Being from Oklahoma, it is not unusual to me that I am Native American. Many of my friends have the same heritage, and it is not a characteristic that is brought up often. It’s just there. It always has been. Most people have at least a little Indian blood in them, and many are members of federally recognized tribes. I think it isn’t talked about because it is so commonplace, and accepted as the norm.
However, when I came to Vanderbilt, a girl in my class referred to Native Americans as “savages”. Not in a outright derogatory way, but as if that was the appropriate pronoun. Let me tell you, it is not. Nor will it ever be. I remember calling my mom after, and asking her how that could be thought of as okay. My question didn’t stem from anger. Only confusion. I have always been aware of the connotations and, having been to many powwows and seen the traditional dances, understand why they exist. I just didn’t realize some people were so far removed from Native American culture that they could feel comfortable using a term as aggressive as “savages”.
This is what I thought of when reading Providential Nation. I understood how the colonies could admire the English but despise the British government. The Native Americans admired the different dress and way of living the English brought over with them, but they had no inclination to assimilate. Just as the colonists desired a little breathing room in regard to their English counterparts. I think the confusion felt by Native Americans when approached by the colonists can be likened to the confusion the colonists felt when their British government began enforcing control.
Maybe, the physical removal from those that we do not directly identify with contributes to our current social and racial issues. I found it interesting to think that the colonists were experiencing the same frustrations with being marginalized by their motherland, that they were inflicting on races they considered beneath them. We don’t usually look at the colonists as being controlling and controlled simultaneously, and I am interested to see what we may think when we do.