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5 Things Educators Should Know Before Teaching Native Culture and History

Vincent Schilling
7/23/14

It’s summer, and teachers across Turtle Island will probably be thinking about their lesson plans for the coming school year soon. A question was recently posed to ICTMN wondering what teachers should know before approaching American Indian culture and history with their classrooms, so we started thinking about some basic answers.

We are not saying it is necessary to share horrible details with children, however, we do believe teachers should be aware of the truth when teaching any history of this country. Here are just five things educators should know:

Columbus Was Not a Hero and He Never Landed in the United States

Very few Native Americans would argue that Christopher Columbus was a terrible person that resorted to slavery, murder and other horrifying tactics in order to secure gold for his King and Queen. He wrote of selling 9-year-old girls to his men for unimaginable acts and his men killed hundreds of thousands of indigenous people.

He also never landed in the upper 48 states nor did he ever go there, he even returned to Spain in shackles for his atrocities. To this day, Native people in the United States have fought to have Columbus Day removed as a national holiday.

Christopher Columbus presents Native Americans to Queen Isabella.

RELATED: 8 Myths and Atrocities about Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day

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choctawgirl's picture
choctawgirl
Submitted by choctawgirl on
Yeah and if you tell anyone about Thanksgiving they will just say it is a chance for their family to get together and they are just celebrating and giving thanks. So you can't get together on any other day? That's the only day you can be thankful for things you have? I knew the whole Pocahontas thing was a lie and she was much younger but I still love the movie and it has good lessons in it. :D

choctawgirl's picture
choctawgirl
Submitted by choctawgirl on
I love the top picture too it represents what a lot of people think and act like. Whites try to look ethnic or want to give the appearance that they have culture so they will mimic other cultures and steal their identities despite the fact a lot of these people are ignorant and prejudice.

Arthur LaPella
Arthur LaPella
Submitted by Arthur LaPella on
True enough. For more balance: Yes, the English had Indian slaves; they bought many of them from other Indians (the same happened in Africa.) The Caribs weren't exactly saints either.

Karen Evony Klipp
Karen Evony Klipp
Submitted by Karen Evony Klipp on
I agree he did not discover America, I agree he did not step foot in this country ever, I agree the whites should change History books and write the truth. However at it is ti does show an accurate truth as to the type of men that did travel here and why natives hate him and them to this day... they were an honest trusting peoples, and they were abused because of it and this was immortalized through out history by the people who ordered it done! Nothing changes rulers are all corrupt! The President wants to be one of them! Don't hold your breath about changing it.

Dana Seilhan
Dana Seilhan
Submitted by Dana Seilhan on
To answer Arthur LaPella's comment: There were many different forms of slavery throughout history. It's true that some Native tribes had slaves but generally they were people captured in war or other newcomers to the tribe, and it was generally possible that at some point a slave could earn their freedom if they proved trustworthy. Even when whites started out here on Turtle Island they had indentured servants at first, whose servitude had a time limit and at the end of that time limit they were free. And indentured servants had all sorts of skin colors and ethnic backgrounds. The practice of singling out one race for *permanent* slavery was something unique to Western whites as far as I know, and it came later. In any case, saying "so-and-so were not saints" is not a valid excuse for the way someone else behaved. NO ONE is a saint. Should we all be made into slaves or run out of our homelands? Of course not. If you can't come up with a better excuse than that, maybe you should stop attempting to find "balance." Thanks in advance.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
(from the article): " It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire... horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them.” Natives might also not be too keen to hear about how the White man won favor with his imported God with acts of violence and aggression. This should have been our FIRST clue to how Whites would act in our land - they were bloodthirsty savages looking for any way to use their God and our blood to take over this country.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
In answer to Arthur Me LaPella: Natives may have kept slaves, but it was NEVER Native policy to make the selling of human beings a commercial enterprise. Natives also never engaged in war as genocide as did many of "founding fathers." _____________________________________________- "George Washington, violated the treaty and ordered the invasion of the territory of the Iroquois confederation. He insisted in killing as many Indians as possible without taking into account age or sex. The survivors were to be given as agricultural slaves to the colonists who deserved them “Destroying not only the men but the settlements and the plantations is very important. All sown fields must be destroyed and new plantations and harvests must be prevented. What lead can not do will be done by hunger and winter.” From June to December, 40 Indian settlements were massacred and thousands of their plantations were devastated." http://www.voltairenet.org/article30359.html

Troy Smith
Troy Smith
Submitted by Troy Smith on
I tell my students it should be Taino Remembrance Day instead of Columbus Day.

Troy Smith
Troy Smith
Submitted by Troy Smith on
To add to the on-point responses to Arthur LaPella: in both Africa and North America, "kinship slavery" meant having the option of captives taken in war being used as servants because they were not part of the kinship group (tribe) until and unless they were adopted. This is not the same thing as commercially motivated chattel slavery. When Europeans started using forced labor to work their plantations and other enterprises in the New World, and started buying captives en masse from those tribes (in both places) thus bringing those tribes into a huge, global trade endeavor, society in general in Africa and North America (especially the South) was massively disrupted, so that what had previously been a by-product of sporadic warfare became instead a huge enterprise for native slavers... which meant that inter-tribal war went from sporadic, with captives as a by-product, to continuous, with captives as the main goal. So, sure, Africans and American Indians sold captives to the English, but it was the English who created the market and spurred it on. The indigenous peoples of the American South eventually figured out how bad the slave trade was for them, which was one factor in the Yamassee War of 1715 (which came close to wiping out SC), after which the English pretty much stopped using Indians as slaves.
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