January 12, 2018
7 Pieces of Native American History Text Books Don't Talk About
The history of people indigenous to the North American continent is often glossed over in education. We are badgered with the legend of Native benevolence to the pilgrims who landed on the East Coast on Thanksgiving.
If indigenous history is covered, students are likely to hear a tragic but vague narrative of massacre, disease, and death, a narrative devoid of the specific political and tribal context that is vital to understanding the colonial and imperial relationship between Native communities and the U.S. This renders indigenous bodies invisible. This also contributes to the concealment of contemporary indigenous rights movements, some of which are happening right now.
It is essential that we acknowledge the physical, economic, and psychological trauma that U.S. colonialism has inflicted on indigenous communities. Here are seven moments in indigenous history that we should have been taught in school.
Midwifery is on the rise in Native communities
In an article published by Rewire on Friday (January 5), Ojibwe journalist Mary Annette Pember writes about the rise of traditional birthing practices in Native communities throughout North America. Pember writes that the resurgence is a response to the poor treatment Native women face in medical environments funded by the Indian Health Service in the U.S.and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch in Canada.
She interviews a number of Native women working in the arenas of maternal health, including Rebekah Dunlap, an Ojibwe doula and nurse in Minnesota, about the treatment facing Native women in hospital settings.
Pember also outlines the poor health outcomes facing Native women: “The risk of maternal death for Native women is twice that of white women in the United States. The infant mortality rate for Native American and Alaska Native babies is .83 percent, second only to rates for non-Hispanic Black American babies of 1.13 percent.”
Likewise, Native American and Alaska Native women have higher rates of maternal morbidity or injury compared to the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The risk of maternal death for Native women is twice that of white women in the United States.
The Pros and Cons of Historic Re-Enactments
Over at The Walrus, Erin Sylvester has written a very interesting and balanced piece on historical re-enacting. I was struck by this piece because it quotes academic historians whose scholarship has actually benefited from the work of re-enactors.
Here is a taste:
If one major risk of re-enactment is that it romanticizes the past, another is that it is wildly selective: not everyone has a history that would be fun to relive, and few people are interested in playing a slave on the weekend. Inevitably, most history does not get re-enacted. Though most re-enactors are not explicitly motivated by the selectivity, some do enjoy it for nationalistic reasons. It lets them play in an imagined past, free from their pet complaints about the modern world.
Native Americans Fight to Keep Long Hair
Tiya-Marie Large, a member of the Pheasant Rump Nakota Nation in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, couldn’t understand why her 8-year-old son, Mylon McArthur, came home from school every day in tears.
“I’d ask him what was wrong. I’d ask him, ‘Is there anything you want to tell me? I promise I won’t get mad,’” she recalled. But Mylon refused to speak.
Large arranged for a meeting with his teacher, during which her son broke down sobbing, finally admitting that his classmates had been bullying him because he wore his long hair in braids.
The family had recently moved to Alberta, where Mylon was the only indigenous child in his class.
“I had to finally make the decision that I’d rather have him cut his hair than have him become suicidal,” Large said, pointing to the recent rise in teen suicides across Indian country.
Mylon decided to make a Facebook video explaining his decision and sending a message to bullies and educators: "You do not define me." The video quickly went viral (See the video within the article).
Sit back and enjoy
Lakota John Locklear is only 20 years old, but you’d never know it to talk to him or to listen to him sing and play guitar. The musician carries himself like an older adult, and the blues music he favors is often played by artists many decades his senior.
Locklear, who lives in Pembroke, has been playing the blues and slide guitar since he was a kid, when he was something of a child prodigy. In recent years he’s become known for blending the blues with sounds from his Lumbee and Lakota heritage.