Columbus’ “discovery” of America continues to be a source of amusement to most Native Americans, who wonder how someone can discover a place already occupied by millions of people for thousands of years.
History textbooks unfortunately tend to ignore the cooperation, friendship, and agreements that occurred between Native American nations and Europeans. These textbooks often emphasize the conflicts, which lead to the inaccurate idea that Native Americans are particularly warlike.
If these textbooks give the impression that Native American history began with European contact, they also imply that Native American history ended in the late 1800s.
But Native Americans have not disappeared.
- The Native American population is among the youngest and fastest-growing populations in the United States.
- More than 60,000 Native Americans live in Michigan.
- Michigan is home to 12 federally recognized tribal nations as well as representatives from many other tribal nations.
Today, important issues such as tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, tribal court jurisdiction, gaming laws, and tribal taxation are addressed in the nation’s courts, the U.S. Congress, and state legislatures. Native American self-government precedes the Constitution and also is recognized by the Constitution and through the many treaties between the United States and Native American tribes.
Understand indigenous cultural traditions
The technologies, economies, languages, and political systems of Native American people were as diverse as their European counterparts. Native American histories before European contact were as colorful and exciting as those of other nations. For these reasons, it is impossible to identify one “Native American culture.”
However, some beliefs and traditions are common to many nations. A special relationship with nature is an important feature of indigenous culture, religion, and society.
Most Native American religions view the earth as the mother to all things. Since all creatures and plants depend on the earth for food, clothing, shelter, and water, we are bound together as kin. If the earth is our mother, then all things upon her are our brothers and sisters. This relationship of respect for the environment and living in harmony with it instead of trying to dominate it is a widespread and fundamental belief among Native Americans.