“Founders” of this nation referred to Native Americans as “merciless Indian Savages”
Last week I visited the National Archives in Washington DC and personally viewed the original document of the Declaration of Independence. Did you know that 30 lines below the famous quote “All men are created equal” the founders of this nation referred to Native Americans as “merciless Indian Savages?”
This dichotomy highlights the bi-polar character of the United States of America. We are a nation that built its reputation on freedom and claims to stand for “liberty and justice for all.” But our foundations are clearly based on the dehumanization of others.
And rather than acknowledging this, we have instead chosen to cling to a narrative of exceptionalism, a myth of manifest destiny and the lie of promised lands.
As a Native man one of the excuses I often hear for people’s ignorance regarding Native issues is “there are no Native Americans in my context.” I tell them, “Yes. That was by design. Your nation was intentionally constructed so you would never have to be faced with the reality that there were people here prior to Europe’s colonization.”
This is why our schools teach that America was “discovered.” It is why American Indian reservations were created. It is why the apology to Native peoples in 2009 was buried in an appropriations bill and never publicly mentioned by the White House or Congress. And it is why the professional football team located in our nation’s capitol continues to utilize the mascot “Redsk*ns.”
The United States of American has gone through incredible lengths to keep the public narrative regarding the indigenous peoples of this land in mythical terms. Because, the moment we stop being caricatures and become human, our nation must face the uncomfortable reality that the only reason it ever stated “All men are created equal” is because it has an incredibly narrow definition of who is actually human.
Mark Charles (Navajo) is the founder and director of 5 Small Loaves. He and wife reside in Fort Defiance, Arizona on the Navajo Indian Reservation.