What it Meant to be a Native American Essay Example
“Take only what you need and leave the land as you found it.” (Native American Proverb, Arapaho.) In a world amidst immigration and racial controversy Americans tend to forget we were the first immigrants to this piece of land. What was it like to be a Native American in the times of settling in America? What is it like to be an American in more modern times?
One can only imagine how fearful and curious Native Americans were the first time they laid eyes on a white man. Powhatan was an Indian tribal chief during this time. John Smith, a key figure in settling into America, was captured and given a speech by Powhatan. “Why should you take by force that from us which you can have by love? Why should you destroy us, who have provided you with food? What can you get by war?” Powhatan expresses some main concerns during his speech that Arapaho shared in his speech showing a common Indian mindset.
Native Americans could not understand why white settlers would come by force and take everything by force. Powhatan longed for a peaceful solution, having all right to be violent as white settlers were the invaders. A lot of times Indian tribes are portrayed as violent, unethical, inhumane beings. The ratio of violent to nonviolent Indians will never be accurately portrayed, however there are instances of Indians trying to be peaceful with the new white guests.
Defending Walt Whitman has a similar take on Indian life soon after war. Alexie shows the similarity of a simple game such as basketball can show the change from how Native Americans used to live. Whitman is placed in a game that has not yet been invented and is able to show the difference in races. Whitman was color blind to the opportunities not given to minorities and the writing exemplifies the differences of the minorities. “God, there is beauty in everybody. Walt Whitman stands at center court while the Indian boys run from basket to basket. Walt Whitman cannot tell the difference between offense and defense. He doesn't care if he touches the ball.” (Alexie 54-57). Whitman is satisfied and is at peace seeing how far the Indian boys have come from what he has known.
Langston Hughes has an interesting perspective on mistreatment of the Native Americans in the 1930’s. Hughes says that the American dream is not achievable for certain people groups including Native Americans.” I am the red man driven from the land, I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek and finding only the same old stupid plan of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.” (Hughes 21-24). The white settlers as well as Americans of the day were mightier than the less advanced Native Americans and had their way with or without the Indians approval. In the current year 2020 “While there are approximately 565 federally recognized tribes in the U.S., there are only about 326 reservations.”
As of the 2010 Census, “22% of our country’s 5.2 million Native Americans live on tribal lands. Living conditions on the reservations have been cited as “comparable to Third World.” Imagine having one of the largest countries to yourself as a people just to have it stripped from you and you live like the poorest on earth. Hughes’s philosophy from 1930 may still apply today and does not seem to be wrong.
King Powhatan showed through his speech how the outlook towards white men was and through various literature we see the progression of Indian culture. A king willing to negotiate a trade deal to some” red skin” ordered to a reservation is a drastic change. Mr. Waltman would not be proud today if he saw how the Indian culture was in America. The change in Defending Walt Whitman was a great start but the changes stopped there. The Native American experience shows a once prideful nation to a people group ordered to a section of land that used to be theirs.
Gilio-Whitaker, Dina. “Indian Reservation Formation, Socioeconomics, and Culture.” ThoughtCo, www.thoughtco.com/facts-about-native-american-reservations-4082436.
Hughes, Langston. Let America Be America Again and Other Poems. Vintage Books, 2004.
Powhatan, King. Powhatan’s Speech to Captain John Smith.
Native American Living Conditions on Reservations - Native American Aid, www.nativepartnership.org/site/PageServer?pagename=naa_livingconditions.
“Take Only What You Need and Leave the Land as You Found It. ~ Native American Proverb, Arapaho .” World of Proverbs, www.worldofproverbs.com/2012/04/take-only-what-you-need-and-leave-land.html.