How Chavez Dealt With the US Government—and How Natives Do
The recent movie Cesar Chavez: History is Made One Step at a Time brings home differing strategies between minority groups and indigenous nations in their legal and political relations with the United States.
Chavez focused on non-violent methods and did not challenge the U.S. government, Constitution or values system. The farm workers movement under Chavez’s leadership embraced central U.S. laws and values. The movement won broad support because they fought for inclusion and realization of American values of equality, equal opportunity, cultural tolerance, and non-violence. The farm workers values under Chavez’s leadership wanted, and to a certain extent obtained, more complete citizenship and participation within the American economy and society.
American Indians, however, approach the United States from a different stand point of not wanting to fully take on U.S. values, culture, and institutions, at least not within their tribal communities and territories. Most American Indians are accepting of U.S. citizenship, and as citizens are willing to live under U.S. laws and the Constitution when living or engaged in activities outside of tribal jurisdictions. A primary reason that American Indians struggle to preserve dual citizenship—tribal and U.S.—is because American Indians are committed to preserving their tribal heritages, which are culturally, politically, and economically different from U.S. values and laws.
Many American Indian tribes have a hard time separating religion or worldview from everyday life and government. For some tribes, kinship, worldviews, and religious leaders continue to play a role in important community decisions and activities. Religion in U.S. society for the most part is separated from politics, economy, and everyday life.
American Indians, unlike minority groups, seek to maintain self-government and territory. Americans, and nation states around the world, tend to find the indigenous struggles for territory and self-government disturbing and threatening to the existing national political and legal orders.
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