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The Future of American Indian peoples

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  • The Future of American Indian peoples

    The Future of American Indian peoples
    Posted: January 26, 2006
    by: Joel Waters / Special to Today
    The future of American Indians is muffled, like a dog with a muzzle on, and only so many of us can be heard.

    But, in looking back on the decades since the '70s, we have come a long way. The most important contribution was that of the great pioneers of writing, those who became the first to establish Native American literature. People like Zitkcala Sa, a Yankton Sioux, who preserved some of the oldest Indian stories. And N. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, ''A House made of Dawn.''

    Other Native American writers paved the way also for us by being controversial, or just by being themselves, like Simon Ortiz, Acoma Pueblo; Joy Harjo, Muscogee/Creek; Louise Erdrich, Chippewa; Adrian Louis, Paite; LeAnne Howe, Choctaw, and Sherman Alexie, Spokane/Coeur d'Alene.

    All these people have one thing in common: they let themselves be heard when no one was listening to them. We as a people were nearly void, a lost culture; but out of the dead roots something was born and that was through finding a voice in a predominantly white society.

    With so many things against them, like poverty and especially racism, these pioneers of Native American literature broke though most barriers in their way. Like them, Native American people need to have that courage to jump into what dreams they have. So far, our culture is fighting its way back by creating things like Native-owned companies, magazines, journals and even record labels. But the path of our existence, I believe, is based on voice; and the strongest voice we have is through our education and our knowledge.

    Had I known that writers like these were out there when I was in high school, I would've been encouraged to graduate high school and set goals for myself. I didn't find Native American literature until my freshman year of college. But from then on I changed my major to English so I could become a writer and a person of inspiration, like Harjo and Louis were to me.

    But most people, on the reservations and off as well, have not even heard of these writers and their great works. There is the problem. If we just had more people to look up to we might be inspired to change the world and especially change ourselves and the poverty around us. We need to put these writers into our schools; we need to fill the libraries on every reservation with their great works of literature and poetry. Every college should offer a mandatory course and at least offer an elective in high school. Just to have them come and read on the reservations might spark enough interest in our young Indians.

    The future of our young depends on knowing that there are people out there who have achieved the impossible; that there are Indians out there who have done it and have been successful, and all they had to work with was practically nothing. Their pockets were empty, but their hearts were filled with dreams and hopes of becoming something big, and maybe these artists didn't know just how big of an impact they had. The only thing I know for certain is my life wasn't much before I read their poems of suffering and their stories of personal tribulation. Now I have a path that I am proud to go down, and it has given my life a purpose.

    Our voices have been cut short and have been silent for too long. We have the resources, we just have to promote them, and I think a great start is through our literature and our stories. Let us as a people support each other in our dreams because no one else out there will, and even if they will, it would mean a lot more to have people of your own kind who believe in you.

    Coming from a culture of many great and fallen leaders, it is time to stop mourning for ourselves and them, and pick up where they left off. We are, after all, descendants of great voices.

    Joel Waters, Oglala Lakota, is a junior seeking a bachelor's in English. His poetry has been published in anthologies and literary journals. He is currently working on a book of poetry and a novel. Waters attends American Indian student organization meetings and poetry readings to gain experience in performing before an understanding audience.


    "Providing news and information about Native American Issues & Causes"
    "Helping to make a difference for our people in Indian Country, one day at a time. What will you do today to help make a difference?"

  • #2
    Those authors listed are good ones, but It's Odd that Vine Deloria isn't listed as well...
    Last edited by Joe G; 09-19-2006, 08:09 PM.


    • #3
      I totally agree. It's sad that at my university, there is only one class that focuses on Native American people, and that class is not even offered every semester!! Sure, as adults, we should be able to venture out on our own and find Native authors, but why should we have to put in so much effort-college is suppose to be higher learning; therefore more diverse in all types of history and literature. I mean, we're paying the higher prices, right? I have when to the Head of the History department on my campus, and even though he was nice, his lame excuse for not having more Native American history courses was 'not enough demand'. How would you know if you only offer them once a year??!! Fortunetly, the library has a pretty decent selection. But I agree the reason our children (and I myself am a poster child for this one) don't know about our culture is because of the school. If we can learn about Abe Lincoln, Washington and the others over and over again, than we can certainly learn about the real american people-our people.
      Be beautiful, be proud.


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