Indigenous peoples of the Americas

(Redirected from Native Americans)

The Indigenous peoples of the Americas are the peoples that inhabited the Americas before the arrival of European settlers in the 15th century, and the ethnic groups who now identify themselves with those peoples.


  • There is a widespread belief that we, Native American and nonnative alike, have nothing to celebrate. All too many believe we should give forth with great trills of mourning. But it is of utmost importance to our continuing recovery that we recognize our astonishing survival against all odds; that we congratulate ourselves and are congratulated by our fellow Americans for our amazing ability to endure, recover, restore our ancient values and life ways, and then blossom.
  • Americans divide Indians into two categories: the noble savage and the howling savage. The noble savage is seen as the appealing but doomed victim of the inevitable evolution of humanity from primitive to postindustrial social orders. The American belief in progress and evolution makes this a particularly difficult idea to dislodge, even though it is a root cause of the genocide practiced against American Indians since the colonial period. This attitude, which I characterize as the Progressive Fallacy, allows American Indians victim status only. And while its adherents suffer some anguish when encountering the brutal facts of exterminationist policies, they inevitably shrug resignedly and say—quite directly—that Indians have to assimilate or perish. So while the Progressives allow the noble savage to be the guardian of the wilds and on occasion the conscience of ecological responsibility, the end result of their view for Indians is the same as its counterpart view of American Indians as howling denizens of a terrifying wilderness.
  • No Indian can grow to any age without being informed that her people were “savages” who interfered with the march of progress pursued by respectable, loving, civilized white people. We are the villains of the scenario when we are mentioned at all. We are absent from much of white history except when we are calmly, rationally, succinctly, and systematically dehumanized. On the few occasions we are noticed in any way other than as howling, bloodthirsty beings, we are acclaimed for our noble quaintness. In this definition, we are exotic curios. Our ancient arts and customs are used to draw tourist money to state coffers, into the pocketbooks and bank accounts of scholars, and into support of the American-in-Disneyland promoters’ dream.
  • From invasion, which stretches from 1492 in the Caribbean to the 1880s in the United States (and is still occurring in parts of Central and South America), onward as far as the colonizers, particularly Americans, were concerned, Native Americans were faced with a choice between assimilation and extinction. This choice, forced on them through wars and policies that made other options such as resistance appear untenable, was eventually accepted as inevitable by many Native Americans.
  • There is a permanent wilderness in the blood of an Indian, a wilderness that will endure as long as the grass grows, the wind blows, the rivers flow, and one Indian woman remains alive.
  • The American Indian people are in a situation comparable to the imminent genocide in many parts of the world today. The plight of our people north and south of us is no better; to the south it is considerably worse. Consciously or unconsciously, deliberately, as a matter of national policy, or accidentally as a matter of “fate,” every single government, right, left, or centrist in the western hemisphere is consciously or subsconsciously dedicated to the extinction of those tribal people who live within its borders.

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