The majority of my limited knowledge about Native American culture, history, and society comes from two sources: my personal experiences and school. Beginning as early as Kindergarten, I learned about the first Thanksgiving, where European colonists and Native Americans came together to share the yields of their harvest and to celebrate their survival. This event was depicted as a joyous occasion during which cooperation and good-will overcame the barriers of prejudice and hate. It was not until much later that the true nature of the relationship between the European settlers and the American Indians was revealed. However, my education on this subject was oftentimes short and vague. Many history classes breezed through what they deemed as the major events, including the Trail of Tears, the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and the Wounded Knee Massacre. Yet, descriptions of these events in textbooks and documentaries were usually written by White Europeans and very rarely included the Native Americans’ side of the story. Overall, my education focused mainly on how Native Americans fit into our country’s history. As a result, I have very little understanding of how Native Americans view the arrival of the Europeans in North America as well as what Native American life, values, and customs look like today.
In regards to my personal experiences, I was blessed with the opportunity to live in New Mexico for four years during my early childhood. I feel that this time during my life was very unique because New Mexico is one of the few places where Native American culture is widely accepted and displayed within mainstream society. For example, I grew up reading and listening to a man named Joe Hayes. In New Mexico, he is a well-known story teller who translates and narrates traditional Hispanic and Native American tales. Some of his most well-known Native American folktale books include A Heart Full of Turquoise, Stories at the Tipi, and Coyote &. Additionally, as a young girl, I was able to travel throughout the Midwest with my family and visit several historical Native American sites.
Unfortunately because of my young age, I don’t have a lot of clear memories of the places that I visited, and I moved from New Mexico to North Carolina when I was entering the fourth grade. From then on, my idea of Native Americans was influenced largely by the media, mainly books and movies. Some of my major media sources include the Little House on the Prairie books series and movies such as Dances with Wolves, Hildalgo, etc.
Obviously, my knowledge of Native Americans is limited due to the shortcomings in my education and distorted by cultural stereotypes and the popular media. As a result, one of my main goals in taking this class is to better understand what the modern Native American looks like. I wish to gain a better grasp of what Native American life and culture is today. Personally, I want to know how Native Americans view us and what they want from our society. Additionally, I would like to know about difference between individual tribes and how they view and interact with each other.Another reason for my taking this class is so that I can try to relearn history from the Native American’s point of view. I want to know how they felt about the European settlement in North America and to view the next half of a century through their eyes. Overall, I would just like to expand my understanding of what it means to be a Native American in today’s society.