Sunday, November 23, 2008

National American Indian Heritage Month

In an editorial this past week, our local weekly paper, The Cape May Star and Wave asked how many of us were aware that November is designated National American Indian Heritage Month. I don't think that number would be very large. The front page carried a story by Jennifer Koff about the Cape May Elementary School honoring Native Americans, citing significant contributions made by the First Americans to "the establishment and growth of the United States".

She goes on to say that in 1915, through the efforts of Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, the endorsement of 24 state governments for a day to honor American Indians was presented to the White House. Nothing much was done about it on a national scale. It was not until 1990 that the month of November was named. In each succeeding year the proclamation has been renewed. But, have you ever heard of it? I haven't. There seems to be no particular interest nor promotion of the idea.

This is really not surprising. Our Native Americans, of whom we should be so proud, have long suffered disgraceful treatment by our government. From the very beginning, with the arrival of Europeans on our shores, the lot of these people has been a shameful part of our history. It still is. Yes, I know about the casinos that have made a select few rich. But the majority of Native Americans, particularly those who have chosen to do so, or who by unfortunate accident of birth, still live on Reservations do not enjoy the basic freedoms and protection of the law that all the rest of us in this country enjoy.

I recently watched a PBS program concerning this. People living on Reservations are deprived of basic human rights and the same protection of the law that we take for granted. It all goes back to the Major Crimes Act of 1885. Yes, that is 1885, and still in force today. It is a strangely convoluted system of "justice" in which tribal police are only permitted to handle relatively minor cases. Anything major, like rape, murder, etc., must go to the F.B.I. and a Federal Prosecutor. And guess what - the investigations are usually shoddy, and the Federal Prosecutor declines to prosecute 65% of cases sent to him. In far too many cases, the Tribal Prosecutors are not even given the courtesy of being informed if and when these cases are declined. Obviously, I am not very well informed in these matters. I am quoting the program, which received most of its information from the Denver Post, who has tried, and I believe still is trying to ferret out the facts and make some kind of sense of it. They stated that no less than 70% of cases of sexual abuse of children have been ignored and the child predators involved remain living in the community, free to do as they please.

"Based on where they live, an entire class of people do not get the same justice the rest of us receive."

Something to think about during this National American Indian Heritage Month, and especially during our Thanksgiving celebration.


Back on February 2nd of this year, I published The Native American Ten Commandments. I think it may be appropriate to republish them with this post.

I found this picture some time ago in Webshots. I know that there are other versions of the commandments. I happen to prefer this one. I doubt that we can ever know which version may be the "original" one, or if there is a single original.

The Earth is our Mother,
care for her

Honor all your relations

Open your heart and soul to the
Great Spirit

All life is sacred; treat all
beings with respect

Take from the Earth what is
needed and nothing more

Do what needs to be done for
the good of all

Give constant thanks to the
Great Spirit for each new day

Speak the truth, but only of
the good in others

Follow the rhythms of nature;
rise and retire with the sun

Enjoy life's journey but
leave no tracks

If only we could follow these precepts every day. I guess I'm a dreamer. But, imagine....


Dianne said...

I'll dream and imagine right along with you Bobbie

I saw a man on 'the Daily Show' who was talking about Native American rights and politics. It was right before the election. I vividly recall his saying that most 'Native Americans vote for what is good for the majority of their people, not themselves'

that really struck me.

Sylvia K said...

What an outstanding post! I couldn't agree with you more and have felt this way for many years. Living in Montana for as long as we did I became all the more aware. As you know, my kid's Dad is black, but that was never a problem in Montana -- that was reserved for the Indians. I despise prejudice in any form, towards any group. We owe the Native Americans of this country so very much more than they have ever received and it is a blight on our country the same as prejudice shown towards blacks is a blight. The fact that we haven't, in all these years, gotten past racial hatred for anyone we see as different from ourselves is the darkest cloud over this country.

Judy said...

Hi Bobbie, I certainly did not know about National American Indian Heritage Month! I enjoyed the 10 commandments, too. Thanks for enlightening me on this. Great post.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate this post, and the information. I didn't know that this month has such a designation. My experiences in Alberta brought me very close to several of the local First Nations, and it enhanced my life in ways too numerous and deep to adequately express. Though there is still much improvement and tolerance called for on both sides of the border, this kind of awareness-raising is very important.

Webradio said...

Great post Bobbie !

Thank You for this text...

I have translate it for "better" understanding...

See You later !

Dina said...

Thanks for letting us know about the heritage month. I actually do know one American Indian in Jerusalem! You give me the idea now to put him on my blog this month.

Ramblings of a Villas Girl said...

Hello! I had know idea that this was National American Indian Heritage Month.

I love The Native American Ten Commandments. I guess I'm a dreamer too, but I wish we could follow them.

Please visit Ramblings. I have something for you. Lisa

Kathie Brown said...

Bobbie, I have never seen this. Thanks for posting it again, for I love it!

Kay said...

This is such an excellent, important post, Bobbie. I do so wish more justice could be done for the Native Americans. The native Hawaiians fall in that category too and were also treaty shamefully which many people don't know about. I especially liked the Native American 10 Commandments. I hope we can all take it to heart and abide by it.