Activities: Native American Struggles


1.  “You tell all white men, 'America First.’  We are the only ones, truly, that are 100 percent. We therefore ask you while you are teaching school children about America first; teach them the truth about the first Americans…           

“History books teach that Indians were murderers – is it murder to fight in self-defence? Indians killed white men because white men took their lands, ruined their hunting grounds, burned their forests, destroyed their buffalo. White men penned our people on reservations, then took away the reservations. White men who rise to protect their property are called patriots – Indians who do the same are called murderers.         

"White men call Indians treacherous – but no mention is made of broken treaties no the part of the white man...

“White men call Indians thieves – and yet we lived in frail skin lodges and needed no locks or iron bars. White men call Indians savages. What is civilization? Its marks are a noble religion and philosophy, original arts, stirring music, rich story and legend. We had these….” - Grand Council Fire of American Indians, 1927

What images do you have – from history books and popular culture- of the “first Americans”?  Of the “white men” who carried western civilization from coast to coast? 

Imagine you are a US government official in 1927 who is asked to respond to the Grand Council Fire declaration: what arguments would you use to justify US policy? To what extent would these arguments be grounded in racism?            

2.  “You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.  Teach your children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the children of the earth. If we spit on the ground we spit on ourselves.

“This we know. The earth does not belong to humanity: humanity belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood that united one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth. We do not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves." - Attributed to Chief Seattle

“The Quincentenary [500th anniversary] commemorates one of the most important events in world history: Columbus ' voyage from Spain to the New World in 1492. From this date forward, the modern world came swiftly into being, as ships, people, ideas, goods, and all manner of living things passed back and forth across the Atlantic . Eventually, the communication which Columbus established reached across all the oceans and continents of the earth…. We commemorate the future, honor the Columbian heritage of vision and courage by seeing the earth whole and welcoming the challenges and opportunities that await the exploration of space.”- From the brochure of the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission

If Chief Seattle were alive today, how might he react to this Quincentenary Jubilee Commission brochure? Write a response as if you are Chief Seattle.