July 24, 2006

Jesus didn't save Indians

Debunking the myth of ChristianityA letter from an angry reader from Oklahoma chastised me for attempting to explain why the Iraqi people hate America. She wrote, “Tim Giago should realize that America is a Christian nation. Jesus Christ appeared to Black Elk, not to the Muslims.”

I wonder how many Indian nations consider themselves to be “Christian nations.” The two most potent weapons brought to the Western Hemisphere by the European invaders were disease and the Church. While the diseases unknown to the indigenous population destroyed millions of lives, the Church destroyed cultures, religions, traditions, languages and customs. The early demise of the Indian people can be equally attributed to both.

The letter writer, an Indian woman, continued, “We as Americans are crusaders. We bring democracy to a dark and ignorant country.” Is that what the “crusaders” brought to the Indian people? Native Americans did not become included in America’s form of “democracy” until 1924, nearly 150 years after America’s settlers signed the Declaration of Independence. The “independence” and “democracy” was for white Americans only. It was not until 1946 when Arizona and New Mexico finally ratified the Constitutional Amendment that made Native Americans United States citizens. For the first 30 years of his life, my father, born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, a fluent Lakota speaker, was not a citizen of the United States.

The settlers who came to America in pursuit of religious freedom outlawed most religious rites of the Indian people. The Sacred Sun Dance of the Great Plains Indians was banned and its practitioners subject to arrest and incarceration.

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