Our People, Our Future
Our People, Our Future
Native American Indians are a people in transition between history and contemporary America. The challenge for Native Americans is to maintain their heritage, erase a stereotype and adjust recognition in society. Native Americans are too often stereotyped by antiquated and discriminatory attitudes which misrepresent valued contributions to America's development and growth. A primary goal of this organization is to briefly educate the public about Native American Indians.
United States Government relations with Native American Indians began in colonial times and underwent several substantial changes over the past two centuries. In the late 18th century, the Continental Congress created Indian Commissioners to oversee trade with Native American tribes and to improve military relations. As America grew and lands in the Western part of the United States were explored and inhabited by nonNative Americans, domestic policy was transformed from one of friendship to one of force. After the Indian Wars came a period of treatymaking and the development of Native American reservations primarily in the Western part of the United States. Tribal governments were broken apart in the late 19th Century only to be reestablished in the early part of the 20th Century. Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the federal government developed policies to provide financial and technical assistance to tribal groups. These changes served as the basis for the role played by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in the late 20th Century.
Today there are over 2 million Native Americans with about 800,000 living on reservations and 1.2 million residing in urban areas throughout America. There are approximately 300 Federal Indian reservations and 500 federally recognized tribes in the U.S. An Indian reservation is an area of land reserved for Native American use. The term tribe has had numerous meanings over the years, and today is considered by many to refer to a distinct group within the Native American culture.
One of the primary concerns of Native American Indians is the question "who is an Indian? Some individuals and groups misrepresent the culture, philosophy and spiritual practices of the Native American, thus perpetuating false stereotypes which are then promoted in the mass media. Misrepresentation of Native American Indians shows up in various ways including the use of Indian images and/or tribal names in logos, on consumer products and as mascots for sports teams. This misrepresentation is highly offensive and the depiction is racist whether intended or not. Some of the other common misconceptions and stereotypes about Native American Indians include the following:
ALL NATIVE AMERICAN MEN ARE NOT CALLED BRAVES OR CHIEFS; WOMEN ARE NOT CALLED SQUAWS; AND CHILDREN ARE NOT CALLED PAPOOSES.
The terms and names for Native Americans such as braves, squaws or papooses have been perpetuated by nonNative Americans. The words used for Native American men, women and children are different depending on the Indian language or dialect. Often these words were mistranslated, mispronounced or shortened for the convenience of others. Squaw (or Squay) is an Algonquin word meaning woman. Because it was the practice of the Algonquin, and many other Native American societies to provide physical comfort to guests, the word squaw degenerated in meaning to include prostitute. The term brave was a construct of early American traders referring to Native American men who were well trained and prepared to defend their homeland and families. However, these men had many other responsibilities in their communities besides defense. Papoose was mistranslated from a French word. It originally referred to the cradleboard used by mothers to transport children, but the French referred to the cradleboard and the child together as one object.
ALL NATIVE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE NOT MYSTICAL, SPIRITUAL ENVIRONMENTALISTS
Native Americans view harmony with the earth as part of a religious culture and are extremely aware of the impact actions have on the environment. Native Americans view the earth as a living entity, a provider. The spiritual ceremonies of Native Americans are complex and may be difficult for people outside the culture to understand. These ceremonies may seem mystical in nature because of annual timing, the use of ancient symbolism, the incorporation of the earth's gifts and the significant role of religious leaders.
Native American Indians have made important contributions to American history and culture. Among these contributions are the following:
For centuries, "Old World" countries with warm climates built empires based upon an abundance of grain crops. People survived and prospered through the farming of wheat, rye, barley, and oats in Europe; rice in the East, and millet and sorghum in Africa. Most Native American tribes relied on three basic crops corn, beans and squash; however, there were over 300 other food crops harvested in the New World, including six. kinds of corn, as well as, sweet potatoes, sunflowers, wild rice, vanilla beans, cocoa or chocolate, a wide variety of nuts, and many varieties of peppers. Today, 60% of the worlds food are of American origin!
The mining of gold and silver, largely with Native American labor, led to rapid economic development and European trade expansion resulting in the Industrial Revolution. Natural resources, including oil, ore, water, timber and other fuels were found primarily on Native American lands.
The federal system does not trace its roots to Europe, but rather to Native American tribal organizations. Both Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were extremely knowledgeable about Native American social and political structures. Franklin urged our Founding Fathers to model our government on the League of Iroquois, while the United States Constitution was derived from the Iroquois Kaianerekowa or Great Law of Peace.
A high percentage of Native Americans have served in America's wars dating from revolutionary times until today. During World War II for example, 400 Native American men served with distinction as "code talkers" relaying battlefield messages in Athapaskan tongue, a language that Japanese intelligence was unable to decipher even though they were able to interpret every other code the American military used. Code talking was so effective that it was used until 1968.
Native American Indians provided quinine as the first effective treatment of malaria and utilized many plants that have resulted in remarkable contributions to 20th century medicine including aspirinrelated tree bark extracts, laxatives, painkillers, antibacterial medicines, petroleum jelly and others.
Native Americans have a fundamental respect for preserving the environment even as technology and growth rapidly expand our world. Earth wisdom is a gift from the Native Americans to be embraced for future survival.
ALL NATIVE AMERICANS DO NOT WEAR WARBONNETS
The warbonnet was originally made from Golden Eagle feathers and was developed by Native American nations living west of the Mississippi River. Each feather in a warbonnet represents an honorable act that its wearer has accomplished while defending his home or nation. Most Native American men have head wear that is representative of their tribal affiliation, ranging from cloth, to elaborately decorated reed or feather hats.
ALL NATIVE AMERICANS DO NOT GREET EACH OTHER BY SAYING "HOW"
Many Native American languages or dialects require the use of sounds that are not produced in the English language. These sounds are usually made at the back of the throat or through the nasal passages and they communicate wordless expressions of approval, disapproval, joking, or acknowledgment. Today there are some 200 tribal languages, and no group of words are common to all of them. However, almost all Native Americans use the English language for communicating with nontribal people.
ALL NATIVE AMERICANS DO NOT WEAR FEATHERS
Feathers of certain birds are sometimes worn as part of a spiritual ceremony of dance. The powers of these birds are believed to be invoked through spiritual ceremony.
ALL NATIVE AMERICANS ARE NOT ALCOHOLICS
Early traders and government agencies manipulated Native American individuals and communities by encouraging consumption of alcohol and hence the debilitating impact of alcohol became wide spread. Alcoholism continues to be a major problem among Native American people, though clearly not all drink alcohol, and most Native American communities frown upon its consumption. Substance abuse programs that include treatment which is sensitive to the background and history of the Native American community need to be further developed.
ALL NATIVE AMERICANS DO NOT LIVE ON RESERVATIONS OR "OUT WEST"
Most media images and history books about Native Americans suggest that all Indians are living in the Western U.S. on reservations, when a majority actually live in urban areas throughout the United States. These published images usually ignored the Native Americans who resided east of the Mississippi River in the early 19th Century, surviving the slave trade, disease and land grabbing immigrants.
NATIVE AMERICANS ARE NOT DISHONEST
The false image regarding honesty has unfortunately been caused by media exploitation of popular Indians. The historical roots of this misconception date back to the early explorers who destroyed the integrity and character of Native Americans by portraying them as dishonest. Many of the treaties established between the Indian Nations and the United States were broken, not by the Native American peoples, but by the Federal Government.
NATIVE AMERICANS ARE BUSINESS OWNERS
The misconception that Native Americans are not business owners was created by the stereotyping of Indians in early television and film. There are many Native American entrepreneurs in business ranging from grocery stores and multimillion dollar casinos to tourism and natural resource management.
NATIVE AMERICANS ARE NOT PRIMITIVE AND UNEDUCATED
Traditional Native American values emphasize simplicity in daily living. However, that is not commensurate with "primitive." Most Native Americans are educated at the secondary school level, and many obtain higher education degrees at the finest universities in the United States becoming physicians, lawyers and college professors.
SEVEN FIRES COUNCIL
In July, 1999, we as a people interested in the culture, heritage and contributions of Native Americans to the History and Society of the United States of America, originated and organized a Council in furtherance of that interest. The Council is the Seven Fires Council.
We are formed from the demanding need of the Native American population in the State of Kentucky to meet these common goals:
1. To work for an organized relief of the hungry and to provide clothing and shelter for the less fortunate.
2. To help individuals to locate agencies that address Native American health, education, welfare and employment issues.
3. To promote an awareness of the Native American culture, heritage and contribution to our society, thus educating ourselves and the nonNative American peoples, and to provide an outlet for Native American's Crafts, Art and Spirit.
4. To love, respect and protect Grandmother Earth who gives us all we need for life.
5. To promote programs, both for education and entertainment throughout Kentucky and elsewhere.
Our membership is open to all people, once becoming a member we all become one people united for one major cause, the preservation of a people, a culture, and a world.
The Seven Fires Council, has a Governing body of four officers and three Board Members.
- Tammy Devine
Vice President - Chuck Devine
Secretary - Jim Miller
Treasurer - Phyllis Coffman
Spiritual Leader - Delbert Hammons
Board Member - Sonja Allen
Board Member -
Board Member -
More information can be obtained by writing or calling: Tammy Devine, Seven Fires Council, 675 Mallard Cove, Harrodsburg, KY 40330.