Keeping the Circle: American Indian Identity in Eastern North Carolina, 1885-2004

Keeping the Circle: American Indian Identity in Eastern North Carolina, 1885-2004

Keeping the Circle: American Indian Identity in Eastern North Carolina, 1885-2004

Keeping the Circle: American Indian Identity in Eastern North Carolina, 1885-2004

Excerpt

I wouldn't change for anything in the world. I'd rather be a dead
Indian than no Indian at all
. – Reuben R. Lewis (Meherrin)

To most Americans, and many historians, Native American history ended in 1890 at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, where federal soldiers shot more than 150 Sioux men, women, and children, a tragic event that symbolically marked the end of the Plains Wars. Consequently, for most of the twentieth century, both scholars and laypersons have traditionally viewed American Indians as relics of the past rather than contemporary survivors. Native American history, of course, did not stop at Wounded Knee. But, in many ways, the popular and scholarly image of Indian culture remains based on late-nineteenth-century stereotypes such as the brave warrior, the stoic chief, and the mystical shaman, epitomized by historical figures like Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and Geronimo. As a result, modern Native Americans continue to be overshadowed by their more famous ancestors.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, some scholars attempted to correct this historical oversight by reinserting the original Americans into American history. At first, historians concentrated on federal Indian policy and official efforts to [civilize the savages,] a process that demanded both acculturation, the adoption of European culture, and assimilation, the loss of a separate tribal identity. In the late 1900s authors adopting more of a [bottom-up] technique focused on how Native Americans reacted to these civilization campaigns, emphasizing their tenacity and persistence. Most recently, Indian identity has become a popular subtopic within the broader field of Native American studies, with some authors tackling a series of difficult questions regarding Native American . . .

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