Native Skeptic

Native Skeptic
Apache Crown Dancers 1887: http://www.firstpeople.us/photographs2/Apache-Spirit-Dancers-1887.html

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For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this site, please feel free to read my "Diary of a Native Skeptic" page, especially if this is your first visit.

Diary of a Native Skeptic

Just like all other nations from around the world, Native Americans have a long history filled with many different cultures and traditions that help us identify with nature, the people of our tribe, and our worlds’ reality. When I was growing up, I'd see things in the homes of different families on the reservation that would blend the ideology of church with the beliefs of our various tribes. One day, I was looking at a piece of art, a Native American Madonna, and I remember specifically thinking to myself, how the heck did that happen? And, what is the history behind all these variations of Native American Christian art? The fact that members of my family had very different beliefs did not make sense to me, eventually leading to more questions. How did I have one side of cousins that were Mormon and another that were Catholic, but still exercise the practices of our tribal beliefs? It was a bit confusing to say the least, to go from sitting in a bible study class, to a ceremonial Apache pow-wow gathering, spiritually showing homage to the spirits like "Father Sky" and "Mother Earth" but in our specific tribe’s traditional ways.It wasn't until I decided on the subject of the American Indian Movement for my political science final research paper, that I learned anything in regards to what it was really like for Native Americans during the expansion of the American frontier and through the historical events of Manifest Destiny and the Transcontinental railroad. A good skeptic knows that the more your understanding in something grows, the more your ability to objectively view that certain "thing" will as well. In some sense, you could say that it gets you one step closer to the "reality" of that thing. In this particular case, that’s exactly what appeared to happen to me after I discovered my real Native American history.
 
It all began around the early 1800’s and got really bad when the federal government began outlawing the tradition of tribal ceremonies and started sending American Indians to boarding schools, some far away from their families and their assigned reservation land. The various schools were assigned a particular religion, and the ideology of the phrase, "kill the Indian, save the man", was born. Concepts like "the only good Indian is a dead one", made the notion of ill treatment to indigenous cultures popular by Richard Pratt, an officer of the United States Army, during a time when tolerance in America was truly scarce. This falls under the notion of transforming people through means of “civilizing.” He founded and developed an education program for the first of these schools from his observations that he had made at an "Indian prison". The detrimental cycle, that is a result of American assimilation, has done all sorts of considerable damage to the culture of all Native people. Compiling the Christian boarding schools with the United States government, was how they implemented Capt. Pratt's method of how to, kill the Indian and save the man, or forget and rid the world of American Indian culture and replace it with White American culture. Only with the self empowering tools of critical thinking, do I think we can utilize knowledge in science and reason to reverse these effects on indigenous people so that we may return their culture to the kind of strength it once bestowed.
 
The environment of what it is like in America today for Native Americans sometimes seems like is a whole other country. Racism and discrimination reach from the top of federal government welfare practices down into the school systems. The standards of living are just like any other lower class income region that is so widely inflicted with poverty. Serving as an example of inversely proportional effects, the housing conditions go down while the unemployment rates go up. The results of these events aren’t very surprising the greater your understanding for Native American history grows. The logical outcomes that followed the promoting of intolerance and ignorance through ideology, would only lead to significant amounts of hopelessness and despair, but at the same time a complete lack of concern.  
 
Historically, the relationship between the indigenous tribes of America and the United States has been faced with both resistance and difficulty. This fight for self dependency and determinism can be admired by anyone who has been boldly confronted with the hardships or adversities of discrimination. All it takes to realize and rationalize the motivations of Native American people is the ability to not only possess, but express compassion and empathy. The main cause for concern amongst tribal nations surrounds the fight for the ability to establish a self-governing body of systems to incorporate various programs inside of reservation communities with the sole purpose of raising the quality of life, truly living out the motto, “for the people, by the people”. The fact that American Indian people see themselves as members of a separate society, which possess the rights of a sovereign nation, is the main distinguishing characteristic that differentiates their struggle from that of other grassroots social movements, such as the civil rights movement. Often, it takes these types of impudent circumstances to see the real strength and character of people.
 
Personally, I feel that the only way a person will have that urge to be proactive in helping others is attained through relating themselves with others. Being able to see other perspectives is just like any other skill, it takes practice and acknowledging the need. Simply bringing awareness to the discrimination that most people tend to neglect and ignore can be considered as some sort of success because the acknowledgment that there is a problem would be the first step, like in any recovery process. By compiling different people together for a common cause, we can aid in restoring the cultures of our ancestors by providing the foundation of that missing hope to the next generations. All it takes for a person to get involved with any cause or movement is desire. When people of the same likeness are faced with similar situations like those found on reservations, we also find individuals that are actively seeking their tribal heritage so that they may show their respect for that legacy as their birthright. Not just simply because it tells their story, but because it also helps in identifying who they really are as Native American people.
 
This idea is not isolated to just the passionate ones, but includes all people with indigenous backgrounds. There is no one set standard for the way politics are done in every community. When you take a look at societies and cultures from around our country, you will discover that there are an abundant amount of American Indian tribes, all with different stories, beliefs, and needs. The voice of the people can be heard from deep inside the grassroots level of the movement where those who are responsible for making progress in their own communities are tirelessly working. But, everything in this world has to experience the unpredictable nature of change. American Indians are of no exception to this rule, for they too have had to adapt, and will have to endure some transformation in order to evolve with the times. The determination of people to change the world around them is not always viewed as a logical solution to a problem. Some have said that an irrational person tries to change the world around him, but a rational person changes to the world around him. In any case, change is never an easy obstacle to overcome. People fear the unknown and find comfort in daily routines, habits, and ritual tradition. Society itself has become too comfortable with some of the ways we think and perceive issues in America. People tend to not understand what is outside of that “comfort zone” that they have created for themselves simply because they are afraid of a change. Social movements, however, are the exception to the commonality of resisting change. Social groups aim to change a part of society that has been neglected or unrepresented by bringing attention to them and finding support to bureaucratically transform the public perception. Mostly, I would like to highlight the hope that skepticism has to offer Native Americans and their communities for the future of tribal sovereignty.
 
Living in a world that is full of misinformation and disinformation can be quite scary, and downright dangerous, without any analytical thinking skills. This has become more evident as I have become more familiar with the state of science in America today and understanding the scope of how broad the complete lack of critical thinking skills is spreading. Without skepticism, I would still be lost, wondering, “How am I going to address all these issues on the rez?” I am truly grateful for all that I have learned and the empowerment that the ability to think freely has bestowed upon me. I only hope that I may do some service by sprinkling even just a little of that knowledge into power by providing a means for others to find their own skeptical flashlights to complete the journey into the unknown rendering them a little less fearful, at the same time, maybe just a little bit more “real” too.