Every year Time Magazine names 100 people as its version of “The Most Influential People in the World.” The editors of the magazine apparently live in a world without Native Americans, the First Americans to be precise.
This year the selections are much the same as last year and the year before that. There are Muslims, Hispanics, Asians, African Americans, and an abundance of White Americans. There is the usual Oprah Winfrey and President George W. Bush. But how influential is Miley Cyrus, a.k.a. Hannah Montana? She made the list.
Just to keep the top 100 well balanced and all inclusive Time has added the name of Baitullah Mehsud. His claim to fame is that he has been fingered as the mastermind behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007.
There are the usual suspects of movie stars, rock singers and politicians on the list and I am sure they have exerted some influence on some people or activities in their lifetime. But again I ask, why no Native Americans? Could it be that the editors of Time Magazine are, as the editors of other mainstream media, so ignorant of the Native Americans in their midst that in their minds they do not exist? To go from the predominant culture to non-existent in 500 years is truly amazing and frightening.
Every Native American can probably name 10 Indians that deserve to be on Time’s list of most influential people. The problem is nobody asks them. Out of sight out of mind does not lead to a cohesive means of communications. White and black editors see who is around them in their own little world and Native Americans are not a part of their world. I could name a hundred influential Indians, but because of space I will name just a few.
For every century there comes a man or woman that is in the right place at the right time. Ernie Stevens, Jr., Wisconsin Oneida, is such a man. As head of the National Indian Gaming Association he has come along at a time when Indian gaming is bringing in billions of dollars in revenues to many once impoverished Indian tribes. As a strong willed and powerful spokesman for the interests of the gaming tribes, his voice was, and is, essential to the continued success of Indian gaming. Stevens has managed to pull the gaming tribes together in a coalition that has stood as one to protect their rights. I would say that his influence is much more consequential to a people than say that of a Miley Cyrus.
John Echo Hawk, Pawnee, has led the Native American Rights Fund team of lawyers for more than 20 years in the fight for justice in Indian country. If the editors of Time Magazine would look up the legal battles fought and won by Echo Hawk and his team at NARF, they would certainly have to agree with me that his efforts have been more than influential.
John Yellow Bird Steele, Oglala Lakota, has been elected to serve more terms as president of the Oglala Lakota Nation than any other chairman in its history. He has managed to push the tribe forward even though the county in which it sits was proclaimed in 1980 by the U. S. Census Bureau to be the poorest county in America. And since I am on politicians, what about Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee, and the former Chief of the Cherokee Nation? She was the first woman ever elected to serve in that position and even today her influence is still felt in Indian country. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Ford Foundation and the Freedom Forum. Her say on awarding grants to deserving Indian organizations is indeed quite influential.
Or what about Eloise Cobell, Blackfeet, who fought the government of the United States for the past 12 years to hold them accountable for the billions of dollars that were mismanaged or outright stolen from the Indian people over the past 100 years? It was this theft of Indian money that has been largely responsible for keeping Native Americans at the bottom of the economic ladder in America.
I would strongly advise the editors of Time and the production managers of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and of all the major newspapers and magazines in America that the First Americans are here and are newsworthy and pushing them into the role of the “Forgotten Americans” should not be allowed or tolerated. Time editors, next year when you compile your list, look beyond the end of your nose to find and include one or two influential Native Americans. It’s the fair thing to do.
Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing him at P.O. Box 818, Rapid City, SD 57709.
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