Do Indians Still Exist?

Sioux Chiefs, c1905. Edward S. Curtis Collection, Library of Congress

Yes! The American Indian people and their wisdom are still here and still with us. The Native  population is growing. Tribal languages are being preserved. Traditions and cultures are intact. Hope is alive and well for over 560 tribes!

But I’ll bet some of you are thinking: “Who would ask such a question?”  Well, people do ask.  Just recently I came across three stories where someone mentioned being asked “do Indians still exist” or mentioned a reason why someone would not know. And of course, when people do ask, what do they mean? Do they mean “all Indians” as though there was one big group? Do they mean do Indians still exist or exist in the old way? Do they mean the real people or the stereotypical images they saw in the movies or on the postcards?

Sadly, I can see how people would start to wonder… whatever did happen to the population of Indians that used to inhabit this country? There used to be over 100 million American Indians; today there are about 2 million… And where did they go, people ask.

Washing Wheat, c1905, Edward S. Curtis Collection, Library of Congress

Throughout the United States, there are over 560 recognized tribes and each occupies reservation lands designated by the treaties. Many more tribes still exist that remain unrecognized by the U.S. government, even though they existed before the Spaniards or Europeans ever set foot on these lands. But a question we hear that goes beyond geography is, How come I never see the Indians if they are still here?

In U.S. society, the American Indian people are a minority like other groups, but they remain less visible and less recognizable to non-Indians than say Hispanics, Blacks, or Asians. The American public has little familiarity with the many faces of Indian people. American Indians were the only ethnic group ever forced onto reservations, where many of them remain to this day. No other group in this country was ever told where to live or ever felt as forgotten. It was an intention on the part of the U.S. government to have the Indian people be “out of sight, out of mind” for the American public.

Ungelbah Daniel-Davila, a Native student, explained this best: “Dominant media have historically, and even into the present day, excluded the Native voice, writing history for or without them altogether. This is an act that has perpetuated the erroneous idea that because Native Americans are a ‘vanishing’ or ‘vanished race,’ there is no point in listening to or asking a people that don’t exist.” (Indian Country Today Magazine, Apr 11, 2012).
I have been privileged to volunteer and work in Indian country and am well aware of the Native presence among us. But for folks without a familiarity of the tribes or a reason to visit the reservations, there are many factors keeping them in the dark:
  • Historically and today, coverage of American Indians and Native issues by the mainstream media has been low.
  • Reservation lands are geographically so remote and isolated as to be “off the map” on many web sites, and they are certainly “on the road less travelled” by most Americans.
  • Native Americans on remote reservations have had limited Internet access and limited Native newspapers through which to educate the American public and to voice their own concerns.
  • Many American schools have traditionally taught and continue to teach history from the non-Native viewpoint and this history often stops at the forming of the treaties and the reservations.
  • Legislation is drafted and voted into law without any mention of impact on the tribes or knowledge on the part of the tribes, even when they are directly affected by the law.

The good news is that Indian country is now gaining access to technologies that will help boost visibility and bust isolation. Examples are personal computers and the worldwide web, grants that support Native American radio stations and newspapers, dynamic content publishers like Indian Country Today Media Network, and organized support for writing such as the Native American Journalist’s Association. Through our work at NRC, we see Native people becoming more vocal and bringing more concerns to light, settling more long-standing regulatory and legislative complaints, and celebrating the successes and victories of the tribes and their people.

If you’re not seeing this news, please check out the online papers listed in our Blogroll (right column of this blog). And if you or someone you know has ever wondered “whatever happened to the Indian people” after the treaties and the reservations, we encourage you to learn more.  In our press room, we have a list of Resources, including films, books, and tribal sites that contain rich information about American Indian history and modern-day life of the various tribes. We urge you to check out these resources and to get more informed about these resilient, remarkable people.

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22 Comments

  1. Posted April 1, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    I hardly write responses, however i did a few searching and wound
    up here Do Indians Still Exist?. And I actually do have a couple of questions
    for you if you usually do not mind… if you are posting on other places, I would
    like to follow anything new you have to post. Could you list of every one of
    all your communal pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or
    linkedin profile?

  2. Posted November 10, 2014 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    North America was taken away from you and should be returned

  3. Rachel
    Posted December 21, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I have wondered myself what actually did happen to the American Indians. I am still learning about their history. From what I can see the American Indians show great respect for the land, wisdom, courage and spiritual understanding. People need to know the truth about history and learn from it. I hope through modern technologies American Indians will have a voice to educate people of their history and what really happened.
    Thank you

  4. Wayne webb
    Posted April 11, 2015 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    I am part Cherokee Indian black hair brown eyes high cheek bones dark completed not Mexican I don’t understand why Indians are so mistreated and are still not treated fairly never have been all your lands were taken from all you so unfair the government should do so much more for all the Indian nations and be fair to all Indians,you are good people God bless you all love Wayne Webb thanks

    • Posted April 14, 2015 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Wayne, thank you so much for sharing and for recognizing the history and continuing policies affecting Native American tribes. They have suffered significant loss of land and other losses that most in this country have never suffered. We truly look forward to the day when there will be social equity for all tribes and all people. Thanks again.

  5. McClellan TIdwell
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    I just wanted to jump in and say I respect the American Indian more than any other people I’ve been around.I remember over 30 years ago my truck breaking down in New Mexico and this young native American helping me,he took me to a phone, then we stopped and had a beer where he introduced me to his people I spent the night and the next day I’m on my way.

  6. Posted August 14, 2015 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    I like reading stuff like the history what happened to them….

  7. Posted November 4, 2015 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    It sad that we kick them out of America

  8. Posted January 7, 2016 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I am an indian and yes we do exist.

  9. jeff gordon
    Posted February 2, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    lol

  10. Posted March 31, 2016 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    Shame they've been wiped out, I would like to have seen and understood more about them as people. Maybe even visited and stayed with them. So much we can learn from them.

  11. Gerardo
    Posted June 8, 2016 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I would like to go to a reserve,of native americans, i admired them for their love, and feelings proverbs, and their wisdom, their respect for animals and living creatures native people must be treated with respect, like all races This is the first travel in USA in my life, which reserve you recomendate me? Thanks

    • Posted June 10, 2016 at 6:27 am | Permalink

      Gerardo, thanks for your note and your interest in Native Americans. Each tribe has its own uniqueness in culture and beauty. You might start by searching through our blog to learn more about the areas that welcome visitors. Just search on this phrase: “Can I Visit the Reservations” and you will find numerous articles. You will also want to read the article at http://blog.nativepartnership.org/can-i-visit-the-reservations/ regarding tips on general etiquette and protocol.

  12. Amanda galyer
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Hi my name is Amanda and I’m from the uk I absolutely love the history of the native Americans I have done since I was a very young girl I’m now 41 and have learnt a lot I love the way they only only took what they needed from the thier land and gave back to the land I do belive I have a few native Indian spirit guides I would like to think I was native Indian in a past life you are very special people, people to be proud of . The us government need to hang thier head in shame with the way they have you its abosoutly disgusting that your liveing in poverty it breaks my heart I would love nothing more than to come visit the reservations and help with every need hopefully when my children grow up and find new pastures I will be able to visit. Stay the strong willed people you are and 1 day you will get all your lands back. I would also like to have Native American pen pals if anybody knows of any websites. Blessed be all my love Amanda

  13. Jodi
    Posted November 9, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    We are not gone.. We are here. We walk quitely among this earth. We fight fircely to preserve our culture, traditions and ways of life. I am Tawesake, snipe clan from Akwesasne Mohawk Nation Territory.

  14. Saleha Akhter
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    WOW! That’s cool i thought that Native Americans don’t resist anymore after the ages of the Westward Expansion.

  15. Anne Emerson
    Posted August 19, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I am especially interested in the Narragansett Indians in Rode Island. I drive down route 2 where many of them clearly live. My 9 year old grandson asked me if Indians still exist. I replied they certainly do. He asked if they live in teepees, and I replied, “No, they’re just regular people and they live like you and me. He lives in Colorado and likely some of his classmates, maybe his friends, are Indian. Do you have any suggestions how I might help him to understand what native cultures are like today?

    • Posted August 21, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Anne, thanks for your insightful question and for sharing about your grandson’s interest in Native cultures. Every tribe has its own culture, and the best potential for understanding is when the information is shared by Native people. We suggest you choose a tribe near where your grandson lives, and inquire with them about an event or activity he can attend to get more firsthand knowledge.

  16. Amelia
    Posted December 12, 2018 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    I studied native American culture and conflicts with the US army in the time of westward expansion and the creation of the treaties. I have a massive respect for any one who makes the effort to maintain their values and traditions in the face of adversity. The ideology of appreciation for nature and community is beautiful and I think it is such a shame that most tribes were subjected to cultural assimilation. However, the fact that these tribes are continuing to make the most of their [ancestral] culture in the modern world is such an inspiring thought. Our diversity should be celebrated and protected.

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  1. It is hard for me to think about America, the country that I live in, without recalling all that I’ve learned over the years about the Native American people and what we as “Americans” have done to them. Read more: http://www.josephmcconnell.com/archives/1934

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