Opinion: Why Native Americans celebrate on July 4

"I was asked the other day why Native Americans celebrate Independence Day. The argument presented to me was one I had felt in my younger years as an angry American Indian. The formation of the United States marked the decline of the native way of life and of our existence as a truly sovereign nation. Why would so many Native Americans groups celebrate this holiday with such fervor?

I have spent some time in Oklahoma, where my father grew up, and I had the occasion to ask such questions. To understand independence you must understand what the loss of freedom means as well. Too often we take that lesson for granted because it was learned by those who came before us. Traditionally, the New Year would come at the summer solstice and thus many native religions held their most significant celebrations during this time.

Native people have always been survivalists. Our communities are structured so those things important to our life ways are preserved. Thus when the U.S. Army began to outlaw the practice of traditional religions, our forefathers found a way to survive. The solstice is a week from Independence Day, and by putting on the red, white and blue and raising the American flag, our people could continue to pray and sing the songs of old without fear of retaliation. Our people have also felt the call of duty of Old Glory, and those feelings reflected the warrior tradition. We continued to honor those warriors no matter which side of that flag they fought on."

Get the Story:
Lynne Harlan: Why the Cherokee join in celebrating Independence Day (The Asheville Citizen-Times 7/6)

Relevant Links:
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians - http://www.cherokee-nc.com
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, site 2 - http://www.nc-cherokee.com
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, unofficial - http://www.easternband.com

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