“Geronimo,” or “Something people say when they jump out of airplanes.”
It’s funny because I think if I wasn’t actually of Native American ancestry, I’d write more about them–as it stands, though, I suppose I feel like there is much less excuse for my lack of real in-depth knowledge about the history and culture–I’ve always had an odd reluctance to study more, as well. One reason for that sounds very strange to me (and it’s my reason! so it shouldn’t, but it does anyway): I’m afraid to get even more upset about it than I am from my basis of general historical knowledge only. After all, a full quarter of my relatives from my paternal grandfather on backwards, that is who they were–an exponential climb every generation–yet I have never met personally anyone who is a full-blooded Apache. Not once. The only person I have ever known who was even half was my father.
And mostly, people don’t care. They are either entirely ignorant or they think all Native Americans live on reservations and operate casinos. And they don’t even know what “reservations” really are, other than that’s where Native Americans can be found. Why not?
Probably in part because there are so few of them left. Of the approximately 300 million US citizen currently floating around, only about 3 million of those self-identify as Native Americans, or about 1%. According to Wikipedia, eight out of ten people of Native American ancestry today (including Yours Truly) are of mixed blood, and that number is expected to rise to nine out of ten by 2100.
The other part, of course, is that the government as a whole has been quite dedicated to wiping them out, either literally or culturally, for a very long time now, and that hasn’t really changed, either. As recently as 2000, the Washington State Republican Party adopted a resolution of termination for tribal governments–it’s even hard to believe they’d want to bother, given the statistics in the previous paragraph, but clearly for some, the desire for complete destruction is still quite strong. The Jim Crow laws with their “one-drop” policy of racial classification are thankfully gone–however, the “blood quantum” laws for Native Americans, which to my knowledge very few people are even aware of, still exist and are even in use both intertribally and on the Federal level today. (A cute anecdote–when I was about a year and a half old, a woman from the Bureau of Indian Affairs came out to visit my mother to get the paperwork started on my “blood quantum” legal status–apparently she knocked on our apartment door and my mother, me slung over her hip, answered. The woman took one look at the tall, white-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed woman with the little white-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed baby girl in her arms, muttered something about “sorry, wrong address” and just turned around and left.)
Something pretty cool happened back in May, though–
The Crow Nation welcomed Sen. Barack Obama Monday afternoon before thousands of people, marking the presidential candidate’s first campaign visit to a U.S. reservation.
Obama was invited to visit the tribe’s homeland after leaders of the Crow, or Apsaalooke, decided to endorse the Illinois senator last week.
Obama’s visit to the Crow Reservation marks an unusual presidential campaign foray into tribal lands. Bobby Kennedy is arguably the last known presidential candidate to do so, campaigning on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation in 1968.
That’s pretty different. And not only is it different, the vast majority of American voters couldn’t really care less–so clearly it wasn’t done to impress anybody important, was it?
And apparently on his website, Obama promises to “appoint a National American Indian Policy Advisor to serve as a member of his White House staff and create the National American Indian Advisory Council.” Far as I know, that’s a complete first in terms of presidential candidates period.
Gives lie to the title of this post. I’m humbled, and heartened.
Note: I haven’t posted any stats here about Native Americans and their truly hideous, as far as I know the very worst among any group classified as a “minority” in America, numbers on, say, violence and alcoholism and failure to graduate even high school and living below the poverty line, etc. etc.–if there’s an interest, let me know and I’ll throw up some links.