“Native American Testimony” by Peter Nabokov

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A very excellent collection of (primarily) oral histories from American Indians, from 1492 – present.  Overall, there’s understandably quite a bit of anger and bitterness at the white man destroying the Indian way of life and taking their lands, whether through broken treaties, wars, forced resettlement to reservations, Allotment, or Termination.

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George Gillette of the Hidatsa tribe, at the signing away of ancestral lands to be submerged by a new reservoir. This picture really hits me in the feels.

I feel like I have a better appreciation of the whole difficulty of US Indian policy.  Injustices have occurred which Indians demand be rectified, but the ultimate solution where all whites leave the continent is not going to happen.  We’re in this together, like it or not.  Therefore US policy has generally been designed to facilitate the Indian’s integration into white society.  (At least that’s the intention — part of the problem here is that policies were malformed or not suited to generalization across all tribes and types of Indian in the country.)  But then there’s the frequent Indian response that they don’t want to be integrated into white society.  They want their continent back (won’t happen) or at least they want to be left alone.  But they really don’t want to be left totally alone … poverty is no fun.  So they grudgingly accept the white man’s support, but they don’t like it.

I wonder if there might be some value in examining societies like the Amish – here’s another culture that has found harmony and success living a traditional lifestyle within the modern world.  They are white of course, and also lack a sense of historical systematic victimhood … maybe letting go of the victim status is the key for Indians moving forward?

The final chapter or so touches on the rise of the Indian casinos… while I tend to believe it is somewhat shameful that they have stooped so low to participate in such a business, I also find it delightfully apropos that Indians have finally found a way to profit from the white man’s greed.

 

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