The situation of native Americans in the USA and Canada today .
Please never forget ! This is the work of :
Dirk Thomas Pajer
16.Jan.1996 BOS.2T.RGB


Some music ...

Table of contents:

Index             2

1. Introduction : A people with the right to protest     3

2. Historical summary : Struggle for survival        3

3 Main theme :
3.1 The way to the rediscovery of the traditional culture  7

3.2 The social situation     9

3.3 Protests and political movements     11

4. Conclusion : View of the future 12

Literary catalogue 13



1. A people with the right to protest :

    Most of the native American Indians have a really good reason to protest ; In that great and rich continent ‚ they are the minority group in the worst position.There are nearly one million Indians in north America . They are the original native Americans . Most of them live in the mid-west and the west coast states . Economically, socially and educationally they are less privileged than any other minority in the United States as well as in Canada1 . How did it come tothis condition of development?

2. The struggle for survival :

    Nobody would believe that after 1492 , when Christopher Columbus the first European to set foot upon the islands in front of Americas , a very dark chapter of history started .In time when whole nations and cultures ,were exterminated , and in which human beings were enslaved and treated like animals .The "New world" was discovered . New for Europeans ‚ but not for all the native tribes in America . These people can look back at their own thousand year old traditions and they can be considered an important culture with a huge number of beliefs of their own, as the Maya ‚ the Apache ‚ the Cheyenne and as the Cherokee ‚ toname a few2.

    The enormous number of native tribes can be seen in the next picture
from David Murray‘s book, The Modem Indians 3:



    The white’s found the "New Land" and the "New World" but this was the destruction of most of the native peoples . The biggest mistake of these ignorant people was that they welcomed the white conquerors as friends and sometimes they even trusted their "New Gods". The name for the native people, so called Indians , comes from a mistake of Columbus who thought that he had arrived in India , as he was searching for a new commercial route from Europe to the Near-east . They brought the inspiration and Christianity to the natives on the one hand ‚ but on the other , complete submission . The Indians got a lot of new diseases which they had never known before like syphilis , influenza ‚ plague ‚ cholera and so on4. Furthermore murder and manslaughter was to be an everyday part of life.

    At first the white men just did a really cheap trade with the natives They offered a lot of worthless goods for the Indians valuable , jewellery , precious metals and art like statues ‚ crowns and icons . Later the situation aggravated more and more . Indian art was smelted into gold ingots and the whites started to behave like animals themselves . They took Indian women by force ‚ violated and raped them . Indian men were forced to work in mines as slaves and to convey gold and silver . Finally the "white conquerors" lost all reserve because of this reason the Indians started to doubt and to defend themselves5.

    It came to the first armed conflicts at the end of the 15th century in each part of the land where white people set their feet on , like in the tablelands of the Antilles . But the Indians are almost always the losers because of the poor and antiquated defence equipment , and because , the Europeans receive more and more supplies .Another big problem that weakens the native forces are the new diseases . They are decimated by illness ‚ as their immune systems are not strong enough tocombat the new problems .The Indians working in the mines are dying from being overworked after four years at the latest . The reason are the poisonous fumes which originate from processing the raw materials and which cause loss of hair and teeth . These gases contaminate the whole human body and lead to an early death6 .


    Through the boom of the " Triangle-trade " the businessmen and slave-drivers ‚ who arc mainly Europeans ‚ morepeople are encouraged to settle in the " New World" . Thousands of people stream in to the new land in the belief of escaping the poverty in Europe and with the hope to found a new life in wealth . This leads to a total war between the settlers and the native tribes during many centuries . The Indians are forced to retreat in to the deep west while losing the biggest part of their land7.

The route of the invading settler’s is shown in the picture below8:


    The number of the native population shrinks as fast as the size of the land belonging to the Indians ‚ like for example in a village of the Notka on an island where from the number of 650 inhabitants just 31 survived till today9.Expropriations of Indian land trough the BIA10 are continuing until today. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was founded in 1824 as a department of the war ministry. It was an instrument to subject all the native tribes in the whole United States ‚ but it is still running today. Out of this reason the traditional Indians are demanding the abolition of it. Not with steps as enormous as in the last century ‚ but they did not stop expropriating Indian lands yet, even if a lot of people ‚ white as well as red protested against it .

                The next picture shows the situation of todays Indian lands :

    As it can be seen today the Indians have less then 5% of their old land under their own control . All the territory the whites left to the native tribes are lonely deserts and reservations far away from the huge Cities and the white culture.



3. 1.The way to the rediscovery of the traditional culture :

    When the white settlers came ‚ the Indians lost their rich land, and most of their customs and beliefs ‚ but before the white men’s invasion they lived in harmony with nature . The native tribes lived in tents or in wooden houses . They shared everything with each other and each single person had his or her own task for everyday life . In contrast to the white they took just so much from nature as they could personally use . They had an ecological fuse-protected self-supporter-system, without currency ‚ profit drive ‚ retirement ‚ bankruptcy and without unemployment . However the Europeans overlooked in their arrogance the meaning of the Indian culture and pushed their own culture through . With the belief that they would civilise the " Wild people " they started the erasing of an old simple culture ‚ till it nearly disappeared13

    Now the Indians are desperately trying to keep their cultural character and independence . Like at most colleges in the West there are studies on the Indian tribes , because the regional Indian organisations want American history to be thought of with more stress on the Indian culture . On most reservations ‚ which are far away from the white housing developments ‚ as shown on the 3rd picture, there is a new word flying around which is called "Rediscovery". A lot of tribes want to discover their old traditions ‚ like the TSOUKE-nation on Vancouver-Island . But this is not easy at all14.
Today‘ s American natives have to use English language if they want to transfer their knowledge and wisdom to others . One of the biggest problems while translating Indian languages is the understanding of the imagination of the Indians use of the power and spirit of the universe . If the Lakota talk about "Wakan Tanka" ‚ or the Iroquois about "Sakoitiasan" ‚ the Hopi from "Taiowa" and the Ojibway about "Kitche Manitou" they mean an incomprehensible totalitarian force, which has been all the time and which will be all the time .

    The usage today of terms like God , Creator or Big-spirit are not adequate for the meant terms and thoughts of the old medicine-men15.A further obstacle is also that a lot of today‘s Indian families are living the same way as any other American family . They live in stone houses with garages, some of them even have cars or motor-boats . These people belong to a minority within some Indian tribes ‚ who work hard and can save some money because of the reason that they do not have to pay any taxes as long as they live on a reservation .


    Until now the traditional arts and skills of the former high cultures were just shown at tourist centres and province museums. Also some of the public buildings decorated their front yards with old Indian motives ‚ though the politicians deny to give back any soil to the Indians ‚ like in Victoria in the capital of Vancouver Island . But thanks to the ambitious nostalgic program called "Rediscovery" the old traditions ‚ skills and arts are brushed up again . Like at the TSOUKE-nation the construction of a "Longhouse". A so-called house was a wooden community building where the oldest of the tribe could meet and confer with each other. It a1so served for weddings and other celebrations for the many different families .
    These movements can be seen at other tribes throughout America too . The young SIOUX are learning again how to make a boat from a single huge tree trunk of really good quality . Most of the teachers are quite old men , but nevertheless there are meetings of this kind ‚ where old people show the youth how to act .They arc very popular and appreciated among the young Indians . In this case it does not matter if half-breed, quarter-breed or full blooded ‚ everybody holds together . Not only the youngsters but also the older people deal with the age-old arts like making sculptures and paintings . A living example for the representation of 400 years old Haida-arts is Bill Rid . He is a sculptor a painter and a poet in the same way as are many of his fellow
    Tribesmen . On one hand he is an acknowledged rediscoverer of these native skills ‚ which arc re-born in the form of pictures and figures . But he is also painting protest posters‚ as a support for his people wanting to save nature and wanting to their old rights back .The numerous exhibitions in the museums which caused the rediscovery of the old skills are making sure that the Indian culture won‘t disappear on the whole .What is a cultural pleasure for the whites ‚ means a late recognition of their own long disregarded culture for the Indian16 .

                    The picture shows on old SIOUX  instructing youngsters in using a bow and arrows17.

Some music ...



3.2. The social situation :

    Today‘s life Indians can expect to live till they are 44 ‚ everybody else in the United States can expect to live till they are 64 . Their average annual income is below poverty level . An Indian baby is three times more likely to die than any other. Indians have the highest rate of alcoholism , the lowest standard of education ‚ the poorest health conditions and the worst housing18 . "There are no differences between white and red statistically ‚ but there are a lot of problems ‚ because the Indians are not always getting their fair share ... " reports a white fisherman Pat Mac Lorry understandingly19 .These facts are the results of the depressive condition in which the Indians live . It is about the changed and destroyed situation of a once blooming culture through the modern society of the white man , it has to do with the " Culture Shock". Already the consumption pattern of the natives has changed . They buy the products of the whites like Coca Cola , Sprite ‚ Pepsi instead of drinking spring water .
    Maybe it is because of comfort or because of the immense environmental damage which does not allow drinking out of the springs and streams . They have to feed their families in any case , from the supermarket, since they are not permitted to fish and to hunt . For this reason they buy tons of the white Men‘s groceries ‚ for which they have neither the jobs nor the money and as a result they turn into social benefit receivers .They take those few dollars they are getting from the state to the white‘s consumer temples . "Terms like mass fishing from the fishing industry are for us unknown , because our religion says it destroys thc environment and threatens the fish stocks..." a young NOTKA tells us . Not getting a job is also an outcome of the low standard of education Indians have .
    The situation is made worse because the natives can‘t get along with the stress of modern industrial society ‚ thus they have to look on while whites take their livelihood away20 . Attempts to integrate the Indians into white society have run up to present times ‚ but not at all in a fair way. As for example the Eisenhower administration from 1953 to 1961 ‚ when the central government tried to force the natives to integrate . By giving less money to the reservations the hungry Indians came to the cities just as the government wanted21.

Some music ...



    But there are also a lot of positive efforts of the government to note . Millions of dollars are given to those poor Indians living all the time on reservations supporting better housing ‚ better education , health conditions and employment creating measures22.Just a tiny number of tribes succeeded in winning prosperity Like for example the Comanches who built a casino on reservation ground . As there is no tax for anyone who is living on a reservation they could keep all the profit for themselves . The IQWA also succeeded by using their ability to climb and took work on high building sites and ontower blocks for good wages .
    Unfortunately most of the Indians are not able tocope with the industrial society and became alcoholics or drug addicts . The alcohol dependence ruined them so much that they aren‘t even able to work ‚ to fish , or to hunt . An other problem is that the distances to the white‘s factories from the reservations are too long and any approach without a car is impossible . The result of this is a very high number of the unemployed and alcoholic . From week to week they are waiting for the social benefits and take most of it in to cheap pubs . After two or three glasses of whiskey they are lying totally drunk in the sun all day, since they lack those enzymes processing the alcohol in their blood .While lying on the ground they are singing about the glorious past as wild hunter in their own wide land23.

Hey-uh ... Hey-uh ... Hey-uh-uh-uh-uh ...
Hey-uh ... Hey-uh ... Hey-uh-uh-uh-uh ...
Hey-uh ... Hey-uh ... Hey-uh-uh-uh-uh ...


* The song of Charlie Knight ‚ medicine man.



3.3 Protests and political movements

    Things are moving ‚ but not fast enough for the radicals . 20 years ago the activists of the American Indian Movement* threatened the sheriff and all the other representatives of white bureaucratic power with their guns at Wounded Knee in South Dakota to enforce their demands . They besieged the town for 73 days ‚ till they were knocked down by the army and the police On this occasion two Indians died and many members of the AIM movement were sent to prisons all over the country or had togo underground . The tragedy of this is a two faced one. In the year 1890 troops of the US.-army massacred 250 Lakota men , women and children at exactly the same place .
    Since this time the Indians have gone on a pilgrimage every year and there mourned their countless fallen brothers25 .
However most of the demonstrations are of more moderate kind . The Indians reclaim the land ‚ which once was theirs in all parts of North-America . They demand to rule themselves ‚ because for them the civilisation of the white man has no future in to due to the threatening destruction of the environment . Mockingly they say : " The white people are , after only two thousand years ecologically on the brink of disaster ‚ whereas we have been living on this planet for thirty-thousand years without ever having been a menace to it ". On the protest marches they carry banners , which show their opinions of the white conquerors as e.g. : "Cook died for your sins in Hawaii !" or "Captain Cook had syphilis ! " and "Cook the crook!" With this they want to express their anger at the whites who brought them a lot of new diseases , robbery , murder and colonialism .They say : "We had everything before the conquerors came , we had our own nation with our own laws and most important of all we had peace everywhere . The white took this all away from us ‚ we have no right to fish ‚ to hunt and we have no human rights in general26".
    With campaigns like these the natives want to call public attention to themselves . They want to tell everybody how they are treated and how they feel .

* Thc AIM was founded 1968 in Minneapolis \ St. Paul and is one of the most important orgamsations of the Indian resistance . After the occupation of Wounded Knee the organisation set foot in the most of the reservations.


    The native tribes of America want back their laws and their own identity ‚ as until today the government dictates ‚ what they are allowed to do and where their limits are.There are no real rights for us says an old woman from the Notka tribe at a demonstration in Pat-Alberg , "The white people cut down our forests ... she complains ‚ ‚. ... and they only leave some tiny wildlife reserves along die highways for the tourists .‚ but these are like the fingers of a chopped hand27 . And indeed the forestry industry is still taking away land , that they had been promised 50 years ago , from the Indians . The distraction of the old native culture is still going on‚ villages even graveyards ‚ and sacred places are ruined . The conflict between fishing industry and the Indian people is going on as well . Merely on another level . Nowadays the Indians arc forced by laws and regulations in the name of the United States or of Canada to give up their property and land .

4. View into the future

    Everywhere the Indians are trying to defend themselves ‚ in their own peaceful way. Especially the natives of Vancouver Island are in the news at this time ‚ since they play their Haida* drums every morning asking their God to listen to them and to save their environment . The soft protest is sounding kilometres along the ocean each morning . They arm demonstrating against the destruction of 30km² of wooded lands with trees of which, some are more than 1000 years old . One of the Indian people‘s last bases of living is supposed to be cut down .Do they have to use their weapons again before anybody will listen to them ? They want things to be changed now and not later ! If they do not get them now by peaceful means ‚ they start to think and to feel that they have the right to do it by force . At a result a lot of new blood would have to run again .Out of these reasons all people white as well as red should hold together to solve the problems and to prevent any other escalation in hostilities .

* Haida is a very old native Indian tribe . They have especially marked and beautiful arts .


Literary catalogue

Jean Meyer:
Sklavenhandel ‚ Ravensburger® Verlag , Ravensburg © 1990
Ronald Wright:
Geraubtes Land, Westermann® Verlag, Braunschweig, © 1992
Harvey Arden and Steve Wall:
Hüter der Erde, Frederking & Thaler® ‚ München * © 1992
Peter Baumann und Martin Schießler:
Amerikas Indianische Seele ‚ ECON® Verlag ‚Düsseldorf, ©1987
David Murray: Modern Indians, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington ‚ ©1981
Wilcomb E. Washburn:
The Indian in America, Harper & Row ‚ © 1975
Brain M. Fagan:
Die ersten Indianer, Verlag C.H. Beck®, N4ünchen, © 1990
Hans-Gerd Wiegand:
Die Inseln von Vancouver, TV-Dokumentation in der Produktion des Südwestfunks ‚ Baden-Baden ‚ © 1993
A peope with the right to protest, Informationsblatt der ARSRegensburg,© 1993
Lan gen scheidts Schitl wörterbuch Fngli sch ‚ Langenscheidt KG®. München ‚ © 1 986