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“They gave us many promisses, more than I can remember. But they kept only one; They promissed to take our land, and they did.”
Chief Red Cloud
The Indians or the native Americans is often remembered as characters in the old westernfilms. People think of terrible warriors who rode around on their horses with feathers i their hair, arrow and bow.
But how were they really?
The native americans were not one nation, as many people belive.
You must remember that America is a whole continent.
There were native Americans all the way from Canada and Alaska in the North to the Andes-montains in the South.
There were many nations with different history, culture and languages, just like the rest of the world.
Some lived by fishing, others by farming or hunting.
The most known Indians are those who lived on the prairie.
They were among the best horsemen on the earth. But they had not had the horse for a very long time. The horse came with the Europeans in 1519. Before that it was difficult to live on the praire because of missing water. Now the native Americans could ride far away for long distances.
The native Americans respected the nature around them in a way, that is difficult for us to understand.
They belived the earth could not belong to any man. The man belonged to the earth. Every life was just as important as another. They ment that all things were connected. The man did not weave the web of life, he was merely a strand in it.
Whatever he did to the web, he did to himself.
"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land?
The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?"
The meeting with the Europeans became a disaster for the native Americans. Throug fraud, violence and war they were down supressed and denied. Whole groups of people were eliminated by diseases and alcohol which the white population brought with them.
The native Americans were forced west by the settelsers, and they were almost eliminated because of the bloody wars around 1800.
It was called massacre when the Indians took revenge because of encroachment, but when the white population slaughtered down Indians, then got a place of glory in the historybooks.
The proud people were placed into restervatoins. They lost everything!
"Everybodey says that they are my friends and that justice will serve. But I have heard a lot of talking, and no-one helps my people.
Fine words are not worth anything unless nothing changes.
Words can't replace my dead people or our land, which is now overflowed by the white population.”Chief Joseph about the American governement
Around the 20. century North America wasplitted between two white nations, the United States and Canada.
The prarie was the last area which was taken from the native Americans. It became like an island slowly absorbed by the water around. People immigrated to the “Wild west” from all over the world. They were hoping for a new life filled with possibilities. In the “Wild west” there were free ground, no taxes or diseases and lots of fish in the rivers.
And they hunted the buffaloes. Most of the buffalohunters hunted because of the skin, which was very expensive on the eastcoast. Others slaughtered them down because of their tongue, which was a delicacy. The rest of the buffalo were left behind.
The passengers on the trains did often shoot at the buffalos for fun. In the end the buffalo was eliminated.
From a stock on about 70-75 millions buffalos around the 16th century there were only 39 buffalos in 1900.
The buffalo had given the Indians everything they needed.
By exterminating the buffalos the white population took away the livelihood of the Indians on the prarie.
"I have seen thousands of buffalos lying dead on the prairie, left behind by men who shot them from the trains for fun. I can't understand how the smoking iron-horse can be worth more than the buffalo, which we indians kills only to survive."Chief Seattle
It is no secret that the native Americans suffered from injustice when the Europeeans came to America. But on the other hand, not so many knowns that the native Americans are suffering today.
They are still suppressed and among the poorest. Prejudice and rasicm against theese people are unfortunately also common in the United States today.
If you think the native americans still look like this,
then it is time to change your oppinion
..and if you think this is how they live today,
then you are just too romantic.
Because, welcome to a new reallity!
The Indains were namely supposed to become Americans. Through hundreds of years the European culture and mode of living has been forced to them.
The children were supposed to learn how to read, write and count, how to become "real" Americans. They were not allowed to intercourse with their families or their own culture. Therefore they were - often by power - fetched out of their camps and reservations to be placed into "white" schools. The children were dressed in "civilized clothes" and their hair were cut short. They were not allowd to speak their own language, and they were given new English names, instead of their own.
Here you can see one example:
This is Tom Tolino, a Navahoboy, both the pictures are taken within a year
Some Indians managed the transition, some were even able to raise themselves in a white world. But many went bust. They were cracked and landed in the shaddows of the white world.
Those who still hold on to their old culture and tradition had to stay at the reservations - often against their own will. Many of them are today in the worst conditions of the United States.
From time to time there were discovered wealths as oil, coal and uranium at the reservations.
Then the Indians were either forced to move away or sell parts of their ground. That was a hard choice, because the wealthness could give sorely needed money, but their land would be ruin for ever.
By working in the mines at the reservations, lots of native Americans became ill, got cancer, and died.
Many decided after a while to move to the cityes. They wouldn't live in such bad conditions at the reservations.
But they had no education, and most of the white population suppressed them. Because of that, they could not get any jobs, and became unemployed. Many started to drink..
We have all seen pictures and movies of native Americans in their lovely clothes, living in charming villages, and with their own cultural dances.
That could be correct, but only in the same way as we Norwegians wear our national costumes and dance folkdances.
Many Indians live today as the white population, in the cities, out in the country, as businesspeople, lawyers, doctors, farmers etc.
But that is unfortunately not the whole picture.
Many native Americans still live in reservations as this one in Oglala - Pine Ridge - South Dakota where poverty and diseases make it a impossible to improve their own conditions.
"Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.
I ask: What will happen when the buffaloes are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival."