All the people dressing up as Native Americans for Halloween
(poca-hotness) has me thinking about native beliefs and how Christianity has
affected our culture. I'm Alaskan Native (Tlingit, Haida) and our culture and
language has been suppressed for years. When the missionaries came the Natives
were told that their dances and totem poles were evil and because Natives
were dying of disease they started to believe them. Natives were not even
allowed to speak their language. I am going to make it a point to learn some
basic words but without someone to practice with and without regular use it
will be a challenge.


Views: 380

Comment by Suzanne Olson-Hyde on November 1, 2011 at 5:08am

Frigging bloody missionaries. They have done so much damage to natives of most countries, including Australia. Our native Aborigines had the strongest culture, the oldest on earth, and missionaries absolutley wrecked it, and Aborigines have lost so much of their culture, and are starting to teach their young about their ancestory. Xians also removed children from heir families, and it was called the 'Stolen Generation'. Criminal. It was only recently that there was a National public apology for this.


Comment by Robert Karp on November 1, 2011 at 8:33am

The genocide of the native Indian is something that is seldom talked about when discussing North American History. And I agree it's a shame we are only exposed to this amazing culture in Halloween costumes and sports teams and museums. I say go for it! Learn as much as you can.

Comment by Cristynfaye on November 1, 2011 at 10:20pm

I love this.  I live in the Seattle area, and I'm pursuing a degree in Washington State history.  One of the things I really want to study is the native history of the area...which includes Tlingit, as well as the Salish tribes and others.  I'm not native myself (European mutt), but the plight of the native people fascinates me.  I'm appalled to know that the Duwamish people, the ones who welcomed the settlers to Seattle, who occupied the land from Kitsap County all the way to the eastside are still not officially recognized by the government as a people group.  One of the things I hope to do someday is to perhaps be a mediator between the native population and the government.  I'd love to do something to help make things right, if there is anything that can be done.


I also used to be a I have both experience and education on both sides of the story (missionaries/anthropologists).  The problem is that in early, early anthropology, and in missionary work, they believed that by transforming a culture, they could transform the people in a good way.  It wasn't until well into the 20th century that people started actually realizing that indigenous cultures may have things that need preserving, and that they can sort of intertwine religion with the culture.


Of all the missionaries I've known (which is a LOT), I've never met one who believes that getting rid of language, or any other part of a culture (unless it is harmful, like FGM for example) is in any way good.  But this is a modern phenomenon.  Back in the day, missionaries, anthropologists, explorers, and yes, even scientists, believed that their own (western, european) culture was superior, and primitive people needed to be corrected.  I think it's more a fault of the times, and not necessarily a fault of them wanting to cause harm.

Comment by Cristynfaye on November 1, 2011 at 10:24pm

Oh, I meant to say also, that I'm almost positive that you can find groups of people who still speak the language of your ancestors.  I don't know what area you live in but if you are in the Pacific Northwest or Alaska, I'm sure you can find people to get connected with.  At my most recent job, a friend I worked with is Tlingit, and she does native art, and she goes to pow-wows sometimes to sell her art.  I know there are people who are still very involved in that culture, and who preserve the language.  There are tribal museums that have information, and probably websites.  You can try googling Washington State history museum for a starting point.  :D  

Comment by Sassan K. on November 1, 2011 at 10:24pm

You can't group all missionaries together. Missionaries have also helped provide great humanitarian assistance. And every nation has a dirty history - one cannot judge a culture and a nation based solely on history - but rather where we are today in the 21st century through progress and advancement. For example, Iran, my homeland, unfortunately possessed superior amounts of human rights 2500+ years ago under Cyrus The Great and the first human rights declaration. History is important, but it is not the sole determinant. And guess what? Let's not forget that the Native American tribes were not all very benign - in fact, they committed great number of violent acts/murders. It wasn't simply a "European" or "white" action.

And I do great injustices occurred but let's not try to single out the Europeans without acknowledging the great progress brought upon humanity by western achievements. The agricultural revolution alone has allowed the mass production of foods in ways that would have otherwise been unachievable in the face of growing populations. Western civilization has overall been a positive force for the advancement of mankind and humanity.

Comment by Trish E. Harmon on November 5, 2011 at 5:48am

I lived in Alaska for 14 years! I am almost half Native American, my grandmother on my dad's side full Choctaw, and grandfather 1/2 Cherokee. Unfortunately, my dad had no relationship with his family (I don't know why, but find it strange), so I never got to know that side of the family and any of our native heritage. As has happened with the natives of Alaska, in the lower 48 the natives were forced to cut their hair, forbidden to speak their own language, were indoctrinated into the Christian religion...all while being slaves and building the missionaries. It's sickening that the native culture, whatever tribe, is all but gone. Those who know the stories, the language, the history, best, are dying off and many of the younger generations aren't as interested in learning about it. I think you should learn all you can about your heritage. I've thought about doing that myself. I love the spiritual nature of Native Americans, their respect for nature and how they believed in using resources wisely. Good ole boy white America could learn a lot from native history.

Comment by Cathy Cooper on November 5, 2011 at 11:05am

Also remember this.  when the missionaries first came to America and saw how the Indians lived, they wrote back and said that they were "sinless."  i.e.  They lived a moral life--without the Christian god.  Why, even when they played games together, if one team scored, they would allow the other team to score as well, just to keep everyone happy.  This is one of the reasons why Billy Mills, the Native American Olympic medal winner had such a difficult time racing in the beginning of his career.  Christianity helped to destroy a culture that was probably one of the best the world has ever seen.  Native Americans are known for respecting each other, and the earth on which they live.  I wish you well on your journey of discovery.




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