February 23, 2017: Law-enforcement officers point their weapons at two water protectors praying near the Sacred Fire of the main resistance camp of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Both men were arrested, along with the photographer, shortly after this image was taken. (Tracie Williams)
Why Don’t They Just Assimilate?
Four years ago already, I had what I thought was a good friend insult me and my family during a brief conversation. During a smoke break, he and I had been discussing a few recent headlines. I interjected that I had been following developments in the Standing Rock protest whereas the establishment has charged an American Indian with criminal trespass on his own land. Without a moment for reflection, he interjected a most ignorant, biased, and racist statement. “No offense, but I think the Indians and Blacks should just quit whining and just assimilate into the mainstream American culture”. I was shocked and felt it best to not respond to the ignorance mostly due to the environment in which we were having the discussion in the first place.
I have given this brief discussion some great thought since it has happened. Much time has passed by, but the remarks still bother me greatly. I had meant to confront this individual within a different setting to expand the discussion, but after thinking about it, and knowing that I have offered this individual the tools to educate himself, and knowing that he has not taken advantage of these educational tools, I decided not to advance the conversation at any level.
Why did I choose this course? The answer is simple. I have come to believe this level of ignorance cannot be influenced. This is the very reason the republican party is deaf to acknowledging the real historical record. Facts are met with head shaking to the negative, hostile gossip, labeling and eventual shunning. Very similarly to the way one cannot reason with individuals of leftist ideology. The progressive ideology (democrats) and it’s arguments, in the end, do not make any sense and do not compute. When a valid observation or a point is made, the leftist always engages in off topic dialog, personal attacks, senseless accusations, and then resorts to violence. Generally speaking, the American Culture has been brainwashed. It is easier to believe a myth, a fairy-tale, and a lie, rather than be confronted with the facts and take the time to study the reality. The American culture is profoundly influenced by the pursuit of personal financial riches, materialistic property, and self aggrandizement at any cost.
This level of ignorance is what the public school system, the culture, and the Church has propagated. The underlying foundational principle that serves to reinforce the negative narrative, as it relates to the Native Indian, is:
- Indian Nations are a thing of the past and any Indian that is still alive is living off the good will of the US taxpayer.
- The Indian was and is a sub human race.
- The Tribes, for centuries, engaged in constant warfare with cycles of famine and starvation.
A little bit of experience and personal knowledge undoubtedly knows that the previous three statements are all fabricated lies. But, unless you grow up in, or near a native community west of the Mississippi, you will never know this is a lie. After a great deal of study, I had to ask myself a few questions.
- After a few Native Nations allowed foreign settlements near their communities and assisted the explorers in their fight for survival, and after the explorers had established a lucrative fur trade abroad that depended entirely on a cooperative arrangement with the Native Nations, then why is it that these settlers reversed their opinions and attitudes towards the Native Nations and deemed them sub human and a savage that needed to be eradicated from the face of the earth?
- Why did these primitive humans rebel against the supremacy of the white race?
- What threatened and frightened the organizers of towns, cities, and the government of the United States of America so completely that they concluded to have an Indian Problem and formulated action plans to assimilate or eliminate an entire continent of original, organized, and deeply religious inhabitants?
To me, the answer to the first question is clear and obvious. Just a few short few hundred years ago, The white’s or the “Long Knives” as they would come to be known would continuously go back to the Native Nations to strike a new deal, even in light of the fact that the whites had not lived up to the terms of the previous deal, and the Native said NO. We will not sell the land. This concept of owning the land is a complete subject for another time The Native continued to say NO. Conflict arose when the Long Knives proceeded to do as they pleased in spite of the objections of the land owners. After all the violence that happened, The bottom line is that The Natives Nations were simply defending their homes, their families, their religious beliefs, and their life way. Of course there was retaliation and vengeance visited upon the immigrants for provocations and senseless acts of violence that were perpetrated against the peaceful Indian peoples. After all, that is the only thing the “civilized” people really understand; the use of violence and force to enforce their will after their own legal systems fail to rule in their favor. Others might ask, why do the natives resort to violence to counteract violence. The answer is simple. The Indian did not have any representation in the the American legal system. The Indian could not bring a suit for damages against a white man for his offenses. The Indian could not vote to counteract the white vote. The Indian could not participate in the legislative, and judicial process of throttling the white invasion that was devastating a millennia old life way in the name of progress.
The answer to the second question is as follows: Though the native recognized the whites’ industrial ability to mass produce goods that were designed to make life more comfortable, mostly, the rest of the culture they rejected. The Native found it increasingly difficult to live near a culture that professed to claim spiritual enlightenment and civility while concurrently act like trespassing, thieving, murderous, liars. So the Native endeavored to live apart from the long knives and maintain their life way. This was a phenomena that occurred throughout the entire northern hemisphere. It is undeniable.
Time and time again, the Native was forced to the bargaining table, most assuredly against his will, to bargain for something he did not want to trade away. When the negotiations did not go the way the Long Knives intended, more brutal methods of coercion were implemented.
So, what is the answer to the third question?
Lets look at some facts for a bit. Our American forefathers realized that the original inhabitants did actually hold title to the land, regardless of the transactions going on back and forth between the foreign powers. Each Native tribe was and still are Independent Nations. This underlying fact is the reason the States authorized the newly formed federal government to negotiate with these Nations. These negotiations formalized into Treaties, many of which have been ratified by the United States Congress. The United States Constitution, Article 6, holds that Treaties with other nations are the supreme law of the land. Land was exchanged for cash, services, and a perpetual land base usually much smaller in size than the land owner had been traditionally accustomed too. The Federal government pledged the good faith of the American people to fulfill the terms of the treaties.
The rub happens when the miserable mechanisms employed to fulfill the obligations fell woefully short of the obligation, and the Nations were cheated on the delivery of goods and services. Additionally, the methods used to dispense these life sustaining articles were manipulated in such a way that the Indian, starving and imprisoned, found himself indebted to the contractors of the Federal Government that were delivering these articles
So the question begs to be asked. What do you bring to me that is of such a higher importance? The dominant culture is very good at inventing things, building things, and micromanaging people. Aside from that, there is some caring and compassion for the less affluent, but only if there is a way to pay for it or profit from it. This caring for the poor used to be accomplished by the church, but not so much anymore. These days it is usually a non-profit corporation dispensing the good will, or some pathetic government program. But mostly there are lies, deception, treachery, murder, hatred, racism, and the irrevocable belief that the land, minerals, and waters exist explicitly to be exploited by the “civilized” culture to support the endless pursuit of riches in this world. This culture sacrifices the natural things of this world, and human life, to sustain a failing economic system that requires the consumption of earthly materials that ultimately turns into garbage and fills the oceans, rivers, lakes, and landfills. You are turning my land into a wasteland due to the extraction of natural resources, contaminating the water, and back filling the mining pits with waste. All in an effort to support your way of life that is centered on a fiat currency that has no real value.
This dominant culture, often referred to as the First World, or Western Civilization twists and manipulates the words of the Creator God to suit its own desire. The culture murders the pre-born children in the name of health care and reproductive rights, and uses deceptive ambiguous terminology that pretends to represent a god given right prescribed in the United States Constitution. The culture has written laws and regulation without my consent and without my consultation in an effort to destroy my relationship with the land and waters, to destroy my family and take away my children because of my failure to navigate and cope with the sickness your way of life has injected into my community. The continual meddling into my affairs for the betterment of my people only brings more poverty, despair, abuse, impoverishment, and death. Your words hold no meaning. Your contracts are a deception in word craft.
Speaking to the dominant culture, you have no knowledge of your own laws, except if you have a direct exposure to a specific set of laws in your life time. You have no knowledge of the volumes of Federal Indian Law that have been written to protect my people and the things we hold in reverence. Granted, many of these laws have in the past been written to strip my people of said rights, beliefs, languages, homes, family, children, and land base, but ultimately these laws establish the boundary upon which your culture shall not trespass against. But you still make constant attacks through the courts, various departments of justice, and other government agencies through regulations and policy, specifically designed to commit acts of genocide against my people in the name of civilization, public safety, child protection, national security, and so on. As mentioned previously, the same laws that are written to attack me, also protect me from your diabolical nature. We still remember where we came from. We still remember what we had. We still remember how beautiful it was. And we still have a pathway to hold onto and realize that one day we will again be free. What is it then that I am supposed to assimilate into? And please explain to me why I would want to.
So much of the last couple of paragraphs begins to shape the answer to the 3rd. question, but does not address it completely.
The State demands that children go to school for 12 years of their lives to get an education and when and if they graduate, many cannot make their way in the world. Most raise the children to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and all the myths and fallacies that surround the founding of a nation, but when your children grow to the age of reason and start questioning the lies that have been perpetrated upon them, they rebel, and you wonder why.
Success is primarily evaluated in the accumulation of wealth and material things. What many do not realize is that the system has many diabolical checks and balances in place that insure that very few become wealthy, and these days if the average individual has any cash in their pocket, they are questioned as to why they have any money at all. You are supposed to be broke. And if you have not noticed, the modern measure of wealth is calculated against a debt ratio. It may appear that you can not have one without the other. Do you realize that it is a favorable cultural and political measure to espouse that some Indians finally have home ownership. This is such a ludicrous statement. The ideal is based on the dominant cultural attitude that the Indian has progressed from communal land holdings to private land ownership, based on the fee simple model. No one holds exclusive title to lands based on the fee simple model. If you do not pay tax monies to the emperor, the lands are taken from you. At least in the communal land holdings (trust lands) the Tribal Nation retains rights to the land forever.
As we circle back to the original intent of the question. Why don’t they just assimilate? I believe I have taken a well reasoned approach and explained why any rational, logical, and reasonably thinking individual would choose to reject any thought of assimilating into the mainstream American culture, especially knowing where we came from. I also attempt to describe that herein lies the basis for the misunderstanding. The dominant culture has not taken the time to learn and understand what they have given up to participate in the endless pursuit of greed and self aggrandizement. You do not want to know. How then could you possibly begin to understand what my ancestors were forced to relinquish just to live near your presence.