Jana McKeag: Renaissance of tribal culture, traditions

"Our ancestors and elders were forced to attend schools where the goal was to assimilate them into non-Indian culture. They were punished for speaking their native languages and practicing native traditions.

Treaty agreements, the Dawes Act and allotment of tribal lands diminished our footprint on the American landscape to a small fraction of what was originally ours.

Paternalistic federal policies left reservations as nothing more than places where Indians lived, trapped in an endless cycle of poverty, unemployment and neglect, where inadequate housing, health care and drug and alcoholism were a way of life.

We were powerless to act against grave injustices. One of my clients, the Prairie Island Indian Community of Minnesota, was flooded out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, wiped out of much of its ancestral lands and sacred sites.

My people did not have the means to fight the destruction of our culture, much less preserve it. No one would have dreamt 30 years ago that we would be capable of developing a project such as the National Museum of the American Indian. And no one would have imagined that tribes – thanks to the resources of tribal gaming and the social and economic progress ignited by tribal self-determination – would be building their own museums and cultural centers.

We are today in a midst of a renaissance of tribal culture and traditions. Native nations throughout the country are working to preserve Indian dance, arts and crafts. Many are revitalizing their languages "

Get the Story:
Jana McKeag: What Will Our Legacy Be? (Casino Journal December 2007)