A Native Perspective on 1992
The term, "Manifest Destiny," was invented by Washington
policy markers in the early 1800s. Manifest Destiny implies that
the Europeans and their descendants were ordained by Destiny and
God to rule all of America.
The Americans, like Columbus before them, used this logic to justify
the destruction and genocide of the Aboriginal peoples.
In a letter to the King and Queen of Spain in 1492, Columbus wrote,
"so tractable and peaceable are these people, that I swear
to your Majesties, there is not in the world a better Nation."
Five hundred years later, colonial ethnocide, oppression and destruction
of the Native way of life is still affecting our children. We are
still viewed as the weak people of North America.
1992 will be a year of mourning for North American Indians; a mourning
for the fragmentation and loss of our traditional way of life. Prior
to contact and colonization, the aboriginal people's way of life
included a very strong system of spirituality, and judicial and
educational systems that held total respect for the environment.
Community participation in these systems was vital to the forward
movement of the peoples of North and South America.
History books do not tell history from the native perspective. What
they do is perpetuate the excuse for the domination saying that
it was necessary to destroy the Indians in order to expand the Empire.
If the history books truly informed us of Native history from 1492
to the present, there you would find a very depressing but truthful
account of the actions of your European ancestors.
The public must be made more aware of these historical facts. For
Indians were never part of the American Dream and 1992 certainly
isn't our celebration.
However, as Native People living in 1990, we must focus on education
as a positive forward movement to ensure that we continue a strong
cultural exchange with Non-Natives. I realize that negativity in
the context of cross cultural education is necessary or helpful.
It only creates alienation for non-Native Peoples. Therefore, only
subtle reminders of the historical destruction are necessary in
order that you might understand our point of view.
We as Native People understand where we came from. We have learned
this through depressing historical accounts of massacres and land
grabs. These accounts are very disturbing to us. Especially to Native
Our culture and its distinct place in mainstream society must be
respected. Our hope lies in the future. As Native people, we are
committed to being responsible for ourselves and our children. We
are beginning to write the next chapter in our history and more
and more Non-Native people are beginning to understand our situation.
We all have to live in peace and harmony with one another, not
only on a personal level but a familial, a community, a national
and most importantly an environmental level.
So much for Manifest Destiny! Perhaps the next time you see the
stereotypical drunken Indian on the street, you will understand
how this person's life has been affected by 500 years of oppression.
Greg Staats is a Mohawk from Six Nations Reserve near Brantford,
Ontario. He is currently working in Toronto as a photographer and
the focus of his work is Native culture.
Who? Discovering the Americas -
Columbus seen as a conqueror. (CX5031).
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