History Still Affects Indian Country Today
When we began developing services at National Relief Charities over 20 years ago, we knew that it was important for us to have an understanding of the history and culture of American Indian people. Effective humanitarian services are built around local values and priorities. Being familiar with the history that shaped the people you serve gives insight that is important in understanding values and priorities.
For the American Indian people, theirs is an ancient history. Before European exploration of North America, over 700 culturally distinct groups of people lived in the region that is now the US. These highly evolved civilizations had well developed systems of trade, sophisticated knowledge of astronomy, effective models of governance and a clear, advanced relationship with natural resources. Values like harmony, humility, respect and generosity enabled these cultures to thrive for several thousand years.
Beginning in the mid 16th century, Europeans began exploring and creating settlement in North America. The appearance of these colonizing powers brought tremendous change to the native people of the area. Greed and a desire for power led to a series of federal policies that are widely recognized today as demonstrating genocidal intentions toward Native American people.
The treatment and policies toward Native people is a shameful part of American history. We do an incomplete job of sharing this history in schools. As a result many Americans remain unaware of important periods of government policies, mistreatment and injustice. At NRC we think that contemporary misperceptions about Native American people have their basis in a lack of information about history. Thus, I will be adding a series of posts about this history on the National Relief Charities blog. We also encourage you to become more informed.