Native Americans deserve better
Native Americans have been vilified, cheated, brutalized and ignored by mainstream American society. During a road trip through the Southwest, it seemed as if their situation has worsened in this country. The lies and propaganda against Native Americans by the news media and entertainment industry is disappointing. The way America abuses Native Americans is a reflection of the corruption of American society.
By Ray Hanania
Published in the Southwest News Newspaper Group August 3, 2017
As I ended a road trip to America’s majestic Southwest, I came away with some unexpected feelings, including some I already believed and others that were surprising.
I flew to Las Vegas then drove back through Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming before entering the far less visually exciting “Great Plaines” of Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois.
I was surprised at how it seemed that there were so many more foreigners enjoying the tourist sites rather than Americans themselves.
Most tourists I saw at the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and many Dinosaur discovery sites like the Moenkopi T-Rex and Velociraptor footprint site were from countries like France, England, Germany, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and a lot from Japan. (The observation is anecdotal, but someone should do a study to determine the facts.)
I was also disappointed to see tourists pack places with so much less culture, or nutrition, like McDonald’s and Taco Bell. They were everywhere.
Lastly, I was reminded of what I already knew. How terribly this country treats the original Americans, “Native Americans” from Indian tribes or “Nations” that include the Cherokee, Crow, Navajo and others.
Native Americans worked some of the big tourist places where I stopped. But most were owned by others.
Worse, when I went to purchase cultural novelties, I discovered many were “Made in China.” Why would anyone want a little “handmade” doll of a Native American dressed in cultural garb that is “Made in China?”
The focus wasn’t on American history or Native American culture. It was all about the money.
I had the same uneasy feeling about this country while visiting Hawaii several years ago for the first time.
Don’t get me wrong, all of these places in the Southwest and Hawaii take your breath away. But in Hawaii, I also made the mistake of shattering myths, reading history books that contradicted the tourist messages: White Europeans stole everything from the “Natives” in America.
In Hawaii, many native Hawaiians won’t speak to White tourists – although the largest tourist group isn’t American or families of World War II veterans, but Japanese. I knew it was bad, but when you see how much was stolen from Native Hawaiians and Native Americans, you realize how bad it really is.
Throughout the trip, I saw clusters of tattered, dusty tents clustered on the road side with sparse displays of jewelry handmade by Native Americans from Navajo Tribes. Old women and children sat nearby almost begging for business. I spoke with many Native Americans and they seemed resigned to their fate.
The Grand Canyon is really grand. The huge and tall standing stone mountains in Monument Valley are awe-inspiring. Driving through mountain ranges and valleys as high as 10,603 feet in Denver is impressive. It reminded me how beautiful this country is, geographically. But I was left with a bad taste.
History I read on the trip exposed ugly truths, such as exaggerated reputations of people like General George Armstrong Custer. He’s no hero. He was a brutal crook. Custer’s “discovery” of Gold prompted the Government to break more than one treaty with Native American tribes that ignited even more land theft from the Native American Tribes.
Our real history is all about profits, money and greed. In treaty after treaty, we immigrants abused Native Americans and stole their lands. We massacred their people and when they fought back, we used that to portray them as “savages.”
Sorry folks. We’re the savages. And our history is filled with lies.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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