Native Americans are the aboriginal people of the Western Hemisphere. They are also called American Indian, Amerind, or Amerindians. (Johnston, 2003) Native Americans are usually recognized as constituting two separate groupings. The first and larger group is referred to as the Native Americans while the second group is called Inuit or Eskimo. The Native Americans group is further partitioned geographically into Middle American, South American Indian, and North American people. The Inuit or Eskimo group includes a number of Arctic people as well as other groups such as Aleuts. (Whyte, 1984, 101)
Native Americans have been secluded long enough to have evolved into a distinct group referred to as the American Indian geographic race in spite the fact that the origins of these people are from Asia and have retained some physical resemblances with modern Asiatic people. The distinction between Native Americans and Asiatics has remained uncertain although the indigenous people in extreme northeastern Siberia and northwestern Alaska have shown greater resemblances with each other as compared to those in their respective races. (Jones, 2000)
The date of the arrival of people in North America has not been accurately determined; however, it is known to have occurred during the Pleistocene Epoch, which is about 10,000 years ago. For quite a period, the earliest human occupation of America was thought to date to the last glacial period or some 20,000 years ago. However, in most recent studies, some authorities have claimed that the first arrivals were much earlier, even up to 60,000 years ago. (Snipp, 1989) The entry into North America has been assumed as a land bridge, which is established as glaciers advanced and sea levels fell. This is where the Bering Strait now divides America and Asia.
The way of life of the newcomers to the Americas had possessed a series of traits, which were relatively ancient. These traits were shared by most people in Eurasia and Africa including the use of the domesticated dog, the spear thrower, the fire drill, fire, harpoon, stone implements of various kinds, simple bow, basketry, netting, cordage, and different rites and healing beliefs and practices. Prior to the arrival of significant numbers of Europeans in the 16th century AD, the descendants of these and later waves of migrants had already been spread out all over the Americas.
They have already developed diverse cultures that were adjusted to diverse ecological conditions. Thus, the people of the New World had developed significantly different cultures from those of the Old World during their many years of isolation. Some of the Old World practices including the use of the plow, the fashioning of iron implements, and the use of the wheel did not emerge. On the other hand, Old World practices including pottery making and urbanization had reached high levels of sophistication in the Americas. Most of the New World cultures had depended on gathering and hunting though agriculture had come to be the economic base of more advanced civilizations. On the other hand, contrary to the Old World reliance that focused on cereal grains as wheat, rice, and barley, the New World had focused on beans, tubers, corn, and squash as the staple crops.
Conversely, as Native Americans increase in numbers, many factors have come to bring them deleterious effects specifically on their mental and physical health. These factors include forced cultural assimilation, forced sterilizations, slavery, cultural pressure, outlawing of native languages and culture, military defeat, and termination policies of the 1950s and 60s. Health problems include alcoholism, diabetes, poverty, heart disease, and the New World Syndrome.
In 1960s, Native Americans were being jailed for teaching their traditional way of life and beliefs. In 1970s, the goal of the Bureau of Indian Affairs had stirred the public as it pursues on a policy of “assimilation” in order to eliminate the reservations and steer Indians into the mainstream U.S. culture. (Boldt, Little Bear, and Long, 1984, 138) Even the lands of Native Americans are possibly unsafe. In 2004, there has been claims theft of Indian land for the uranium and coal it contains.
Native Americans face unique problems all over the United States. In Virginia, due to the work of Walter Ashby Plecker, there are no federally recognized tribes. In 1912, Plecker, serving until 1946, had become the first registrar of the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Virginia. Plecker, being a declared white supremacist and ardent advocate of eugenics, believed that the Native Americans in Virginia had been mongrelized with its African American population. He had pressured local governments to reclassifying all Native Americans in the state as “colored.” This had led to massive destruction of records on the Native American community of the state.
The policies of Plecker had haunted the state’s Native American community even after he passed away. He included in his polices that the state tribes to prove their continuous existence since 1900. The government had refused to bend on such bureaucratic requirement. Although the U.S. Congress had passed a bill to ease such requirement, it had faced opposition in the House from a Virginia member in fear of opening the door to gambling in the state. (Johnston, 2003)
In the early 21st century, communities of Native Americans have remained as a persistent fixture in America’s landscape, economy, as well as in the lives of Native Americans. Communities have consistently established governments, which conduct services life natural resource management, law enforcement, and firefighting. Many of the Native American communities have formed court systems in order to examine matters that were related to local ordinances. Most of these communities have also looked to different forms of moral and social authority entrusted in traditional affiliations within the community. In 1996, the Congress had passed the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA) in order to address the housing needs of Native Americans. Such act had replaced public housing as well as other 1937 Housing Act programs that were focused toward Indian Housing Authorities with a block grant program focused on Tribes. (Jones, 2005)
Most of the Native American communities have waged and prevailed in legal battles in order to guarantee recognition of rights to self-determination and to utilize natural resources. (Johnson, 1967) Some of those rights referred to as the treaty rights are cited in early treaties signed with the young government of the United States. Tribal sovereignty has become a foundation of American jurisprudence as well as in national legislative policies. Even though many tribes of Native Americans have casinos, they are still a source of conflict. Most tribes feel that casinos and their proceeds impair culture from the inside out. The distressed tribes are the small ones including Winnemem Wintu of Redding California that refuse to take part in the gaming industry. (Buergenthal, 1979, 15)
Most of the smaller eastern tribes have been trying to obtain official recognition of their tribal status. This recognition presents some advantages that include the right to label arts and crafts as Native Americans; application for grants that are particularly reserved for Native Americans. However, obtaining recognition as a tribe is extremely complicated due to a Catch-22 in the process. Members have to present extensive genealogical proof of tribal descent in order to be established as tribal groups. However, in the past years, most Native Americans have denied their Native American heritage since it would have expropriated them of many rights including the right of probate. In February 17, 2005, the Pee Dee tribe and the Waccamaw tribe of South Carolina were both granted official recognition; however, two others were denied for their lack of documentation.
Based on the estimates of the 2003 United States Census Bureau, a little over one third of the 2,786,652 Native Americans present in the United States live in three states: 294,137 in Arizona, 279,559 in Oklahoma, and 413,382 in California.
In 2000, the largest tribes in the United States by population were found in Choctaw, Chippew, Cherokee, Iroquois, Sioux, Pueblo, Apache, and Navajo. More so, in the same year, eight out of ten Americans with Native American ancestry were of mixed blood. It has been estimated that this figure will rise to nine of ten by 2100. (Jones, 2005)
Contrary to what most people know, there are federally recognized tribes in 48 states and Alaska. Most federal preservation laws such as NAGPRA and ARPA define “Indian Tribe” as “any tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community of Indians, including any Alaska Native village. . . which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians” (Jones, 2005) or federally recognized tribal entities. Currently, there are 562 federally recognized Indian Tribes. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is responsible for managing relations with these tribes on land (55.7 million acres) in trust for Native Americans by the United States. The federal government should see to it that Indian tribes are treated through a government-to-government relationship.
On the other hand, there are about 245 federally non-recognized tribes. Many of these tribes are recognized as individual states. Thus, most of the non-recognized tribes are petitioning the federal government for their recognition.
A special treatment is also given to Native Americans in terms of their sites and cultural remains. They receive special and distinct treatment in several federal preservation laws and regulations since Native Americans owe to the priority of their occupation of American lands as well as to the history of treatment by non-Indians. Other federal laws dealing with Native American issues are relevant to the issue of cultural resource management such as the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and the National Museum of the American Indian Act of 1989.
Similarly, under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, an individual who is seeking a permit for excavation or removal of archaeological resources on Indian lands should be able to ask the consent of the Indian or the Indian tribe owning the lands involved. In the event that permits are issued for investigations on public, non-Indian lands, the federal land manager should be able to identify if any harm may result to Indian tribal sites during excavation, thus, should also consult the Indian tribe. Federal land managers are responsible for the identification and consultation with all Indian tribes that have aboriginal and historic ties to subject lands in an attempt to identify sites of cultural or religious significance.
Many of the difficulties faced by Native Americans can be tracked back to the conflicts between their want to perpetuate their cultural heritage as well as the compulsion to integrate into the larger society. Every indigenous group in the United States continues to fight against such conflict to some extent. A perplexing aspect for Native Americans is the fact that there is a great diversity of cultures, which falls into the category of Native American. They preserve one language and way of life instead of preserving hundreds complete cultures. The current generation of American Indian has a real choice between being proud to be an American and being proud to be a Native. Those choices appear to be both exclusive. The generation of Native Americans today can live a tradition-oriented Native lifestyle or move completely into the mainstream middle class. Given the American tradition, many share the hope that the generation of Native Americans today will find ways for both the sake of their fulfillment as individuals and for the enrichment of societies in the United States.
Finally, after centuries of wrong information and non-information, the average American has now obtained a limited knowledge on the historical mistreatment of Native Americans, the differences in world views between Americans of European descent and Native Americans, and the significance of treaty rights. Some of these differences include beliefs: that land is sacred and cannot be owned; that to foul the land is to insult your ancestors; that one is wise to wait for a speaker to finish and think deeply on what was said before formulating a reply; and that all things have their own identities, such as plants, which are “the rooted ones.” (Baehr and Gardenker, 1984)
There is no substantial proof that many indigenous people of today believe that an American citizen status propagates genocide or is otherwise troublesome. As a matter of fact, the recent course seems to be the evolution of a deep appreciation for and acceptance of American citizenship as well as the rights incorporated with it. For most Native Americans, there is nothing in need of redress in terms of American citizenship. (Asch and Zlotkin, 1997, 208) On the other hand, some would perceive exclusive indigenous citizenship as significant in preserving sovereignty and a distinct way of life. That being so, the United States of America should be able to recognize this exclusive indigenous citizenship so as to give meaning to the treaties with the United States. Corrective action should be taken in order to provide full effect to the right of indigenous people to self-determination.
Consequently, if the indigenous people in the United States are to keep a distinct part of human kind, much of that distinctness should be consciously preserved and recognized including those that relate to political loyalty. There should be no doubt that discarding the forces that pursue to threaten a distinct indigenous existence rests chiefly with the party, which established in the first place the United States; thus, requiring action and efforts both on the part of the United States of America and the indigenous nations. It is just so unfortunate that in an era when there are too many indigenous people who support the efforts of ensuring “one America in the 21st century” that it may no longer be feasible to climb the collective effort necessary to convince such corrective action.
According to many historians, decolonization was one of the most significant political developments of the 20th century since it transformed the world into the stage of history. Historical writings until the World War I were mostly on the works of European conquerors that had made the entire world seem to be just revolving around the pole of Europe. Most regions outside Europe were seen to be resided by people without the kind of history capable of shaping the world. The process of decolonization was accompanied by the impression of national historical consciousness in such regions, that is, the history of people as a whole.
There are remarkably few historical writings on the studies of decolonization as a whole in spite the importance of the subject. The timing and patterns of decolonization were extremely diverse and at the same time, the goals of the movement in various countries were not consistent with each other. Perhaps this is one reason why few historical writings give account to decolonization.
Decolonization is referred to as the undoing of colonialism, the establishment of authority or governance by creating settlements by another country or jurisdiction. Simply stated, decolonization is withdrawing from a colony and leaving it independent. The term generally deals to the achievement of independence by various Western colonies and protectorates in Africa and Asia after the World War II. Decolonization matches up with an intellectual movement referred to as Post-Colonialism. The period of active decolonization had transpired between 1945 to 1960 beginning with the independence of the Republic of India and Pakistan from Great Britain in 1947 and the First Indochina War.
Several national liberation movements were formed before the war; however, most were not able to achieve their goals until after it. Decolonization can be obtained through attainment of independence, establishment of a free association status, or integration of the administering power or another state. The United Nations has claimed that in the process of decolonization, no option to the principle of self-determination is present. Decolonization may encompass peaceful negotiation and/or violent revolt and armed struggle by the native population.
In extreme situations, decolonization is taken as a political process that involves violence; thus, there is a battle for independence, which sometimes proceeds to a revolution. In most cases, a dynamic cycle transpires where negotiations fail; minor disruptions develop resulting in cracking down by the police and military forces, shooting up into more violent revolts, which lead to further negotiations until independence is achieved. On the other hand, in some cases, the efforts of the native population are characterized by non-violence.
Most often than not, independence may be hard to obtain without the practical support and encouragement from one or more external alliances. The grounds for providing such help are diverse. These include a strong nation may attempt to impair a colony as a strategic move to undermine an enemy that colonizes power; nations of the same ethnic or religious doctrine may show compassion with oppressed groups; or establish position for a nation’s own sphere of influence. (Levin, 1993, 168)
In few respects, the modern phenomenon of decolonization has brought out diverse results although the empires have increased their scope and contracted throughout history. Today, when states give up both the de factor rule of their colonies and their de jure claims to such directive, the ex-colonies are not absorbed by other authorities. More so, the former colonial authorities have not only continued but also maintained their status as “powers,” keeping their strong cultural and economic ties with former colonies. Through their ties, former colonial powers have kept a substantial percentage of the previous benefits of their empires although with smaller costs. Consequently, even with resistance to demands for decolonization, the results have well pleased the self interests of colonizers.
Most often than not, decolonization cannot be obtained or achieved through a single historical act. It progresses through one or more stages of liberation where each can be offered or battled for. These may include degrees of autonomy or self-rule, the introduction of elected representatives through voting or advisory; majority or minority or even exclusive. Finally, the last phase of decolonization may concern little more than handing over responsibility for foreign security and relations. On the other hand, a level of continuity can still be kept even after the recognition of statehood. This can be done through bilateral treaties between the now equal governments that involve practicalities including mutual protections pacts, military training, or military bases.
In the United States, Latin America, and Canada, some debates exist on whether or not these countries can be considered decolonized. This is so due to the fact that the colonist and their descendants who declared their independence instead of the indigenous people.
In another sense, internal decolonization can transpire within a sovereign state. Consequently, the United States of America has established territories that were fated to colonize conquered lands, which bordered the existing states. As soon as their development proved successful, these territories are allowed to petition statehood within the federation, granting internal equality as sovereign constituent member of the Federal Union instead of external independence.
Decolonization is a complicated matter in colonies where a huge population of settlers resides specifically if they have been there for several decades. In general, this population may have to be sent back to their own country as well as lose substantial property. Say, Algeria had a hard time as France decolonized the country. This was due to the large Sephardic Jewish and European population that largely evacuated to France when Algeria gained its independence. In some cases, decolonization is impossible to transpire because of the significance of the settler population. The possibility of decolonization to transpire in some cases is also due to the indigenous population being the minority.
For many members of the indigenous people, decolonization stems out from the self-determination of communities that are struggling to assert their autonomy and rights. (Pomerance, 1982) Resistance and decolonization are strategies that lead towards the goal of independence or freedom. Most indigenous people reject the mutually reinforcing structures of patriarchy and racism, colonialism, capitalism, imperialism, and the institutions where they are involved. Indigenous people often perceive that capitalist globalization is nothing new. It is just a new term for the colonialism and culture of genocide that indigenous people have been rejecting for decades. (Baehr and Gardenker, 1984) More so, decolonization is viewed by many indigenous people as being only possible to transpire through collaborative, active efforts. This requires a parallel procedure of mutual self-determination and active solidarity among indigenous people as well as non-indigenous communities, grounded on a respect for autonomy of all groups, individuals, and people.
Many indigenous communities have already recognized the urgent need for their liberation strategies, which led indigenous scholars to meet in order to establish hands-on activities and suggestions; thus, enabling indigenous people to decolonize themselves. Many indigenous intellectuals believe that indigenous people have the power and intelligence to establish culturally specific decolonization strategies for their own liberation. Many scholars have efforts on demystifying the language of colonization and decolonization in order to aid indigenous people in identifying concepts, intellectual frameworks and terms in their efforts toward obtaining self-determination and liberation. (Johnson, 1967) Most indigenous scholars have written books that offers a wide range of topics on indigenous governance, education, oral tradition, “truth-telling, and repatriation. (Asch and Zlotkin, 1997, 228) Such books were written to facilitate critical thinking to indigenous communities while provide recommendations for upholding plans for meaningful indigenous community action.
In most books written in favor of indigenous people, the decolonization process should be able to start questioning the legitimacy of colonization. One should be able to recognize the truth of the injustice that colonization brings. As such is recognized, one may be able to resist as well as challenge institutions and ideologies that uphold colonization. Decolonization requires a so-called praxis, which is generally defined as a reflection and act on the world for transformation. Educators of most indigenous communities claim that praxis is a way through which one turn from being conquered human beings to being liberated ones. As one realizes the premise of colonization and works toward decolonization, it becomes clear that it is not downgrading to a status of victims. It is to work toward the freedom of indigenous people in order to transform their lives as well as the world around them.
Indeed, for the part of indigenous people, colonization and decolonization are terms that should become a standard part of their vocabulary. When they get into using these terms for themselves, indigenous people are inclined to establishing a form of resistance to colonialism. In addition, as they are able to conceptualize ideas within their own indigenous views, it becomes a more advanced decolonization activity. As indigenous communities make their efforts in drawing on their language, they likewise recover their indigenous knowledge that has been in peril of being lost as an outcome of colonialism. More so, they are also establishing their language relevant to present times. Due to the fact that colonizers had tried to eliminate the languages of indigenous peoples, indigenous communities have come to efforts in recovering their languages as part of their powerful form of resistance to colonists.
Indigenous language recovery, from a cultural point of view, is an important factor to decolonization projects. (Baehr and Gardenker, 1984) Since a huge majority of indigenous languages is in a state of jeopardy, many of them will be lost in the event that no drastic or immediate steps are taken to recover them. More so, the fact that languages are the key to worldview and the representation of indigenous cultures, their loss would issue threats to all that makes indigenous societies culturally distinct.
According to indigenous intellectuals, the languages of indigenous communities were systematically and intentionally brought into peril of extinction by government institutions and policies. (Levin, 1993, 168) As such, many scholars have established appropriate strategies for indigenous people and communities to work actively on the recovery of their languages through first creating a substantial mass of support for language revitalization efforts then proceeding to establish a sustainable tribal language movement. Although saving indigenous languages will require extraordinary amount of taxing work, the outcomes of which will definitely contribute indispensably to indigenous decolonization.
Indeed, the process of colonization has become a historical trauma that greatly affected indigenous communities. As such, indigenous people can empower themselves and initiate their own healing processes from contemporary or even historical injustices through speaking the truth about such injustices. The process of publicly telling long-suppressed stories about human injustices can foster individual and collective healing since stories can directly challenge the colonial status quo and serve as an empowering factor. A developing body of work by indigenous communities throughout the world may be significant in the ongoing struggle for the restoration of the lands of indigenous people, which is reliant on genuine sense of contrition and a desire for justice by mainstream Americans. Truth-telling becomes an important strategy for decolonization as the truth about injustices perpetrated against indigenous people has been largely denied in the United States.
Decolonization was primarily the subject of political scientists as well as political historians who have perceived the process as either an international or national problem (one of mass protest, nation building, party formation, big state rivalry). Decolonization still remains as a subject of concern to social scientists; however, it has more recently figured prominently in literary criticism, the new hybrid most frequently described as postcolonial discourse – discourse in the sense that not only language but also the cultural conditions that inform and direct it. Consequently, decolonization has implications that alter the mentality and behavior in those communities once simply defined as “home” and “overseas.”
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