News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

December 13, 2013

Readers’ Forum: Dec. 14, 2013

The treatment of American Indians was unjust

The early missionaries failed to recognize and embrace the intrinsic God-given value of the people of this land, a blindness which still prevails. The Indians were tagged as the “white man’s burden” and the popular thought was to “civilize” us by making us appear white.

Our children were stolen from us. Their hair was cut to a proper European length and they were uniformed and uninformed from their tribal cultures and language. Indians could only become Christians if they appeared to be un-red. The white man saw himself as superior, a supposition not necessarily based on truth, but on the “progress” of industry, science and commerce.

The missionaries believed that Europe was civilized and the rest of the world was primitive, so they set up programs to transform Christian Indians into English Puritans. From the inception of government-sponsored and church-run schools, missionaries made a practice of prepping children by cutting their hair in a uniform style, a custom that continued until the early 1900’s. As much as anything, these haircuts symbolized an attempt to civilize Indians and turn them into good little Englishmen.

Bad haircuts were but one example of forced changes and the replacement of traditional clothing, language and culture, changes which denied the First Nation’s God-given identity and existence. It was cultural genocide.

Estimates of the pre-Columbus Indian population range from 1 million to 30 million, depending upon the criteria used. Many historians use a conservative figure of 10-12 million. If this is true, then the following facts are most disturbing:

n By 1900 only 237,000 Indians were left in the United States.

n In 1800 California was home to an estimated 260,000 Indians. By 1900, there were 20,000.

n There are 337 federally recognized tribes or nations in North America. Approximately 200 tribes have become extinct.

n The federal government recognized 300 reservations, which take up less than 4 percent of the land in the continental United States.

Contrary to common belief, the European colonial practice of importing slaves to North America did not begin with the importation of African tribal people, but in fact began with the enslavement of the host people of this land.

As early as 1502, Indians were captured and sold into slavery. John Smith himself advocated deception and intimidation toward Indians, recommending unrestrained violence to keep the tribes in line.

In Virginia in 1676, the assembly legalized the enslavement of Indians. The accepted “political correctness” of the time was that the Indians were less than human, barbarous infidels whose population needed to be thinned out. This is the same perception of the Muslim nations toward Christianity. Now we have become the hunted.

The injustice imposed upon the Indian nations far outweighs that of the black race. I was in Montana last week and was proudly informed that if three or more Indians approach on horseback, in war paint, it is legal to kill them.

The late President John F. Kennedy, in 1963, said: “It seems a basic requirement to study the history of our Indian People. America has much to learn about the heritage of the American Indian. Only through this study can we as a nation do what must be done if our treatment of the American Indian is not to be marked down for all time as a national disgrace.”

— Barbara Lidster

Terre Haute

Thanks for help

I would like to thank Capt. Bob Sivertson of the Terre Haute Fire Department and his guys for their help recently. My husband had fallen and I needed help. They were here in less than five minutes.

The first responders were courteous and kind. It’s reassuring to know that they are there when I need them. Thanks, guys.

— Patty Cottom

Terre Haute

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