Thursday, March 08, 2007

Tribe Revokes Freed Slaves' Membership et al

Tribe Revokes Freed Slaves' Membership - Washington Post

Black Caucus Questions Cherokee Vote - AP

I have always been mythically fond of Native Americans. The father of the family directly across the street from where I grew up in Denver was from Oklahoma and more than 50% Indian, and I always liked him. He was an injured Korean War veteran and a nice man.

I am also familiar with the Blackfeet Indians of Montana, through one of their Elders, Allen Talks About. Again he is a very nice man trying to solve very thorny problems his people face. Their history is replete with exploitation from Whites and now, too often, from within.

This brings me to the myths of American Indians that too many of us harbor, that somehow these people are either beyond consideration or sacred. Demonizing them has always been expedient to justifying their abuse, not unlike what was done to slaves. Alternately, casting them as a sacred people is the extreme penance of a guilty soul, and arguably an even worse fate, because it is both untrue and isolating.

That Indians held slaves, whose ancestors they are now giving the tribal boot, was sobering news to me. The truth hurts but is also freeing. It provides the chance to see them as more imperfectly human, hopefully without the guilt. Sobering to the myth as well, I now know that today’s respect which Indians have for the land and nature came as a last resort, only after they had pillaged it, and their futures long-ahead of late-arriving white men.

As with Blacks, Native Americans hold their destiny in their own hands if they choose, regardless of the peril of others. They owe Blacks nothing, and vice-versa. If revoking membership based upon blood brings them closer to taking control of their lives, we should not argue, but rather applaud their efforts.

James C. Collier


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1 comment:

Duchess Of Austin said...

Interesting that you didn't know Indians kept slaves. They did. The slaves were from tribes they warred with, and whites they happened to capture that were either female, or young enough to raise among them.

The biggest difference between the Indian slavery and white slaveholders was that the Indians gave their slaves a chance to earn citizenship within the tribe and black slaves were rarely, if ever, accepted into the "tribe" of their owners after release from slavery.

I guess you could say that the Indians were more egalitarian in their slaveholding....