In the fifteenth century, when European colonizers started to immigrate to North America, the land was richly inhabited by Indigenous societies. Thousands of people resided from coast to coast, and each nation or community had its distinct traditions. Unfortunately, the era that charted the arrival of Europeans was years of extreme turmoil, as the growth of the settler land and the establishment and evolution of the United States resulted in Native American populations being renamed, moved, dispersed, combined, and even demolished with extreme racism against Native Americans.
Native Americans suffered tremendously from these dislocations and changes for many centuries. Each separate episode was manifested by its own set of distinctive repercussions. The U.S. government forced relocations and outlawed Native governments, customs, and religions. Discrimination, sickness, starvation and massacre of the Indigenous people were determined by the persistent growth of European settlement and by the U.S. government‘s strategies that demoted the liberation and welfare of Native Americans to secondary status.
Author Patricia Streng has written a compelling account, “Native American Resilience: A Story of Racism, Genocide, and Survival,” which consists of two parts. The first half focuses on the Cherokee – the stories of their struggles and survival. Their culture is specifically highlighted, comprising their verbal traditions from the earliest time to the hostility between peoples when the New World was discovered. Trade and treaties played significant roles from the early 1600s, with many historic Cherokee leaders guiding their collaboration with the Europeans. Starting in the 1700s, Congress determined that the education of Indian children should be provided in boarding schools so they were taken from their families, their hair was cut and they had to wear white man’s clothes. Additionally, their languages were outlawed, and they could only speak English.
The second half of “Native American Resilience” examines the 20th and 21st century laws and regulations of the United States that have forever changed the lives of Indian people. While boarding schools for Native children were introduced in the late 1700s, the true nature of the schools has only recently been documented – the children suffered sexual and physical abuse and there were hundreds of deaths that occurred at these schools. Native languages, religions, and traditions were forbidden, with these basic privileges only reestablished in 1990. This section also includes reports of recent court wins and inroads made by Indians to preserve their own history in the face of those who are trying to erase it.
A magnificent, comprehensive work for all readers who have a curiosity about the history of Native Americans and their struggles, and a desire to correct their place in our country’s history.