Who are the true Americans?


Saudi Gazette

Who are the original inhabitants of what we call today, America? Who are the true, original Americans who lived on the land for centuries and were not immigrants?

The true native Americans are whom the Western society has labeled as Red Indians, but in fact they are not red and they are not Indians. They were given this name by the person who discovered the Americas and who consequently unleashed the violent and horrific slaughter of those people who had been living on their homeland.

Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain, aiming to reach the land of gold and spices, the East Indies, which is South and Southeast Asia. Instead, his ship was driven off course and it landed in the New World. The people in this New World, or North and South America, were called Indians by the Western exploiters.

In the year 1492, Columbus, the explorer, established and documented routes from Europe to the Americas, opening the way for other voyagers and explorers to follow suit and abuse the findings in this new land. Columbus’s discovery inaugurated a period of exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted for centuries. Genocide of the Native American populations ensued over the course of the following centuries.

The pages of history have recorded the savagery of the white European men against entire civilizations of Native Americans. In addition to the massacres, the Europeans brought with them diseases to which the Native Americans had no immunity. Chicken pox and measles which were rarely fatal to Europeans proved deadly to the Native Americans.

It was a widespread tactic of the white men’s army to kill the great creature, the bison or buffalo, because the Native Americans relied on this animal for their livelihood and survival. The Native American tribes lived alongside buffalo herds and used their skins for tents, and their meat for food, but they did not spill the blood of the animal for mere killing. They hunted in balance to maintain the continuity of the buffalo population. The slaughter of the buffalo by the US army was seen as a way to starve Native Americans into submission. The buffalo was practically exterminated.

William Cody was a scout and bison hunter for the white men’s army and he is famous for saying, “Kill every buffalo you can! Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone.”

In the region which we know today as the state of Montana, there were ongoing battles between the white men pushing further onto the lands of the Native Americans. There are names of heroic men most of us do not know who tried to resist this encroachment, tried to defend their rights to live on the land that was theirs and protect their families, their culture, and way of life.

Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake, Sitting Bull, was a leader and warrior in the Great Sioux Wars. Ongoing skirmishes and battles which caused loss of life on both sides led to an agreement between the US army and the Lakota tribe. The agreement ensured the rights of the Lakota tribe to live freely on their land without fear of attack.

However, the US army breached that agreement when rumors spread that there was gold on the great plains of Montana. Greed fueled the US army attack against the Lakota tribes to expel the natives from their lands and usurp their land and the gold in it.

Tȟašúŋke Witkó, Crazy Horse, was a Native American leader who took up arms against the United States federal government to fight against encroachment by white American settlers on Indian territory and to preserve the traditional way of life of the Lakota people. Both Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse fought courageously in the Battle of the Little Bighorn which took place in Montana in June of 1876. The fight resulted in an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Araphao, and defeat of the US government forces. The leader of the US army, George Armstrong Custer, was killed. The total US casualty count included 268 dead and 55 severely wounded. The courage and wisdom of Crazy Horse earned him great respect from both his own people and his enemies.

The triumph of the Lakota tribe over the US army did not last very long. The U.S. Congress authorized funds to expand the army by 2,500 men. The reinforced US army defeated the Lakota bands in a series of battles, finally ending the Great Sioux War in 1877. The Lakota were eventually confined onto reservations, prevented from hunting buffalo and forced to accept government food distribution.

The US government set up reservations to contain the Indians, and initially they were allowed to preserve their culture and practices. However, later the government changed and controlled living conditions on the reservations. Teepees were changed into log cabins. Hunting was banned and the Native Americans were forced into farming. They were losing their way of life.

The reservation began to feel like a prison. A group of police from among the natives was hired by the US government to keep order in the reservations. The pieces of land allotted to the Native Americans shrunk smaller and smaller each year. They were often cheated when they wanted to trade their goods and products for cash from the white men. The US government confined these people to mostly useless unproductive land. The soil was too dry, too rocky, or too far from a river to grow valuable crops. They became dependent on government payments of cash and goods, and they sank into poverty.

What is life like today for these true Americans?

The extent of the devastation of this native population and amazing civilization is evident by the numbers of today’s census. Among the total US population of 323.1 million, there are only 5.2 million Native Americans. Of the Native American population, 22% live on the remains of their tribal lands on the reservations.

Living conditions in the reservations have been described as being comparable to the Third World. They have high rates of unemployment and even those who are employed are living under the national poverty line. There are problems of homelessness and overcrowding in their homes. Inadequate plumbing, kitchen facilities, cooling, and heating are very common in their houses.

Leaving their traditional healthy, natural diet and adopting the Western diet has had a negative impact on the health of Native American populations, resulting in increasing rates of diabetes and heart disease.

Due to underfunding from the US government, health service facilities are inadequate to meet the needs of the Native Americans living in the reservations.

This part of American history should be read and taught, and should not be forgotten.