dependent on slave labor. (Native American Timeline, Legends of America) The Native Americans were traded and enslaved just like the African Americans. Captain William Pierce of Salem, Massachusetts was reported to have trades Native American slaves for African American slaves. The Native Americans were treated just as bad as the African Americans after they were exposed to other ethnic groups. The Native Americans were accepted but they were discriminated against and were victims of prejudice.
Upon the Europeans moving into America, the Native Americans helped the first settlers to survive. The Native Americans contributed greatly to the early settlers of our land. The settlers learned farming methods, and were supplied with food and materials from the Native Americans. The Native Americans taught settlers to farm potatoes, beans, corn, peanuts, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, peppers, melons, and sunflower seeds. Native American trails became roads and railways. Also, log cabins which are still being build today were influenced by the Indian Log or longhouse. What is known, as Ecology today was very respected and crucial to the Native American way of life. A while later in history, during World War II there were approximately 25,000 Native Americans who served in the armed forces. (Native American Timeline, Legends of America) There were also other Native Americans who were employed within the military as cooks and other workers. These people have contributed much to America. Our own way of government was adopted from the Native American group Iroquoian League of Nations. (Ben Franklin) Tobacco, cigars, cotton, rubber, pipe smoking, and canoeing are things that the Native Americans introduced and are still used widely in modern day America.
There are many ways that legislation has been cruel towards racial groups. The government passed legislations that were meant to constrain race within prejudicial boundaries. These legislations include the Jim Crow Laws, Black Code, Fugitive Slave Act (1850), and also the Supreme Court decision of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). The Native Americans and the African Americans were the ethnic groups that these legislations were directed toward. In return to these laws these two ethnic groups fought to not only be seen as free and equal but also to preserve their ways of life. They fought battles and protested when and how they could. Opposed to the legislations that were meant to constrain race there were legislations that were also meant to alleviate prejudicial boundaries. These legislations include the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, Civil Rights Movement, immigration laws and segregation laws. The ethnic groups that were involved or affected by the legislations that were meant to constrain race into prejudicial boundaries promoted these legislations. Two particular ethnic groups, the Native Americans and African Americans took full advantage of the laws and acts. Both of these ethnic groups have made great contributions in America.
The Native Americans are entitled to every bit of pride that they have and are known for. This ethnic group has made many positive and influential contributions to our people and our country. The Native Americans taught our ancestors to farm and live off the land so they could survive. Our government system is similar in many ways to the Native American government system due to them introducing it. Our culture, society, and political aspects of America have been influenced greatly. The Native Americans went have had many places of standing in American history. Our legislations were changed and new legislations were introduced because of this ethnic group. The Native Americans have done more than their share to make this country what it is today.
Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian