Native Americans- Minority Role

3496 WORDS

Native Americans- Minority Role


Since the arrival of the Europeans in 1492 the Native American has systematically been dehumanized, decivilized and redefined into terms that typify a subordinate or minority role, restricted life opportunities persist today as a result.

I. Introduction-Majority/Minority group relations- the role of power

II. Historical Overview

A. Native American life before contact with the White man.

B. Early contact, efforts at peaceful co-existence.

C. Conflict and its consequences for Native Americans

III. The continuing role of power

A. Control techniques used by the majority group

B. Native American life today, SES, housing, education, etc.

Power and Minority Group Position: The Case of Native Americans
Majority/Minority group relations can be illustrated by studying the role of power and how it is distributed between groups. The majority, or group that wields the most power, directly affects the circumstances for the minority. In most cases power struggle leads to racial and ethnic inequality. This scenario describes the case of the Native Americans. Since the arrival of the Europeans in 1492 the Native American has systematically been dehumanized, decivilized and redefined into terms that typify a subordinate or minority role, restricted life opportunities persist today as a result (Farley, 2000).
When European settlers arrived on American shores to settle a New World, around 7 million Native Americans had been settled in the wilderness north of present-day Mexico for some time. It is believed that the first Native Americans arrived during the last Ice Age, approximately 20,000 - 30,000 years ago, by crossing the Bering Strait from northeastern Siberia into Alaska. Over thousands of years, "spiritual kin-based communities" had survived by living off the land and bartering goods. Their diversity was reflected by their societies, which ranged from small, mobile bands of hunter-gatherers in the Great Basin to temple-mound builders in the Southeast (DiBacco, 1995).
The encounter of early explorers with the people of the Americas would ultimately set in motion the destruction of long existing Native American life and culture. Engrained into the minds of the Europeans were prejudiced images and stereotypes of the Native Americans, which we struggle still today to eradicate.
From the 1490s to the 1590s, Europeans pushed inward across America from both coasts. Encounters with these settlers attracted many Native Americans toward European goods, but their attitudes toward the newcomers themselves depended greatly on previous experiences (Farley, 2000).
In most cases, the early explorers found the Native American peoples to be friendly and generous. Columbus was immediately struck by the peaceful, generous nature of the Taino. The Taino society was highly organized around a patriarchal hierarchy and distinguished by happiness and friendliness. Columbus frankly stated how surprised he had been to make friends with the Indians. He wrote, "They are gentle and comely people. They are so naive and free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would never believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone... They willingly traded everything they owned..." (DiBacco, 1995)
When the Europeans settlers started to arrive in the 16th- and 17th-centurys they too were met by Native Americans. "The Natives regarded their white-complexioned visitors as something of a marvel, not only for their outlandish dress and beards and winged ships, but even more for their wonderful technology - steel knives and swords, fire-belching arquebus and cannons, mirrors, hawkbells and earrings, copper and brass kettles, etc." (Jordan, 1991). Increased interaction led to the Indians becoming less self-sufficient and economically dependent on the whites. As the years went on, however, the natives began to realize that the Europeans had much more in mind than a few settlements. They began to realize that their entire way of life was under siege. By the time the truth occurred to them, however, it was probably already too late. "Their bows and arrows were no match for the Europeans' firearms, and their bodies could not defend against the foreign diseases" (DiBacco, 1995).
As the encroachment of settlers on Indian lands continued, so did the inevitable conflicts. "To the Indians, the arriving Europeans seemed attuned to another world; they appeared oblivious to the rhythms and spirits of nature" (Jordan, 1991). Nature to the Europeans was something of an obstacle, even an enemy, and these disrespectful

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