Native Americans Essay, Research Paper
In this paper, I plan to talk about Native Americans people, the struggles they have had, their beliefs and customs, and some problems they are still facing today. Because there are so many Native American tribes, I decided to talk only about a few. I was looking in my diversity book, and I found there is a large tribe in Wisconsin called the Menominee tribe. Therefore, I will talk the Menominee tribe as well as some of their early history.
Native American s have always had it rough. When Whites started to come over to America, they didn t think twice about taking over the Native American s land. As it says in Strangers to These Shores, Columbus s first impressions of the Arakawa Tribe in the Caribbean reflected ethnocentrism
I knew they were a people who would better be freed and converted to our Holy Faith by love than by force they are all generally of good height, of pleasing appearance and well built They must be good servants and intelligent and I believe that they would easily become Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no sect. (#1, pg. 223)
Struggle number one. People from other cultures trying to convert the Native Americans to their ways. Whites were the minority for several years, yet they still tried to sell the idea that there way was better (#1). Whites were viewed by the Native Americans as liars, cheaters, and hostile people (#1). These two groups had a hard time trying to mix cultures. The Native Americans couldn t understand the Whites way of treating the land, animals, and each other (hangings, prison, etc) (#1). The Whites couldn t understand why the Native Americans didn t want to be Christian, and why they didn t want to join their enlightened way of life (#1). A bit later, violent wars between each group became common, and the ending result is that the Whites won. Whites gave the Native Americans puny areas of land (that was already theirs) to live on, and the whole history of this just make me disgusted. (#1 pg. 220)
The tribe out of Wisconsin, Menominee tribe, is the state s oldest continuous inhabitants (#2). They have lived on the land for over 5,000 years. (#2 pg. 1) Their language is the dialect of Algonkian language (#2). The tribe is considered to be a woodland tribe (#2). Most tribes east of the Mississippi are woodland tribes (#2). Before the Whites destroyed the land and animals (cannot help my contempt), their income was based on gathering, hunting, fishing, etc (#2). These activities required lot of land. Therefore, they inhabited area from the upper Michigan in the north all the way to Milwaukee in the south, west to the Wisconsin River and east to Lake Michigan (#2). They covered, all together, about 9.5 million acres. (#2 pg. 1) French later arrived in 1634 in the Wisconsin area to add beaver trapping to the Menominee s way of life (#2). Through time, beavers were becoming scarce and the Menominee had to travel to find them (#2). Also, trading became important to the Menominee because they were becoming dependent on the French for really cool things that they could barter for like guns, pans, blankets, beads, etc (#2). After a while, they were so dependent on the French for supplies and stuff they forgot how to do things the old way (#2). Then along came the British. The Menominee people soon realized that they could get better deals with the British, than with the French (#2). This lasted until the British were remove from the area after the War of 1812(#2). Americans then had authority of the area by 1814. (#2)
Later came the treaty era. Over all the Menominee tribe signed ten treaties and transferred 9.5 million acres to the U.S. government (#2). Land for settlers were needed (#2). The 1849 treaty had a clause to relocate the Menominee people to Crow Wing, Minnesota (#2). This treaty was flawed, and the government then offered a new treaty that removed the removal clause (#2). Finally in 1852 the Menominee people relocated to the section of land known as the Wolf River, and they have been there ever since (#2). It is a great area with an abundance of trees, streams, wildlife, and lakes (#2). The current population of the Menominee people is 3,270, living on 233,881 acres (#1).
Today the Menominee people earn their income from the logging industry (#2). The people run the sawmill and the cutting of the timber (#2). This operation currently employs 350 people (#2). The Menominee people run a successful operation because of their Sustained Yield Management Plan (#2). This management plan prevents clear cutting and put limits on the amount of board feet that can be taken in any given year (#2). The Menominee management plan is known all over the world and millions of observers come from all over to study it. (#2).
The Menominee s government is labeled as a sovereign nation, the only higher constitution than their own is the United States constitution (#2). The Menominee people have legislature consisting of nine people, and the governing body is elected by the voters (#2). Its purpose is to uphold all tribal affairs (#2).
Native Americans/Menominee s Respect for their Environment
Native American s have always viewed their environment as sacred (#3). Their belief is they are just a small part of the great continuous circle (#3). Everything is apart of this circle and if one part is effected it will ultimately effect the other parts (#3). Native Americans don t see the land as something to take advantage off, everything they take from the land they perceive as a gift (#3). It is traditional to give a prayer of Thanks as well as leaving a gift (#3). Some prayers are to help the animal s spirit to complete its journey to the afterlife, and also thanking the animal s spirit for giving up his life to help others survive (#3). Tobacco was a typical offering because the Native Americans viewed tobacco as a strong medicine that is satisfactory to the Creator. Prayers followed by an offering of tobacco will be heard by the Creator (#3).
Prayers and offerings were also made when Native Americans used plants, trees, and other materials from the land (#3). Everything had a spirit and they were given the same honor, by saying a prayer of thanks (#3). The Menominee people believe in all of this as well, as well as continually being cared for future generations (#3).
Clan Family System
Clan family systems are very important to the Menominee people and their way of life (#4). A clan is defined as a group of people who are related through a common ancestor (#4). The relationship goes way past the immediate family, it is everything in the Universe that was made by the same Creator, they are related (#4). When the Creator created each animal, person, tree, etc, He created a relationship between each (#4).
Men are brother to the trees and air and will the animals as well (#4). IT is because of this bond that Native Americans include animals in their culture, religion, and history (#4). All tribe include animals for a reason; feathers, fur, skin, claws, etc. (#4). Animals were placed on this land so they could help humans (#4). This is they make things from parts of the animal, buffalo coats, headbands, and their daily attire (#4). Many animals play intricate roles of the Native American way of life (#4). For example, to show respect, gratitude and honor for the animals, Native Americans name their clans after animal names (#4).
Clans can give a person information and family background (#4). In American culture is the say way for example; Mary Catherine McDonald. Very Irish Catholic name and Native Americans can do the same with the names in their culture. Much of the Native American s family history is kept alive using the clan system (#4).
When a person belongs to a particular clan they would belong to a special family other than their immediate family (#4). They would have clan relatives that might not be related by blood, but according to the system of the clan they are still related intimately (#4). Native American s may have relatives they have never seen before, but in the Creators opinion they are family (#4).
One of the most significant parts of an Native American community is its clan system (#4). Historically, the clan system was used to keep order between people (#4). Every clan had a job or obligation within the community (#4). Leaders, diplomats, guardians, or suppliers for the tribe people (#4). People play an intricate role to the survival of their tribe (#4). This elementary form of government prevailed for thousands of years flourishing as it continued (#4).
The Menominee clan system was practiced to create an order within the tribe (#4). Its Chief (#4) represented each clan. Decisions were made by look at the tribe as a whole, and doing what was best for the whole, however, if there were arguments people could speak out and be heard (#4). The Menominee clan system is made up of five main clans, with including sub-clans (#4). The Five main clans are the Eagle, Wolf, Crane, Moose, and Bear (#4). Each clan had a responsibility, for example Eagle stood for leadership, Bears were protectors, Cranes were the builders, Wolf were the hunters and gathers, Moose stood for security, and there were many others.
Today, because of treaties and the past and current Commissioners of Indian Affairs, the Native American population is on the rise (#1). In 1980, the Native American population as about 1.4 million, and in 1996 it was up to 2.3 million (#1).
The book Strangers to These Shores states Some of this increase reflects a rise in the number of people claiming Native American ancestry who had not heretofore done so; but in addition, the Native American birthrate is almost twice the national average.
However, the Native Americans are, out of all other minorities, are the still the poorest people based on income, employment, etc. (#1). There are success stories though. For example, the Choctaw tribe of Mississippi, are a part of the fifteen biggest employers in the state, because of their five auto-part factories, and their greeting card operation (#1). All in all, they have an eighty- percent employment rate (#1).
The most serious problem facing Native Americans today is alcohol abuse, which plays a key role in their high mortality rate (#1). Native American people between the ages of 25 to 34, have a rate of terminal liver cirrhosis about fifteen times the national average (#1). Death from alcohol related causes are five times the national rate (#1). In spite of the stereotype of Native Americans alcoholism, there had been no research proving this to be fact (#1).
Other problems facing Native Americans is land rights. Big companies are in constant battle with the Native Americans because they still want their land for personal gain. For example the Navajo tribe is living on land that contains 2.5 billion tons of coal, and 55 million pounds of uranium deposits (#1). Companies successfully moved most of the Navajo people to government type housing, and today the matter is still unfinished (#1).
In conclusion, I hope that this paper has given you some insight on the life of the Native American people. I realize that this topic is so broad it is hard to talk about all the aspects of their life. Overall, Native Americans have suffered enough discrimination and whatnot, so hopefully in this century, we can learn to live beside, respect, and accept Native Americans.
#1. Vincent N. Parrillo, Strangers to These Shores. Chapter 7, pg. 220-253.
#2. Internet site; www.menonimee.com Lesson 1, pg. 1
#3. Internet site;www.menominee.com Lesson 7, pg. 1
#4 Internet site;www.menominee.com The Clan Family System. Pg. 1-2.
#5 Microsoft Bookshelf Edition 98, encyclopedia