"Charles Hudson is a member of the Mandan-Hidatsa tribe, born on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. But by the time he came along, in 1959, much of the reservation was under 300 feet of Missouri River water, thanks to a giant dam built by the federal government, which relocated most of the people in his tribe.
Tribal leadership fought the project for years, but failed. When the tribe's chairman finally went to Washington, D.C., to give up the land, he had to take off his glasses to weep. A picture of the moment made the front page of the Washington Post. Flooding of the reservation started soon after. "Both my mother and my father had to leave the town that they grew up in, where their families and ancestors had all lived," Hudson says.
This was not the first nor the last conflict Charles and his tribe had with American institutions. Sometimes it was little things, like when Charles was going to the local public high school.
"The length you could wear your hair was heavily regulated. Boys could not wear hair past their collar, and that was obviously a direct violation of their cultural norms," Hudson says. "But my goodness, that's nothing compared to the radical oppressions that my mother's generation and her father's generation were going through."
"Kill the Indian to save the man" -- that oppressive motto led to restrictions on his tribe's native language and native customs. The federal government forced Indian children to go to churches and boarding schools where they were re-educated and stripped of their cultural traditions.
So it makes sense that, growing up, the Fourth of July would be a dark day for Hudson, a sad tribute to the country that tried and tried again to exterminate its native people and their culture. But it wasn't -- for Hudson, the Fourth meant "summertime, family, fireworks. You can't wait for the fireworks. As a kid you look forward to that celebration.""
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A Native American Take on Independence
(American Public Media 7/5)