Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Legacy of Slavery

Heaven knows the lives of American Indians have been complicated by 500 years of European religions, economics, and governing institutions. Surviving this onslaught was tough enough, but when the Euro-Americans themselves were irreconcilably divided--as during the Civil War--first nations like the Cherokee were likewise torn asunder.

Reading this account of the history of the Freedmen issue helped us put the current conflict in context, and aided us in understanding the longstanding resentments of US interference in Cherokee affairs, as well as the fact that while unfortunate situations accrued over time under this unequal relationship, there are some things that cannot easily be undone.

Reflecting on the unsavory aspects of the legacy of slavery on all Americans, I recalled a story told years ago by my friend from the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina, of a time in the 1960s when she was a young girl traveling across the South to see relatives in Oklahoma, and asking her mother why they had to use the Coloreds drinking fountain. I don't recall how her mother explained this to her young daughter, but I do remember meeting older white people from the south who looked Indian but were very defensive against being identified as such. Given the disadvantages associated with this identity prior to the American revolution of liberation in the 1960s, it is not hard to understand.


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