The Indigenous People of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Americas and their descendants. The pre-Columbian era (before the arrival of European influence) was a thriving, proud, accomplished and tradition-orientated time for the Indigenous Peoples. Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, many were nomadic and on the move. Others raised crops, established villages and longhouse traditions. Many had extensive road networks, irrigation systems, and trade networks. Our People managed themselves successfully and many enjoyed sophisticated governments, diplomacy, and relations. Families took care of each other and communities watched over and raised the children. Our People’s customs and traditions were a source of great pride, and were passed on in ceremony, dance, song, and stories. Even during tough times an inner dignity maintained a spirit that always endured and breathed an unwavering sense of hope throughout our People. This sense of pride, spirit and hope began to diminish when colonization began.
Colonization ushered in the oppressive governmental policies of relocation, confinement, and forced assimilation. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was the beginning of the removal and isolation of our People. Native People who didn't leave were pressured into signing treaties giving up their lands. This brought forth the Indian Appropriations Act of 1851, which authorized the creation of the first Indian reservations. Those that resisted giving up their land, or being forced onto a reservation; were hunted down and massacred. Next came the assimilation process, which was a purposeful effort to "tame the savage" and encourage the "civilizing" process by assimilating Indigenous People into the dominant white European culture.
Perhaps the most destructive and debilitating element to our people’s spirit was the implementation of Indian boarding schools. Indigenous children were taken from their tribal homes, and transported thousands of miles across country and put into these schools. Our children were stripped of all vestiges of tribal beliefs and traditions. Their native names were changed to European names. Their hair cut and they were forced to adopt the traditions of white America; including language, dress, and faith. Many of our children never made it out of these institutions alive and those that did suffered immensely and carried their pain, sadness and despair with them forever.
These actions manifested devastating consequences and an unyielding despair that still exists today even within our most successful nations and has brought a generational hopelessness that resides within the souls of our People.