Forty percent of respondents didn't think that Native people still exist
August 13, 2018 9:37 PM   Subscribe

"The sheer invisibility of Native people leads to some very warped perspectives about contemporary Native life. Forty percent of respondents did not think that Native people still exist. While 59 percent agree that 'the United States is guilty of committing genocide against Native Americans,' only 36 percent agree that Native Americans experience significant discrimination today — meaning nearly two-thirds of the public perceive Native Americans as experiencing little to no oppression or structural racism... ." Reclaiming Native Truth's report on how the American public views Native Americans.

"Respondents also held stereotypical and contradicting views that Native Americans are both poor and flush with casino money, both spiritually focused and addicted to drugs and alcohol, and both resilient and dependent on government benefits. Many participants expressed the misconception and even resentment that Native Americans get 'free money,' with one respondent stating, 'They get a monthly stipend if they are at least 1/16th Native American'"
posted by Grandysaur (21 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
The article said people were interviewed in 11 states; which states is important here as many parts of the country (such as Ohio where I live) has no real Native American presence. The nearest reservations are several hours away out of state. I had to be told that most Natives don't really see any casino money and that the benefits you hear about like free college aren't really a thing. Few people here (including myself) know a "real" Native American (someone who has been around the culture, not just someone who is 1/8th with a tribal card. I wonder if these opinions are similar in places like New Mexico or Alaska where there is a large tribal presence.
posted by greatalleycat at 11:09 PM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


As one of the very few “Alaskans” on MeFi who is actually from here, i can say that the attitudes in general are not as ignorant. Most everyone who grew up here who is not Native had schoolmates and later co-workers who are. It helps that Alaska didn’t adopt the reservation system and that a lot of the towns you’ll see on a map existed in some form before the first European explorers ever came here.

However, there are the inevitable racist assholes who either moved here from down south or grew up in historically racist redneck families. But even the assholes tend to be a bit less ignorant given that Native people and culture exist in every part of the state.
posted by D.C. at 12:36 AM on August 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


also why representation matters ~ a different kind of Indian
posted by infini at 12:39 AM on August 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


The fact that Native tribes have been driven out of (or massacred in) states where they once lived, so that now Ohio has about 0.1% Native population, is exactly the problem.
posted by muddgirl at 12:42 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm not surprised but also frustrated by this. I was raised in Montana. In Billings, you've got Native populations all around - and that comes with a HUGE amount of racism but NO education about Native culture. I grew up around people that casually called Natives "Prairie N*s" but I was taught nothing about the people who are all around us, whose land we are on. I'm still learning and I'm so furious that Native culture was completely erased from my education even in a place that has a Native population. And I'm so upset that the only socialization I received was deep racism (that I always was astonished by.) For areas that lack a Native population well... then you think that these groups don't even exist. It's something I've been trying to be very aware of and it breaks my heart to think about all the messed up traditions (like construction paper Native style headdresses on Thanksgiving) that were just so ubiquitous.

So, having grown up around the horrific racism and cultural erasure, the lack of reporting on missing and murdered native women, etc, yes, Native cultures are completely under attack and steeped with prejudice.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:10 AM on August 14, 2018 [12 favorites]


It reallly fucked me up to read (in Timothy Snyder's The Black Earth) that Hitler looked at the American experience as a paradigm case of successful racial war, and that it gave him his concept of Lebensraum.
posted by thelonius at 4:33 AM on August 14, 2018 [15 favorites]


I'll point out that it's possible to hold "stereotypical and contradicting views" of practically any demographic and have both views be correct. Isn't one of the problems we have today is with resentful white people seeing themselves as "both resilient and dependent on government benefits"?
posted by SPrintF at 5:43 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Forty percent of respondents did not think that Native people still exist.

What. the. actual. fuck. I mean... shit...

Our tribe has a *big* presence in our region (Alabama/Florida) despite the fact that it is by no means one of the larger or more famous locales for native presences in the traditional sense, well for the last century or so I mean. Most people think of the Seminoles when you think of this part of the South, not Poarch Creek.

which states is important here as many parts of the country (such as Ohio where I live) has no real Native American presence

The fact that Native tribes have been driven out of (or massacred in) states where they once lived, so that now Ohio has about 0.1% Native population, is exactly the problem.

These things are both true enough but, wait, at the very least, the Keystone pipeline protests were, ya'know, centered around tribal activists trying to do what they can with what they have. It really was in the news right? Fox and MSNBC and most points in between? I didn't just dream that?

This number is just.... shocking and painful. The only way I can interpret it is a basic refusal for the respondents to accept current tribal members as 'red' (and I shudder at that skin-color reference) or 'indian' or cave-dwelleresque enough or fuck knows what. Tribes aren't immune to this and I'm not going to get into the troubles that blood quantum rules can and do pose for tribes in the face of this sort of thing but damn 'did not think that Native people still exist' is straight up earth shattering.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:13 AM on August 14, 2018 [10 favorites]


And by the way, just as a quick not-quite-aside, from two of the states that have been mentioned in the comments here (and I'm really not trying to call anyone out, but the example holds a tiny bit of weight maybe), per the latest census data at a glance:

Montana has 0.4% of the population listed as 'Black or African American alone'.
Ohio has 0.3% of the population listed as 'American Indian or Alaskan Native alone'.

Any attempt to justify this sort of ignorance (yes, I'm still harping on the 'still exist' aspect of my above comment) of native populations in a place like Ohio would be akin to justifying 2 out of 5 people in Montana saying that there were just no more black people around these days.

I get that there's a presentation bias in the media/educational system, and that's a big point of the article in question, but it's seriously impossible for me to accept any sort of justification of these results outside of a very unique Venn diagram overlap of racism*, elitism, and disdain** that goes above and beyond the norm.

* I've discussed this before here if you're curious as to what I mean.
** Ditto.

Sorry if I'm extra grumpy, I'm dealing with Strep Throat that MsEld just got over, kid #1 with Hand/Foot/Mouth Disease and Infantigo, kid #2 with stomach woes, and a looming schedule of work and personal stuff this week that is looking less and less tolerable. Being told that the culture/heritage from my grandparents doesn't exist anymore is just the icing on the cake that I didn't need today.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:34 AM on August 14, 2018 [12 favorites]


Few people here (including myself) know a "real" Native American (someone who has been around the culture, not just someone who is 1/8th with a tribal card.

Also, can we not phrase things like this? It's part of the problem. Really. It's not a fun road to go down. Proving heritage is hard and tribal hoops for enrollment aren't really something folks looking in from the outside can even begin to relate to and native culture hasn't had it the easiest in these last few centuries..
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:50 AM on August 14, 2018 [25 favorites]


Virginia has six state recognized tribes. The history I was taught growing up about those tribes ended with Pocahontas and John Smith. I was out of high school before I learned that the tribes had persisted over 400 years of hardship and attempted erasure by white supremacists; and my state history couldn't even reference them beyond the early 1600s.
posted by Atreides at 6:56 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


It reallly fucked me up to read (in Timothy Snyder's The Black Earth) that Hitler looked at the American experience as a paradigm case of successful racial war, and that it gave him his concept of Lebensraum.

That was my thesis for my final paper in my Native American Studies class in college!
I should check out that book.
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 7:37 AM on August 14, 2018


woulwd be akin to justifying 2 out of 5 people in Montana saying that there were just no more black people around these days.

But overall “black/ African Americans” according to this at least is about 12% of total population. Whereas Native peoples are between 1% to 3%.

So even though in Montana there’s not a huge black / African American population those demographics are still represented in media (sports being a large one that’s hard to miss.). Whereas when it comes to modern Native representation in media it’s severely lacking and often there are people cast as Native people who are non Native.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:48 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


We traveled through Cherokee, NC this weekend and went to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, which was illuminating. Last year we had visited Red Clay State Park in TN, which was the last location of the Cherokee national government before the Indian Removal Act of 1838 was enforced, and the start of the trail of tears. Although we had learned a lot about the forced removal, this weekend I was surprised to see that there was a Cherokee reservation on the East coast. The museum also presented some of the internal conflicts between the different groups of Cherokee (who left "voluntarily", who were forcibly removed, who hid in the hills, and who stayed by breaking away from the tribal government) was really fascinating, and just further illustrates how little we white people know about indigenous history. It is fascinating, and I wish that there was more visibility.
It was also kind of sad to read a lot of past tense words in the museum, as if the people living on the reservation were not part of a living community. I'm not sure if that was because of white museum designers, or as a separation from their prehistory ancestors, or for another reason.

Anyway, I'm glad that we spend most of our time there and not at Clingman's dome. All the bilingual street signs in Cherokee were also very cool to see.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 8:44 AM on August 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I grew up thinking Native Americans must be a visible enough part of American culture - I realize now that's because we had the rare odd chance of a Native American classmate in senior year in high school (in Kuala Lumpur even, the american school). He even had a classical surname, for instance DeerTail - you would immediately recognize it.
posted by infini at 8:56 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Few people here (including myself) know a "real" Native American (someone who has been around the culture, not just someone who is 1/8th with a tribal card.

So this kind of thinking is what kept me away from my tribe for a long time. Even though the tribe has no minimum blood quantum requirement. Even though if you go to an event the people are welcoming and treat you like you are family.

Since I have become more involved I have received 'free things' from the tribe. They helped me with the closing costs on my house, which I financed through a tribal bank. They helped me build a storm shelter for my house. The helped me with some educational expenses. Although I have decent health insurance, I know that in the event there is something that my health insurance won't cover, they will help me out again. I don't have to ever worry about bankruptcy due to medical bills. If I lose my job for some reason, I feel confident that I could get one from the tribe. It won't be as high paying as the one I have now, but they won't leave me on my own. Taking care of elders is the number one priority of the tribe, so I know when I get old I won't be on my own.

I've learned a lot of tribal history from the tribe. The facts are the same, but the viewpoint is different. My tribe doesn't talk about how they were 'tricked' into treaties that were unfavorable to them. They knew they were getting into an unfavorable treaty going in because they were not the ones in a position to dictate terms. Still, they got concessions like water rights which they use as leverage today. The limited rights they got in their treaties weren't accidental things that were discovered later, they were thought about from the beginning. My tribe doesn't paint themselves as victims.

So you can look at me and say that I am someone who enrolled in a tribe and got free stuff. It's true. But I see it as joining up with a group of people who take care of each other. Ones that I am proud to be associated with. Ones that have my vote on state and local issues that affect them.
posted by Quonab at 9:12 AM on August 14, 2018 [47 favorites]


lol this was my post for tomorrow
posted by poffin boffin at 9:26 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Native people still exist in Ohio. There are almost 25,000 AI/AN people in Ohio. That's over 8 times (!) the number of people who work in the Ohio coal industry that we hear so much about.

Many tribes are not federally recognized. It was a kind of bureaucratic genocide by the federal government which was often done in order to invalidate the US government's obligations under treaties. There are about two dozen such tribes in Ohio. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unrecognized_tribes_in_the_United_States#Ohio

Cleveland and Columbus have urban Indian community centers.

Oh yeah, Ohio is an Iroquois word. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

And then there's that baseball team, but that's likely contributing to the cartoonification of Native Americans in most people's minds.

There are dozens of pow-wows in Ohio annually. Anyone in Ohio who thinks there are no Indians in Ohio should go to one. The whole point of pow-wows is to be welcoming! So long as you follow the etiquette (don't touch the regalia or other sacred items like drums, ask permission to take photographs, be respectful to elders and vets, eat lots of frybread).
posted by Skwirl at 2:38 PM on August 14, 2018 [9 favorites]


The majority of native people in the US today do not live on reservations. Saying that they don't count as "real" Native Americans is a big part of how our culture erases native people. If you're a doctor, living in Chicago, you don't count. If you're not riding a horse, wearing an eagle feather, you're not a real Native. I think this element of erasure helps explain the (bizarre) belief that Native people no longer exist.

This mentality also feeds negative stereotypes... if you don't fit the stereotype, you're not a "real" Native American. Which means that, magically, ALL Native people fulfill the negative stereotypes.
posted by sometamegazelle at 6:31 PM on August 14, 2018 [14 favorites]


The idea of blood quantum also contributes to Native erasure. It literally is set up to de-legitimize people’s connections with their ancestors in a repellant manner. Tribes are living things, and the US government attempted to encase them in concrete in order to kill them. It’s loathesome.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:42 PM on August 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


greatalleycat: Few people here (including myself) know a "real" Native American (someone who has been around the culture, not just someone who is 1/8th with a tribal card. I wonder if these opinions are similar in places like New Mexico or Alaska where there is a large tribal presence.

White, immigrant New Mexican present! I grew up in central coast California, where we learned about the Chumash people as a part of our regional history, but not as part of our current population (Wikipedia states that Chumash population is between 2,000 and 5,000), which I realize now silently implied that they only existed in the past. Growing up, I heard the modern tall tales* of wealthy gaming tribes, but still didn't think much of how or where such native people lived.

Then we moved to New Mexico, and my colleague just invited me and my co-workers to his house for a feast day, and my wife works at a small school close to a pueblo, where the student population is majority native and our older son is a minority as a white kid. I've started to take the diversity of this state for granted, and with that, I've seen a range of views of native people, including from native people. Still, I caught my older kid talking about "playing Indians" and I asked "who?" The language and images used by the colonizers are pervasive.

And all that said, native people aren't prominently represented throughout the state, and there are plenty of places where white folks, or Hispanic people**, or people of Mexican heritage are the majority in New Mexico.

* My co-worker has been involved with his pueblo's development of their casino, and he said that some tribes make deals with casino developers where the tribe pays little up-front, but that means the casino developer gets most of the profits for years, and the tribe sees very little.

** Yes, there's also people who celebrate their Spanish heritage, particularly as distinct and separate from people who identify as being from Mexico. It's an interesting, diverse state.


Atreides: Virginia has six state recognized tribes. The history I was taught growing up about those tribes ended with Pocahontas and John Smith. I was out of high school before I learned that the tribes had persisted over 400 years of hardship and attempted erasure by white supremacists; and my state history couldn't even reference them beyond the early 1600s.

I went to the Old State House Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I was first startled about how very white and male its depiction of history was, with little mention of slavery, and nothing that I recall about the native people.

For a stark contrast of history and the present, which most likely shapes perceptions of native people: Census.gov's map of American Indians and Alaskan Natives, compared to Native lands, mapping the territories, languages and treaties of native, first nation, and aboriginal people around the world (previously).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:29 AM on August 21, 2018


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