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What Do We Owe the Indians?

By Paul VanDevelder 
Originally published by American History magazine. Published Online: April 07, 2009 
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"Four Indian Riders." Fritz Scholder 1967. Oil on canvas. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. William Metcalf. Photo by Walter Larrimore, NMAI. [Click to view larger image.]
"Four Indian Riders." Fritz Scholder 1967. Oil on canvas. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. William Metcalf. Photo by Walter Larrimore, NMAI. [Click to view larger image.]

Images accompanying this article are from the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian exhibition, "Fritz Scholder: Indian/Not Indian," which is on display in Washington, D.C., through August 16 (www.americanindian.si.edu). All Images copyright Estate of Fritz Scholder.

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The Yellowtail ranch, tucked into a narrow valley of soft-rock geology that separates the Big Horn Mountains from the surrounding plains on the southern border of Montana, is not the easiest place to find. Hang a right at Wyola, population 100, the home of the "Mighty Few" as Wyolians are known to their fellow Crow Indians, and head straight for the mountains. This is the rolling rangeland where Montana got its famous moniker, Big Sky Country. Eventually a red sandstone road will take you to a small log cabin on Lodge Grass Creek, 26 miles from the nearest telephone.

The Crow Indian Nation once stretched for hundreds of miles across this high plains grassland without a single road, fencepost or strand of barbed wire to mar the view. Then, in 1887, the federal government cast aside its treaty obligations to the Crow and other tribes and opened up their homelands to white settlers. Cattle soon replaced buffalo, and a hundred years later, about the same time the economics of the cattle industry began circling the drain, geologists discovered that the Big Horn Mountains are floating on a huge lake of crude oil. It wasn't long before guys in blue suits and shiny black cars were cruising the back roads of Crow country and gobbling up land and mineral rights for pennies on the dollar. By hook and crook, the Yellowtails managed to keep their 7,000-acre chunk of that petrochemical dream puzzle. "We just barely hung on to this ranch in the '80s," says Bill Yellowtail, who, in addition to being a cattleman, has been a state legislator, a college professor, a fishing guide and a regional administrator for the Environ­mental Protection Agency. "It was dumb luck, I guess. And stubbornness."

"The American Indian." Fritz Scholder 1970. Oil on linen. Indian Arts and Crafts Board Collection, Department of the Interior, at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Photo by Walter Larrimore, NMAI. [Click to view larger image.]
"The American Indian." Fritz Scholder 1970. Oil on linen. Indian Arts and Crafts Board Collection, Department of the Interior, at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Photo by Walter Larrimore, NMAI. [Click to view larger image.]
At 6 feet 2 inches tall and 250 pounds, Yellowtail is a prepossessing figure, and no matter where his life mission takes him, his spirit will always inhabit this place. When his eyes take in the 360-degree view of soaring rock and jack-pine forest and endless blue sky, he sees a wintering valley of 10,000 bones that has been home to his clan for nearly a millenium. And because his inner senses were shaped by this land, by this scale of things, his vision of the future is a big picture. "The battle of the 21st century will be to save this planet," he says, "and there's no doubt in my mind that the battle will be fought by native people. For us it is a spiritual duty," says Yellowtail, sweeping his hand across the thunderous silence of the surrounding plains from the top of a sandstone bluff, "and this is where we will meet."

What Yellowtail describes with the sweep of his hand is not so much a physical place as a metaphorical landscape where epic legal battles over the allocation and distribution of rapidly diminishing natural resources are destined to be fought. Tacitly, those looming battles echo a question that Americans have finessed, deflected or avoided answering ever since the colonial era: What do we owe the Indian? Long before the United States became an independent nation, European monarchs recognized the sovereignty of Indian nations. They made nation-to-nation treaties with many of the Eastern tribes, and our Founders, in turn, acknowledged the validity of these compacts in Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which describes treaties as "the supreme law of the land." Once the Constitution was ratified, the new republic joined a pre-existing community of sovereign nations that already existed within its borders. Today, the United States recognizes 562 sovereign Indian nations, and much of what we owe them is written in the fine print of 371 treaties.

In 2009, Indians comprise about 1 percent of the population, and irony of ironies, the outback real estate they were forced to accept as their new homelands in the 19th century holds 40 percent of the nation's coal reserves. And that's just for openers. At a time when the nation's industrial machinery and extractive industries are running out of critical mineral resources, Indian lands hold 65 percent of the nation's uranium, untold ounces of gold, silver, cadmium, platinum and manganese, and billions of board feet of virgin timber. In the ground beneath that timber are billions of cubic feet of natural gas, millions of barrels of oil and a treasure chest of copper and zinc. Perhaps even more critically, Indian lands contain 20 percent of the nation's fresh water.

Tribal councils are well aware of the treasures in the ground beneath their boots and are determined to protect them. Fifteen hundred miles southwest of Yellowtail Ranch, Fort Mojave tribe lawyers thwarted a government nuclear waste facility in Ward Valley, Calif. Eight hundred miles east of Ward Valley, Isleta Pueblo attorneys recently won a U.S. Supreme Court contest that forced the city of Albuquerque to spend $400 million to clean up the Rio Grande River. Northwest tribes won the right to half of the commercial salmon catch in their ancestral waterways, including the Columbia and Snake rivers. And, after a 20-year-long legal battle, the Potawatomi and Chippewa tribes of Wisconsin prevented the Exxon Corporation from opening a copper mine at Crandon Lake, a battle Indian lawyers won by enforcing Indian water rights and invoking provisions in the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Air Act.

The Indian Wars of the 19th century were largely fought over land because the federal government refused to uphold its various treaty obligations. The spoils in the 21st-century battles will be natural resources, and underlying those battles will be the familiar thorn of sovereignty. "Back in the old days," says Tom Goldtooth, the national director for the Indigenous Environmental Network, "we used bows and arrows to protect our rights and our resources. That didn't work out so well. Today we use science and the law. They work much better."

None of our laws are more deeply anchored to our national origin than those that bind the fate of the Indian nations to the fate of the republic. And none of our Founding Fathers viewed the nation's debt to the Indians with greater clarity than George Washing­ton. "Indians being the prior occupants [of the continent] possess the right to the Soil," he told Congress soon after he was elected president. "To dispossess them…would be a gross violation of the fundamental Laws of Nature and of that distributive Justice which is the glory of the nation." In Washington's opinion, the young war-depleted nation was in no condition to provoke wars with the Indians. Furthermore, he warned Congress that no harm could be done to Indian treaties without undermining the American house of democracy.

The country had no sooner pushed west over the Allegheny Mountains than problems began to emerge with the Constitution itself. The simple model of federalism envisioned by the Founders was proving unequal to the task of managing westward migration. Nothing in the Constitution explained how the new federal government and the states were going to share power with the hundreds of sovereign Indian nations within the republic's borders. The Constitution's commerce clause was designed to neutralize the jealousy of states by giving the federal government exclusive legal authority over treaties and commerce with the tribes, but when Georgia thumbed its nose at Cherokee sovereignty in 1802 by demanding that the entire nation be removed from its territory, the invisible fault line in federalism suddenly opened into a chasm.

The Indians found themselves entangled in a fierce jurisdictional battle that they had no part in starting. It was not their fight, but when the smoke and dust finally settled four decades later, the resolution would be paid for in Indian blood. Georgia's scheme was to bring the issue of states' rights to a national crisis point, and it worked. Bewailing the arrogance of "southern tyrants," President John Quincy Adams declared that Georgia's defiance of federal law had put "the Union in the most imminent danger of dissolution….The ship is about to founder." Short of declaring war against Georgia and its sympathetic neighbors, the nation finally turned in desperation to the Supreme Court.

When the concept of Indian sovereignty was put to the test, Chief Justice John Marshall offered up a series of judgments that infuriated Southern states' rights advocates, including his cousin and bitter rival Thomas Jefferson. In three landmark decisions, known as the Marshall Trilogy issued between 1823 and 1832, the court laid the groundwork for all subsequent federal Indian law. In Johnson v. McIntosh, Marshall affirmed that under the Constitution, Indian tribes are "domestically dependent nations" entitled to all the privileges of sovereignty with the exception of making treaties with foreign governments. He explained in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester v. Georgia that the federal government and the Indian nations are inextricably bound together as trustee to obligee, a concept now referred to as the federal trust doctrine. He also ruled that treaties are a granting of rights from the Indians to the federal government, not the other way around, and all rights not granted by the Indians are presumed to be reserved by the Indians. This came to be known as the reserved rights doctrine.

The federal trust doctrine and the reserved rights doctrine placed the government and the tribes in a legally binding partnership, leaving Congress and the courts with a practical problem—guaranteeing tribes that American society would expand across the continent in an orderly and lawful fashion. Inevitably, as disorderly and unlawful expansion became the norm—by common citizens, presidents, state legislators, governors and lawmakers alike—the conflict of interest embedded in federalism gradually eclipsed the rights of the tribes.
For their part, President Andrew Jackson and the state of Georgia scoffed at Marshall's rulings and accelerated their plans to remove all Indians residing in the Southeast to Oklahoma Territory. Thousands of Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Chickasaw Indians died in forced marches from their homelands. Eyewitness reports from the "trail of tears" were so horrific that Congress called for an investigation. The inquiry—conducted by Ethan Allen Hitchcock, the grandson of his revolutionary era namesake—revealed a "cold-blooded, cynical disregard for human suffering and the destruction of human life." Hitchcock's final report, along with supporting evidence, was filed with President John Tyler's secretary of war, John C. Spencer. When Congress demanded a copy, Spencer replied with a curt refusal: "The House should not have the report without my heart's blood." No trace of Hitchcock's final report has ever been found.

By 1840 America's first Indian "removal era" was completed, and within a decade a second removal era would begin. Massive land grabs in the West commenced when Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, opening treaty-protected Indian lands to white settlement. While the act is most often remembered as a failed attempt to ease rapidly growing tensions between the North and South by giving settlers the right to determine whether to allow slavery in the new territories, it also embodied a brazen disregard by Washington lawmakers of their trust obligations to Western tribes.

Three decades later, the federal government ignored its trust obligations yet again when the 1887 Dawes Act gave the president the authority to partition tribal lands into allotments for individual Indian families. "Surplus" Indian land was opened up to settlement by white homesteaders, and soon 100 million acres of land once protected by treaties had been wrested from Indian control. Euphemistically known as the Allotments Era, this period lasted until 1934, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress finally put an end to the land grabs. Meanwhile, federal courts began relying on Marshall's century-old legal precedents in a series of controversial decisions that forcefully reminded Washington lawmakers of their binding obligations to the tribes. The decisions also prompted jealous state governments to resume their adversarial relationship with tribes, and to treat the tribes' partner, the federal government, as a heavy-handed interloper.

Although many Allotment Era executive orders were eventually ruled illegal by federal courts, the genie was out of the bottle. There was no way to return the land that had been taken to its rightful owners, and besides, the powerless remnants of once great Indian tribes were lucky to survive from one year to the next. Ironically, the turning point for Indians came decades later, courtesy of Richard Nixon.

On July 8, 1970, in the first major speech ever delivered by an American president on behalf of the American Indian, Nixon told Congress that federal Indian policy was a black mark on the nation's character. "The American Indians have been oppressed and brutalized, deprived of their ancestral lands, and denied the opportunity to control their own destiny." Through it all, said Nixon, who credited his high school football coach, a Cherokee, with teaching him lessons on the gridiron that gave him the fortitude to be president, "the story of the Indian is a record of endurance and survival, of adaptation and creativity in the face of overwhelming obstacles."

In Nixon's view, the paternalism of the federal government had turned into an "evil" that held the Indian down for 150 years. Henceforth, he said, federal Indian policy should "operate on the premise that Indian tribes are permanent, sovereign governmental institutions in this society." With the assistance of Sen. James Abourezk of South Dakota, Nixon's staff set about writing the American Indian Self-Determination and Educa­tion Assistance Act, which gave tribes more direct control over federal programs that affected their members. By the time Congress got around to passing the law, in 1975, Nixon had left the White House in disgrace. But for the 1.5 million native citizens of the United States, the Nixon presidency was a great success that heralded an end to their "century-of-long-time-sleeping."

Word of Nixon's initiatives rumbled like summer thunder through the canyon lands and valleys of Indian Country. While the American Indian Movement grabbed national attention by staging a violent siege of the town of Wounded Knee, S.D., in 1973, thousands of young Indian men and women began attending colleges and universities for the first time. According to Carnegie Foundation records, in November 1968 fewer than 500 Indian students were enrolled in schools of higher education. Ten years later, that number had jumped tenfold.

Among the first to benefit from Nixon-era policies was a generation of determined young Indians with names like Bill Yellowtail, Tom Goldtooth and Raymond Cross. "For the first time in living history, Indian tribes began developing legal personalities," says Cross, a Yale-educated Mandan attorney and law school professor who has made two successful trips to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue the merits of Indian sovereignty. "They realized that federal Indian policies had been a disaster for well over a hundred years. The time had come to change all that."

As various tribes slowly developed their political power, young college educated Indians came to view efforts to wrest away their natural resources as extensions of 19th-century assaults on sovereignty and treaty rights. Mineral corporations, federal agencies and state governments—emboldened by 160 years of neglect of the government's trust responsibilities—were accustomed to having their way with Indian Country.

In places like Lodge Grass, Shiprock and Mandaree, long-term neglect of treaty rights had translated into widespread poverty and a 70 percent unemployment rate. In New Town, Yankton and Second Mesa, that neglect meant a proliferation of kidney dialysis clinics and infant mortality rates that would be scandalous in Ghana. In Crow Agency, Lame Deer and Gallup, neglect looked like a whirlpool of dependency on booze and methamphetamines that spat Indian youth out into a night so dark that wet brain, self-inflicted gunshot wounds, cirrhotic livers and the all too familiar jalopy crashes, marked by a blizzard of little white crosses on wind-scoured reservation byways, read like a cure for living. Indians, no less than their counterparts in white society, found themselves prisoners of the pictures in their own heads.
Two hundred and thirty-one years after the new United States signed its first treaty with the Delaware Indians, there is too much money on the table, and too many resources in the ground, for either the Indians or the industrialized world to walk away from Indian Country without a fight. There may be occasional celebrations of mutual understanding and reconciliation, but no one is fooling anybody. The contest of wills will be just as fierce as it was in the Alleghenies in the 1790s, in Georgia in the 1820s, and on the Great Plains in the 1850s. "From the beginning, the Europeans' Man versus Nature argument was a contrived dichotomy," says Cross. "The minute you tame nature, you've destroyed the garden you idealized. The question that confronts the dominant society today is 'Now what?' After you destroy Eden, where do you go from here?"

Meanwhile, on a late Sunday evening inside a cabin on Lodge Grass Creek at Yellowtail Ranch, the weighty matters of the world are at bay. Friends and family have gathered around a half moon table in the kitchen for an evening of community fellowship. No radio. No cell phones. Wide-eyed children lie curled like punctuation marks under star quilts in the living room, listening to grown-ups absorbing each other's lives. Mostly, the grown-ups dream out loud over cherry pie and home­made strawberry ice cream. Gallons of coffee flow from a blue speckled pot on the stove. At peak moments all seven voices soar and collide in clouds of laughter.

Outside, the Milky Way glows overhead as brightly as a Christmas ribbon. The surrounding countryside is held by a silence so pure, so absolute, that individual stars seem to sizzle. Laughter, happy voices and a shriek of disbelief drift into the night where far overhead a jet's turbines pull at the primordial silence with a whisper. From 35,000 feet in the night sky, soaring toward tomorrow near the speed of sound, a transcontinental traveler glances out his window and sees a single light burning in an ocean of darkness. He wonders: Who lives down there? Who are those people? What are their lives like?

Far below, that light marks the spot where the Indians' future meets the Indians' past, where the enduring ethics of self-sufficiency and interdependence, cooperation and decency, community and spirit are held in trust for unborn generations of Crow and Comanche, Pueblo and Cheyenne, Hidatsa and Cherokee—where people who know who they are gather around half moon kitchen tables to make laughter and share grief. Still there after the storms.
 

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Paul VanDevelder is a writer and documentary filmmaker based in Oregon. His book Coyote Warrior: One Man, Three Tribes, and the Trial That Forged a Nation was nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 2004. His latest book is Savages and Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America's Road to Empire Through Indian Territory.


34 Responses to “What Do We Owe the Indians?”


  1. 1
    Wayman S Mercer says:

    I like to hear of the old History of the Indians.I myself am 1/2 Cherokee & feel like the Indians of America have been shoved out in the cold.I even have ancestors who were on the "Trail of Tears" from East Tennessee to Oaklahoma to the Reservation there. This was done all because the white man found gold in the mountains of East Tennessee.Such a shame to our ancestors, May they rest in PEACE.

  2. 2
    Sandra Hayley says:

    This provides and exc ellent summary and timeline of US government and Native American interactions.

  3. 3
    M. L. Nelson says:

    Being of Native American, African American and Irish American descent I am elated that finally this history about Native American is being told. It’s a shame that so many of my people have passed away without any recognition, fleeced of financial gain, robbed of their heritage and then regarded as savages. There is no reason why people in our county should be poor if the greedy would stop trying to cheat property owners, mineral right owners etc. out of what is rightfully theirs. Compensation has been made for some but not all.

  4. 4
    David M.Fowler Jr. says:

    The United States Government threw the use of forced removel and uninforced laws has taken not onle the land of the Cherokee peoples of Georgia, but their indentity as well. The sudden seperation from their native lands, the scattering of their peoples who ran away in every direction. The worst part of all was for those who did not run, those who stayed till the removel suffered the greatest, they had to watch as, one by one, as they lost their young and their elderly on the Trail of Tears. Those elders held all the knowledge of their past history inside of them, when put into contex leaves the Cherokee people without their identity or their history. That also took the direction of their future too.
    Today, identity thieft is a crime, but the Federal Government still is destroying Native Peoples idenity threw distuction of Indian Mounds ect. all in the name of progress and new construction. I will end with a quote from a founding member of the Trail of Tears Ass.

    'If man cares not for his roots, then how can he care for his branches?' –Doyle M Davis

    serving only my history, my heritage and my heart,
    David M. Fowler Jr.
    Head of Coosa Ga.

  5. 5
    Charles laster says:

    There should be a native american history month.

    Also, there should be moves to increase tribal soveriegnty over their remaining lands.

    A thoroughly sad history.

  6. 6
    Charlie Eyster says:

    I realize that the culture of the American Indian has been all but destroyed. But their ravenge has been the CASINO.

  7. 7
    Elisa Emarthle says:

    America owes the Indigenous people ALOT! I, being of the Seminole & Northern Arapaho nations, believe that Natives not only are due an apology, but some sort of payment. Now, I highly doubt that some sort of payment will happen, at least America could recognize what it has done, by acknowledging the robbing, raping & pillaging of this whole continent.

  8. 8
    John Lea says:

    The historical face of America has many ugly scars. The treatment of the American Indian is a horrible, ghastly, ugly scar that has virtually been covered over by no less then our waving banner comonly referred to as " OLD GLORY ". Dont get me wrong, I love our flag and have served our country, but I'm 72 yrs. old and have stated openly and publicly since I was a child that " Custer and his kin got exactly what they deserved at Little Big Horn ". What do we owe the Indian? A debt so large that it can only be paid by the forgiving grace of Allmighty God !

  9. 9
    Mike Rubinfeld says:

    The article was very relevant and a deserving indictment of our culture/country and the darkest pert of our history. I was aware of most of the trasvesties described, although I am a 'dumb white guy'. In recent years I have gone to many powwows, and al-though those are just giving bits and pieces of Native culture, I have come to realize that the Indigenous way of life is very much superior to the frantic, abusive, and greedy euro-centric prevailing culture. Quite possibly, that 'normal' society will come to deperately need to learn the Native way in order to survive one day – and that day might not be very far away. In other words – 'what goes around comes around'.

  10. 10
    Bobby Foreman says:

    It is a sad day and it is becoming worse everyday in indian country. I grew up on my rancheria with my great grandmother Virginia Timmoms, she lived here with her mother and father and remained here after their deaths. We have lived on this property since the 1930's In 2002 the tribe, Redding Rancheria and the tribal chairperson Barbara Murphy started a rumor that my grandmother was not the daughter of my great grandmother. My grandmother was born in 1916 at home and did not have a birth certificate. The tribe, with millions of dollars at stake to spead with the disenrolling of the Foreman family, 76 out of a tribe of 300, would not take census records BIA documents, historical and medical, plus personal witnesses, so we were forced to exhume the bodies of both mother and daughter to give them DNA, 99.987% that they are indeed mother and daughter the tribe let the members vote by secret ballot to vote us out. Greed won and we lost, I still live on the rancheria with my family, trust land. No justice, to due process and no place to have our case heard in an un-biased venue. It is a cancer that will end up destroying indian country. Please visit http://www.tribalcorruption.com for more information, thank you for your time, Bobby Foreman

  11. 11
    X says:

    What we owe the Indians is about 3 million square miles of land, plus interest.

  12. 12
    Alvina Firecrow says:

    The status quo continues on how the Native American's are treated in this country, with or without land. Grandpa John Stands In Timber said it would not change which the Cheyenne's are forgetting/not interested in. Someone should video tape or photograph the Northern Cheyenne Reserv-
    vation before the coal is removed.

  13. 13
    David Ringler says:

    It's apparent that we totaly overran this Continent.

  14. 14
    Jim says:

    The Indians were killing themselves before the White man even got here. So we did what they were already doing. The Indian's problem was really their numbers. There weren't millions of Indians here on the continent, most tribes numbered in hundreds vs. thousands of people. Millions of Europeans and other nationalities resettled in this country and almost immediately outnumbered the indians.

  15. 15
    Daniel says:

    Honor the treaties, Pay up or get off the land that was stolen!

  16. 16
    Al Asa-Dorian says:

    Unenlightened Jim Article 6/5/09

    "The Indians were killing themselves before the White man even got here."~ True! the American Indian Tribes were battling each other for prestige, hunting grounds & tribal honor. The way in which they conducted their battles is where you lost your case! Study the acts of, "counting coup". Any blow struck against the enemy counted as a coup, but the most prestigious acts included touching an enemy warrior, with the hand or with a coup stick, then escaping unharmed. Some American Indian Tribes used Lacrosse, originating in the Indian nations of mid-America. In many Native American societies/tribes, the ball sport was often part of religious ritual, played to resolve conflicts, heal the sick, develop strong, virile men and prepare for war.
    As you stated in your article, "So we did what they were already doing." No we did not! The Great White Chief in Washington, killed by an act of attrition or genocide, which US Presidents guised as, Manifest Destiny: A doctrine used to rationalize U.S. territorial expansion in the 1840s and 1850s.
    Jim stated, "The Indian’s problem was really their numbers. There weren’t millions of Indians here on the continent, most tribes numbered in hundreds vs. thousands of people. Millions of Europeans and other nationalities resettled in this country and almost immediately outnumbered the indians." Wrong again! Columbus did not set foot on North America until 1492. It took 350 years for the non-native settlers to outnumber the American Indian population. As for the spred of infectious disease and the use of heinous weaponry now you're on to something! The US Calvary distributed infectious blankets (chemical warfare of the time) to the American Indians on reservations devastating mass populations. The Gatling Gun of 1861 used at Wounded Knee, burning of whole villages of women & children while sleeping inside their tipis were all methods by which to kill off the American Indian population. All of these methods were commonplace practices for the elimination of the American Indian now considered illegal under the rules established by the Geneva Convention.
    Hope that clears things up for you, Jim

  17. 17
    Wilfred says:

    Dear Kathy Wise,

    I just read an article that you wrote for the June 2009 issue of Cowboys and Indians magazine concerning Apache Skateboards.
    It seemed rather odd that none of the Indians in the photographs are smiling. I have been around Mescalero Apaches for over a half century and they smile a lot. Same goes for the various Pueblo Indians I’ve known in New Mexico .
    They know how lucky they are to have a choice between the culture of the red man and that of the white man. They also get preferential treatment should they choose get a college education and get money from the U.S. Government each month whether they work or not.
    Maybe the people of San Carlos are different than other Indians.
    There was a statement you made about Miles’ being concerned about “owning the new imagery without being culturally hijacked”. The imagery shown in the magazine isn’t new. It appears to be a combination of ‘70’s era biker graffiti, amateur reproductions of old photos of Geronimo with a touch of Mexican influence, just a touch of the geometrical designs found on Mimbres pottery and one Texas Ranger star.
    These people have a lot more to be proud of than painting skate boards. I wish you would give them more credit.
    As far as the overall treatment fo the Amerinds is concerned, we have been very charitable in comparison to the way the indiginous people of Argentina were exterminated/exiled.

  18. 18
    Dennis Sumrak says:

    Mr. Klein,
    With all due respect, I don’t know how your comment is pertinent to this discussion.

  19. 19
    S. Wesley Mcgranor says:

    We dont owe the Indians anything…

    P.S. Stop eminent domain abuse!

  20. 20
    John says:

    I think the first thing we owe the Indians is an honest look at history. The rationalizations used for destruction of tribal sovereignty, especially after the American Revolution, were mostly bogus and inspired by greed. The sort of racism used to make this process palatable has been a staple of American culture ever since, though it has improved in the last 30 years or so. The most comprehensive destruction of American Indians, incidentally, took place in California, where the tribes were small, scattered, and not very warlike. Many of the warrior tribes are more numerous today than they were at the time of contact. The peaceful tribes were largely exterminated. However there are some doubts about the smallpox-in-the-blankets stories — smallpox contagion was probably accident. Wounded Knee took place in 1890, not 1861, and the weapons were Hotchkiss guns, not Gatling guns. The murder of a large number of women and children, however, is completely factual. Both sides did this — but in movies or the older history books, only the Indians did it….I think all unused land contiguous to or adjacent to large groups of Indians should be returned to the control of tribal governments for use in farming, ranching, gathering, tourism, whatever and that transfer of land now leased to ranchers should not be allowed beyond the linear family. American Indians are exceptionally intelligent people and given an absence of government and corporate interference they could probably cure their own "poverty problem" in a single generation.

  21. 21
    Nick says:

    We don't owe the Native Americans anything. Civilizations have always risen up to expand their territories and history has shown that the weaker civilizations have always fallen to the smaller ones. It happened with the Romans, it happened with the Mongols, it happened with the US in this case, and it even happened with Germany and Japan in World War II. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, this is just the way it is and always will be; the stronger civilization will always overpower the weaker one: WAR is not meant to be a fair fight.

  22. 22
    Brenda says:

    At WHAT POINT are people going to QUIT using EXCUSES for what the "white man" has done to them……and GET UP AND DO SOMETHING WITH THE LIFE THEY HAVE NOW!?! We CANT change History. NOTHING AT ALL can be done for EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO HAS SEEN EVIL in THEIR lives….or been TREATED BADLY.
    And WHAT will $$$$$ do to HELP THEM get OVER their PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS history? Every SINGLE nationality has seen SOME kind of EVIL towards THEIR nationality. Why should a WHITE MAN PAY ANYTHING for BEING WHITE???? I KNOW I did NOT have ANYTHING TO DO WITH WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN HISTORY…so WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO REPAY ANYONE FOR THEIR HARDSHIP in life NOW???? Quit looking in the past for an EXCUSE to use today!
    I QUARANTEE if ANY of THESE indians WANTED to GO WHERE THE WORK IS….LIKE MOST AMERICANS…THEY TOO could work, have a home and a GOOD life……..but INSTEAD….LIKE SO MANY nationalities in this country….THEY would RATHER blame the white man for being a STRONG nationality and MAKING THEIR WAY IN LIFE…using the SAME resources AVAILABLE to ALL in THIS COUNTRY!!!

    • 22.1
      Michael says:

      1). Native Americans have been repressed for close to 600 years.
      2). They were practically forced to live on somewhat small reservations.
      3). In the 1970's they were forced to assimilate to our culture.
      4). In an effort to "make them forget" about our debt, the government has been pumping alcohol into reservations since before and during the prohibition.
      5). The government purchased land from Native Americans and, due to inflation, is somewhere in the billions now.

      I'm sure you have probably done some research in the 4 years since your post, but a google search really saves the embarrassment.

  23. 23
    Sue says:

    Brenda – your ignorance of history and especially American Indian history is mind boggling. Every treaty ever signed by the tribes and the U.S. Government has been broken – by the government NOT the Indians. Former Secretary of The Interior Gail Norton was held in contempt for not following the guidlines of the Justice Dept. "Republican John McCain of Arizona, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, who calls the fund's mismanagement a "national scandal,", "US District Judge Royce Lamberth, who is hearing the case. "I've never seen more egregious misconduct by the federal government," They have been robbed of mineral, land and oil rights by big business with the governments consent for centuries. If a treaty gave them a certain parcel of land and then gold, silver, oil, etc were found on that land it was over run by Americans and when the Indians retaliated against this egregious theft then the government sent in the Army to kill them. This was the reason for Little Big Horn. The indians got fed up and banded together to fight the Army that was protecting the invaders. Brush up on your history before you denigrate entire cultures and peoples.

  24. 24
    Roxy, Claassen says:

    I am native and, have a college education. Now maybe if all the broken promises of the many treaty's had been carried through, our people would not have the burdens they have now. The US government put the military in action and signed on indian agents. way before the treatys. Not to mention the use of the Jesuits and Christians to make us change our traditions. This is considered unconstitutional now a days. How many immigrants from over seas were forced to change thier religion? This being a free country and this a history article my main complaint is the way the white historians made it sound so romantistic regarding the Native Peoples. There are records held in Washingtonn DC. There are records held in Oklahoma and you have to personally go there to get copies. Lets start releasing some of that truth. I feel that these records should be available on written request. So that the Native peoples can publish that material. These people who are inn deed in the dark and unwilling to accept other race's should find an Island were they can be happy. I hear so much negative talk towards any people of color, then why are you in America? The downgrading of the very same people to whom the forfathers of this country brought here in the first place were used as slaves. Because they didn't have enough of the Natives to do thier dirty work. My ansestors were used as house maids. So I guess we knew how to work back then and with the proper education our native children could prosper. But because alcohol was a favorite drink aomong the people who landed here could not resist in passing this on to who ever they wanted to rip off. So what now? Give us what is due to us so that we as Native people can build our communitys and have nice houses, parks, theaters, and creating jobs for our people on the reservations.

  25. 25
    Jeremy says:

    There comes a point when the world has to move past the "an eye for an eye" mentality, that time is now.

    Sorry if you've found yourself with an unavenged poked eye at this point in history but if we ever want to have fairness we've going to have to wipe the slate clean and not blame people for the sins of their ancestors and stop using the injustices perpetrated upon ours as a crutch.

  26. 26
    RAY CHANDLER says:

    It's politically correct (that repulsive term) to feel sorry for the Indians. Sorry, but I don't. Theirs was the fate of any people conquered by a technologically and culturally more advanced people. That coupled with deaths by disease that resulted from mere contact of the two peoples rather than some deliberate act. This, according to some estimates, killed off as many as 90 percent of the Indians who died.

    As for breaking the treaties, this is par for the course with any government. None can really be trusted, that's why the Founders set out to form one that was small, limited and non-intrusive. But I digress …

    The Indians, for the most part, simply suffered the fate of the dinosaur … just suck it down and get over it.

    • 26.1
      Erik Stutzman says:

      I presume you feel no sympathy for the Jews then? I mean they got conquered by a more advanced people. Hell they wouldn't have their 'homeland' today if it wasn't for some misplaced sense of guilt on the part of white Americans.

      I also presume you feel that the United States was wrong to interfere in any war after 1783? Why bother to involve ourselves in the dinosaur killing of other peoples, right?

      By the way, the term Indian refers to people from India. Why you feel the need to perpetuate the ignorance of Columbus is beyond me.

      • 26.1.1
        Billy says:

        I apperciate what you are saying but I agree with the other guy. What happend in the past was tragic but serioulsy people need to move on, especially the Native Americans.

        Just how the Jews were killed and dragged from their homes so were the Native Americans except the Jew adapted they moved on and are a force to be reckoned with today unlike the Native American people.

        I'm sick of people saying if it wasn't for the "whiteman" Native Americans would be better off. Possibly true, however, the Native Americans are now killing their own culture and themselves with this feeling of entitlment!

        They feel that America owes them for their loss and America listens and when they send money to help all it does is cripple. They have more opprotunities than propbably most people in the US but they sit back and spend their entitlment check on beer and bingo instead of going to college and getting a good career.

  27. 27
    subtleabuses says:

    In Lake County, for instance, which has two state parks renowned for rich American Indian resources, a lawsuit drags on over a couple's landscaping project.

    In 2006, the state parks department filed suit against William and Lee Ann Gilbert, alleging that the couple wreaked havoc in a state-owned conservation easement on their private island.

    According to court documents, the Gilberts bought 10-acre Indian Island in Clear Lake in 2002, which included a 1.5-acre easement owned by the state parks department since 1982.

    The state contends the Gilberts ripped up the easement to plant grapevines, clearing natural vegetation and "destroying" a piece of American Indian rock art.

    "We've got to let people know this is not OK," said Marilyn Linkem, supervisor of the parks department's Northern Buttes District.

    Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/08/22/2974573/growth-puts-pressure-on-californias.html#ixzz165q2mON9

  28. 28
    notsofast says:

    Its very simple really. One group of people lived off the land nomatic, roaming foraging. This does not allow for large population. Then along comes another group, with a way to use the land to support a larger population (farming, and industrialization). The indians often resisted this, and held on tight, Result confict, and losing lands. Case closed. Its over now move on. Enough living in past, blaming this group or goverment. The world is modernized, the planet has 7 billion people. We all want to roam around on a horse and drink from clear steams,, but its not going to happen. Modernization is really what it was, just it came from the hands of whites. but also blacks, chinese ect who expanded the west and built the country to what it is now. And dont forget in 1850s life was brutal and a crap shot for anyone on the frontier period.

  29. 29
    Voldemort says:

    Americans suck. We stole Indian lands, then killed them with our diseases and guns.

  30. 30
    e-papierosy says:

    I have come to realize that the Indigenous way of life is very much superior to the frantic, abusive, and greedy euro-centric prevailing culture. Quite possibly, that 'normal' society will come to deperately need to learn the Native way in order to survive one day – and that day might not be very far away. In other words – 'what goes around comes around'.

  31. 31
    Anirban (aka Abner) Bhattacharya says:

    I used repeat politically safe view ‘this land was taken from the American Indians’ but after thinking about it, I understood that the topic is more complicated & selectiveness in this critique. Yes, -Wars were used to get land from American Indians or Native Americans. Most Whites are not the original inhabitants except for the Solutreans who came during the Ice Age.

    But even many American Indians or Native Americans are not Native in that they got their land by wars against other Native Americans. Incidentally to say an American Indian tribe such as Cherokees own all of USA is like saying China owns all of Asia. But difference between Whites and American Indians is that Whites had better weapons & transportation. Honestly, American Indian tribes would have done the same thing if they had the same technology.

    Aztecs conquered other Indian tribes in Mexico based on science and techonology known to them & Aztecs fighting for this. Incas conquered many other Native American tribes (2,500 miles in South America) in wars based on science and technology known to them & Incas willing to fight for it. Again American Indians used wars to get land when they wanted it & were proud winners but when they lost the lands by wars, they were sore losers.

    My critique are views of American Indian groups such as A.I.M. in that they have no problem when American Indians killed eachother for land during wars but only complain when American Indians lost their lands in wars. A.I.M. think it’s OK when American Indian tribes such as Aztecs got their land by wars against other tribe and Aztecs (to lesser extent Incas and Mayans) having human sacrifices, but complain about los conquistadores. Selective complaint view by A.I.M. is what I can not accept.

    I believe in democracy and oppose discrimination and support = chances for all ethnic groups. If an American Indian has talent to become an engineer, physicist, then they should get the job. If an American Indian commits a crime or is a crime victim, then there must be = justice. I oppose discrimination. I listen to broadcasts by an American Indian Christian woman Linda P. Harvey (part Cherokee) because what she says is right (I’m not Christian but I like what she says) and she has critiqued the political safeness on the part of American Indian groups.

    But complaining about what happened in the 1800s and blaming what happened in past for todays problems is dumb. Slavery’s wrong but I’m not going to complain about something which was abolished long ago. People who are drunkards and junkies got that way because they chose to get drunk, high. The American Indians who are drunkards, junkies are that way because they chose to get drunk, high and it’s dumb to blame the 1800s for what’s happening today is wrong. Anyhow, I’ve thought about this topic. Truth about American Indians and Europeans is that both sides used wars and there was greed on both sides. Yet American Indians groups such as A.I.M. only condemn when the Whites did it but imply think it’s OK when American Indians did it to eachother and I can’t accept that view.



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