Indian nation’s population growth proves erasure won’t work

Opinion. Photographer Edward Curtis spent 30 years photographing American Indians. In 1904 Curtis published “The Vanishing Race”, considered his seminal work. This became the underlying reason for him to continue capturing photographs of American Indians before, in his mind, they became a people relegated to history.

Even President Theodore Roosevelt, a supporter of Curtis’ efforts, thought the American Indians were “perishing” and sent Curtis a letter saying that “the Indian, as an Indian, is on the point of perishing, and when he becomes a U.S. citizen, while a much better thing for him and the rest of the country, it will completely lose its value as a living historical document.

While Native Americans did not become citizens of the United States until 1924 by an act of Congress, the Census Bureau in 1900 counted the Native American population as 237,200. 1492 when Christopher Columbus sailed the blue ocean. Other experts say the number was closer to eight million. Either way, the figure of less than a quarter of a million from the 1900 census convinced those at the turn of the century that the Native American population was going to disappear.

This week, the 2020 census reported that the American Indian and Native Alaskan population is increasing, which reminds me of Mark Twain’s quote about “the news of my death was an exaggeration ”.

This good news is supported by data released Thursday showing that the Native American and Native Alaskan population, when counted alone and not combined with another race, was 3.7 million, or 1.1% of the total. total population of United States. In 2010, there were 2.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. The growth rate over the past decade has been 27.1 percent.

More surprisingly, the Native American and Native Alaskan population, combined with other races and ethnicities, increased by 160% from 2010 to 2020. The combined population was 9.7 million people – or 2.9% of the total population – up from 5.2 million in 2010.

Even with the increase in the population of the Indian country, some argue that Curtis was right and believe that the American Indians are extinct. That’s what leaders at the South Dakota Department of Education believe and what they want K-12 students in their state to think.

News broke this week that the state’s education department has eliminated 18 indigenous-centered learning goals from social studies standards in the K-12 curriculum recommended by a group. work of 46 educators from across the state selected by the Ministry of Education. Specifically, the ministry crossed out all references to the Oceti Sakowin Oyate, otherwise known as the People of Seven Council Fires or Sioux Nation.

“I was disappointed, but not surprised to learn of the changes to state standards. This is a blatant attempt to downplay and devalue the important contributions of the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Fires of the Council) to the history of South Dakota and the region in general, ”Senator Native told Native. Red Dawn Foster (Lakota / Dine ‘). News online. “It is also a failure to recognize the important electoral power of the indigenous people of South Dakota. We need to make our voices heard loud and clear in every election or continue to be at the mercy of petty partisan politics. “

The president of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, Harold Frazier, condemned the actions of the Department of Education.

“Unfortunately, the bureaucrats and politicians who commissioned the task force have gutted the part of the agenda relating to our indigenous peoples,” Frazier said. “There is so much to teach children to understand the world they will inherit, and it starts with mutual understanding. Deleting the important lessons of who we are, where we come from and why things are the way they are, robs every young mind of the understandings necessary to overcome the obstacles of conflict, genocide and historical trauma, ”Frazier said in a commentary. communicated.

President Frazier goes further in his statement: “Our children have been stolen from us in a past generation, forcibly assimilated or secretly buried in boarding schools under the ideology of ‘kill the Indian and save the man’, and it would seem that the task of erasing them is not finished … “

The erasure of American Indians from history is nothing new.

With our growing population, our voices must be amplified with concerted indignation to stop the policy of erasing indigenous peoples and our culture.

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About the Author

Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertE-mail: This e-mail address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Native News Online. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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