Citizens of the Oneida Nation at the dedication of the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 19, 2017. During the Revolutionary War, the Oneida Nation was the first ally of the newly declared United States of America. Photo: Oneida Nation

Ruth Hopkins: There would be no America without the first Americans

From food to land to military support, indigenous nations and their citizens have contributed greatly to the United States. So why isn't America celebrating it? In a column originally published in July 2012, Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton / Mdewakanton and Hunkpapa) asks an important question:
As a kid, to me the Fourth of July was all about one thing: fireworks. I grew up in the country in the Dakotas, where lighting off fireworks was pretty much a rite of passage for reservation kids. Roman candles, firecrackers, smoke bombs, artillery shells, and oft dreaded bottle rockets are still sold from make shift stands and big top tents on rural roadsides all across the prairie. Sure, in school we read about George Washington, Paul Revere and the Revolutionary War, but as Natives, we felt pretty disconnected from mainstream American history.

I would later discover that Natives aren’t the only ones who fail to grasp the significance of our indigenous ancestors in the history of the land that would later be called the United States of America. Those very textbooks are proof. In public schools, any mention of Natives is likely relegated to a few paragraphs about Thanksgiving, Pocahontas or Sacajawea. You might hear about The Battle of Little Big Horn in passing, but only as “Custer’s Last Stand.”

Natives aren’t given a lot of exposure in mainstream culture either. You’ll rarely, if ever, see a Native character on television or in the mainstream media. While we’ve made strides in representing ourselves positively on a national platform, we’ve got a ways to go to achieve accuracy in the depiction of us as a People. This is evidenced by false imagery that’s saturated pop culture, ala scantily clad white women in headdresses and war paint, and the tolerance of negative stereotypical mascots like the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins.

Read More on the Story:
Ruth Hopkins: Without the First Americans, There Would Be No USA (Indian Country Media Network 7/4)

Another Perspective:
George F. Will: America’s shockingly violent birth (The Washington Post 6/30)

Related Stories
Adrian Jawort: The 'Indian savages' in the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 2017)
Mark Charles: Native people dehumanized in Declaration of Independence (July 4, 2016)
Mark Charles: All men are created equal except 'Indian savages' (June 15, 2015)

Join the Conversation