Historical antecedents of societal discrimination of Native Americans
Complexities in the interaction of Native Americans and settlers from Europe in the 15th century and early 16th century led to the establishment of boundaries between the natives and settlers. The latter group took ownership of lands, established economic control, and expanded their territory along major resource belts, such as rivers. Anyone and anything not supported by the new nation was branded inferior and needed appropriate management to prevent corruption of the new society.
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The Native Americans had to emigrate or assimilate and form new identities for protection. Consequently, their collective identities became fragmented and gave in to scientifically based classification by new occupants of their lands. Recognition as native became subject to the definition of native by the colonial administrators and officials. As political administration took shape, natives and settlers alike were counted. Skin colour was the main criteria for separation, rather than use the main customary features of identity. Anyone without a prescribed native skin look missed a native identity. He or she was thus wiped away from Native American history (Carocci, 2009). It was easy for the government, given the legal identification of native and non-native.
Taxonomies became the defining factor for the legitimization of native groups, but the Natives were with the victims fighting against a system that was supposed to grant them freedom. Ever since, misinterpretation of identities has led to unwanted behaviour against Native Americans, mainly due to their lack of legal protection. In addition, more than 400 unrecognized tribes could not get services accorded to the recognized tribes, though they may have qualified to live on reservations (Jacqueline & John, 2014). Meanwhile, governments failed to cater for the needs of those who lived on reservations, sometimes treating them like foreign occupations, instead of promoting coexistence. The resulting labelling forced the Native Americans to retreat, which diminished their opportunities for social and economic engagement and progress.
Discrimination began with the creation of reservation, allotments, and dependent native communities by federal law. Showing that the natives needed special places eventually made them foreign and different, but most importantly, it caused other people to see Native Americans are wrong; hence the discrimination in social interactions, welfare services, law enforcement, resource allocation, and other features of public life (Brandon, 1961). The forceful transfer of the Native American populations into established colonies to settle or work as slaves had their assigned identities confine them to non-participatory roles in social life and involuntary roles of servitude (Rombough & Keithly, 2005).
Contemporary antecedents of societal discrimination of Native Americans
A higher rate of attrition from schools is a feature noted in Native American populations in contemporary schools. Research by Perry (2009) indicates that the main causes of dropouts are the lack of academic preparation, the lack of support or role models, as well as family problems. Native Americans do not feel secure in the world outside their reservation, but it is not their fault; the circumstances outside are grave. For a Native American individual, there is the risk of harassment and physical attacks. Police officers frequently stop cars with reserve number plates and harass occupants. Actions by the public against Native Americans suggest that they should go back to their reserves, as they are not welcome outside. Persistent values of colonial education and the ushering of new graduates from the education system continues to create a mass of people, whose only knowledge of Native Americans skews towards inferiority (Perry, 2009).
The enactment of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 aimed to ensure that the jurisdiction of reservist governments is according to the U.S. Bill of Rights (Birkhold, 2014). It extends freedoms enjoyed by other Americans to the Native American tribes, such as the right to a jury during trial and the right against self-incrimination. It is an example of how America continues to impose its ways of living in the native tribes. Although the impositions can be for a good cause, they are enacted without or with little consent.
Potential problems that result from discrimination and oppression
Potential problems that result from discrimination of Native Americans
The culture of Native Americans is changing to cope with modern challenges and opportunities, but contemporary views still resort to historical definitions and descriptions. Thus, Native Americans find it hard to defend innovative aspects of their culture without appearing to lose their identity (Hoxie, 2008).
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Discrimination ensures that the only way for Native Americans to participate in contemporary lifestyle, such as being educated in the non-native way, is by losing their identities. They have to stop speaking their language, stop going to their traditional gatherings while they are outside reserved areas, and stop expressing themselves in any way to suggest their Native American identity.
Moreover, hate crime rates against Native Americans remain high because of their gullibility caused by a less concerned social justice system. Discrimination serves as an avenue for other people to express superiority, even in situations that do not need such expressions. Consequently, suicide rates among Native Americans increase (Jacqueline & John, 2014). Additional risks include crime and abuse of drugs as coping mechanisms for the discriminatory treatments that Native Americans receive.
Potential problems that result from oppression of Native Americans
Native Americans cannot effectively participate in economic activities to sustain their livelihoods. First, they rely on traditional ways of living that the modern society, as shaped by Westernized commercial interests, is not accommodating. The Native Americans continue using established means of sustaining livelihoods because they lack control of capital that would allow sufficient economic activity participation. Meanwhile, the encroachment of economic activities around the reserved areas ensures that the resources available for the people in reserves reduce. For example, the challenge against spear fishing only caters for commercial and sport fishing interest and assumes Native Americans will find another way to sustain themselves, both economically and socially (Perry, 2009). The world surrounding the ‘Indian Country’ and that of Alaska Natives is harsh and against integration. It pushes its perceived superiority and forces assimilation, which end up increasing oppression levels (Perry, 2009).
Native Americans lose their identities and fail to receive appropriate treatment as members of a tribal nation (Carocci, 2009). This contributes to the expected assumption of new identities that do not cater for their needs and do not respect personal choices. Oppressive practices reduce the abilities of the Native Americans to take up leadership outside their allocated areas for living. They cannot follow their religion freely; therefore, do not enjoy freedoms similar to other Americans. Oppression reduces the respect for all life, as it discourages the renewal or survival of the Native Americans’ culture (Sturm, 2013).
Living on reservations means that one lives outside the radar of social services. There is little development of learning institutions, infrastructure, and the provision of welfare enhancing resources. Poverty levels are high and other American residents have no idea of what goes on in the reservations. The harsh conditions inside the reservations are aggravated by the contemporary view of the Native Americans along stereotypical lines of primitiveness and pagan oddities, which end up reinforcing the neglect of reservations (Jacqueline & John, 2014).
Description of how this project has increased awareness of Native Americans challenges and opportunities
Perceived challenges of Native Americans
Native Americans face a challenge of convincing others that they are not inferior and their ways are as valid as any other hailed social norm. They have to do so in an environment that continues to diminish the relevancy of their identity. They live in a world that demands anything, takes what it wants from them, and does not accord them a similar privilege (Rombough & Keithly, 2005).
Being out of sight also leads to being out of mind, such that employment, life expectancy, health conditions, health care, education, and housing concerns do not receive adequate attention from state and federal authorities. Many scholars on Native American studies are outsiders, thus they may lack appropriate knowledge of the people being studied and commit the same mistake as colonizers, that of imposing definitions and label behaviours or situation without consultation. Most of the news about the reservations is depressing and becomes a justification of the inferiority of the Native tribes and a justification for additional oppression, rather than elicit a feeling of charity among the American residents.
Economic activities outside reservations have environmental impacts that are overlooked, such as the contamination of farmland with poisons and pesticides, or mining activity. Overexploitation without regard for sustainability outside reservation, which challenges the survival of people living in reserved areas, depletes underground resources.
Perceived opportunities of Native Americans
Recognition of culturally specific methods of interacting with the Native Americans is emerging. Research is highlighting the shortcomings of past approaches. Meanwhile, affected Natives are organizing to fight back for their appropriate recognition by mainly influencing public discourse about their nature of life and circumstances, both in the historic context and in the present. Being different culturally should eventually be a risk-free expression (Jacqueline & John, 2014). Thus, the emphasis on new dialogue between the Native Americans and the rest of the people in America is that being unique in any way does not translate to being inferior. Sovereignty movements are taking up the challenge to become shapers of future understandings of the Native Americans. They realise that oppression will only go away when they are in charge of making laws and capable of replacing the oppressive factors with non-oppressive ones, such as their own customary laws and social norms to govern their independence.
Hoxie (2008) opines that settler colonial society actions and historical recording mistakes are now being reviewed to allow the retrieval of the Red Continent’s history. The Native Americans now have an opportunity to not only understand their role in shaping the present America, but also to use that as a basis for influencing the structure of institutions, such that they are less oppressive to any minority group. Scholars can disrupt assumptions putting settler colonial territories as the only progressive ones. Studying the discrimination of the Native Americans constitutes to an undoing of the destruction done to them for the last five centuries (Brandon, 1961).
Identify personal competency in interaction with Native Americans
Knowing about the plight of Native Americans does not have to depress. Besides the wrong stereotype, they are normal people with social challenges, just like any other person. Their organization into movements to defend resources and encourage co-existence show higher human qualities that they possess as part of their cultural heritage. I have interacted with them on various capacities. Childhood encounters with literature sparked curiosity, but real life dealings with individuals identifying themselves as Native Americans were more surprising. Expectations of outright visual difference were not met. The Native Americans today are hard to find, not because they are non-existent, but because they are acclimated to Western ways of living, even though they still hold on to their cultural practices and values. In school, they play sports and take part in many other extra curriculum activities.
Other than actually meeting and interacting as part of research and just out of ordinary social circumstances, I have also viewed media reports about the Native American cases. This has helped in the development of an understanding of their plight, their daily concerns, and the opportunities they have in economic and social inclusion.
Action plan for seeking out additional cultural diversity knowledge about Native American: exposure, training, and application of these skills in a professional setting
Additional cultural diversity knowledge
I will be going to several reservations to make observations and to interact with the occupants. I hope to remain open minded and not offer perceived solutions. Instead, I hope to make recordings that should inform future research activities. I will also interact with the customary practices of Native Americans, such as taking part in their dances, eating their food, and listening to their stories. I will combine the experiences during various visits to the reservations. However, I will also restrain myself against forcing my way into their practice. Instead of going officially, I will seek introductions as a tourist or just a friend to one of the members. Success in befriending a Native American should usher a better understanding of the people from the perspective of their world.
Exposure, training, and application of skills in a professional setting
Formally, I will continue with anthropology studies on Native Americans and make use of library resources to expand my knowledge. Following a professional, ethical standard in my approach to inquiries and training will help me gain adequate knowledge that I should then contribute to the field of Native American studies in future research and in review of other published. Writing about my experience in publicly accessible areas will also improve other people’s understanding and serve as a basis for other scholars’ understanding. I expect to use formal educational institutions and other social institutions to bypass the hurdles that I may encounter in gathering data, such as having access to reservations. In addition, I want to provide unbiased services to both Native and non-Native Americans in any of my professional capacities.
Birkhold, M. H. (2014). Indian Civil Rights Act. Web.
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Brandon, W. (1961). The American heritage: Book of Indians. New York, NY: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc.
Carocci, M. (2009). Written out of history: Contemporary Native American narratives of enslavement. Antropology Today, 25(3), 18-22.
Hoxie, F. E. (2008). Retrieving the Red Continent: Settler colonialism and the history of American Indians in the US. Ethinic and Racial Studies, 31(6), 1153-1167.
Jacqueline, S. G., & John, A. M. (2014). Suicide in Indian country: The coutinuing epidemic in rural Native American communities. Journal of Rural Mental Health, 38(2), 79-86.
Perry, B. (2009). ‘There’s just places ya’ don’t wanna go’: the segregating impact of hate crimes against Native Americans. Contemporary Justice Review: Issues in Criminal, Social, and Restorative Justice, 12(4), 401-418.
Rombough, S., & Keithly, D. C. (2005). Native Americans, the feudal system and the protestant work ethic: a unique view of. Race, Gender & Class, 12(2), 104-120.
Sturm, C. (2013). Race, sovereignty, and civil right: Understanding the Cherokee Freedman controversy. Cultural Anthropology, 29(3), 575-598.