Opinion: Native Americans define their destiny

"During most of the 20th century, Native People in America saw our image in popular culture as the conquered nation, as cartoons and as silent actors in our own history. Now in the 21st century, we have an opportunity to define our image and make our own statements about our lives.

Undoubtedly this opportunity comes because of financial stability. The opportunity sounds, at first, like a chance for a new beginning, but a closer examination reveals that our picture of ourselves is quite varied.

For once, we have to determine which side of our family to portray. Do we show the destitute Native community of the last century, which has been used for countless charities designed to benefit our people? Do we show the proud warrior on the plains, which never really fit our culture or personality? Or do we show the way our community really is with all our frailties, strengths and quirks?

Our definition of ourselves is important, because it is how our youth expect us to behave and it is how our elders see themselves. It must also account for the mixed images we have of our community, like mascots, old and new western movies and contemporary cultural icons seen in pop phenomena like “The Simpsons.” Our new image must show us as contemporary people who understand contemporary issues.

We must examine our values and work to create a self-image which is positive, but leaves room for change and differing perspectives."

Get the Story:
Lynne Harlan: A new image of Native Americans is still emerging (The Asheville Citizen-Times 9/28)

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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