"Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didn't have any kind of prison. Because of this, we had no delinquents. Without a prison, there can be no delinquents. We had no locks nor keys and therefore among us there were no thieves. When someone was so poor that he couldn't afford a horse, a tent or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive itall as a gift. We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property. We didn't know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being was not determined by his wealth. We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians, therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another. We were really in bad shape before the white men arrived andI don't know how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society." (John Fire Lame Deer 1)
Native Americans were the first and original inhabitants of what we now call the United States of America. When we, as Americans, look back at our shared history we often forget that it did not begin with thecolonists but with the indigenous tribes that were here long before white people set foot on Plymouth rock. As a nation we lose a great deal when our past is buried. No matter how sad, unfair or painful it may be to look at the past and our history it is an essential part of evolving and growing as an open, free and honorable society. If we do not know the errors or mistakes we have made, we can’tand will not learn from our mistakes and are bound to repeat them. Prejudices, intolerance and eventually hatred can result if a people are taught to treat another group as inferior. Usually this grows worse because of ignorance or fear.
History Of Injustice
It is important to remember that British colonists sought a new world where they could escape the British monarchy, tyranny and escapereligious persecution. This freedom came at a huge price to the Native Americans. Natives were considered to be an obstacle to the colonists . These savages needed to be conquered and converted from their pagan religion so that America might flourish. In doing this, colonists took from the Natives, the very freedoms they had fought so hard to establish. Religious freedoms were one of manythings denied to Native Americans.
The right to the court system was also denied the Native Americans. The American Indian policy called the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was a federal law enacted by President Andrew Jackson. In essence, it appeared to be a land grab, as land was a valuable commodity. When the law was implemented in 1838 some 15,000 Indians were forced to leave their land,sometimes by gun point, and migrate north to Oklahoma. This was called the “Trail of Tears”, the 10 year period of migration of Indian tribes from the South to West of the Mississippi. By the end, approximately 70,000 Indians left their homelands and fled to Oklahoma. (PBS) Cherokee's forced out of Georgia drafted a constitution and attempted to make their claim before the courts. They also asked forintervention from President Jackson who claimed that he wouldn’t interfere with the state laws of Georgia. Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where they initially lost but won on appeal, although Georgia and the president didn’t follow the ruling. The lesson learned was that the court system wasn’t meant for the Indian tribes. (PBS)
Impact on Native Americans
The impact thatthis buried history has on the Native Americans is a tragedy. Natives have suffered since the colonists landed on their homeland. In the movie Smoke Signals written by Sherman Alexie, Thomas says to Victor, “Christopher Columbus comes, Custer comes, Harry Truman comes and we gotta keep on walking. We build a beach house on the moon then here comes Neil Armstrong and we get booted off into...