January 25, 2009

"A Century Ago...They Came"

NMAI highlights chiefs’ 1905 inauguration visitIn recognition of the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the National Museum of the American Indian has created an exhibition honoring six chiefs who took part in the second inaugural procession of President Theodore Roosevelt.

The exhibition, titled “A Century Ago…They Came as Sovereign Leaders,” officially opened to the public Jan. 14 and is expected to run through Feb. 17 in the institution’s Sealaska Gallery.
And:“Going behind the faces in the pictures, we know they came to talk about issues of allotment, mineral rights, tribal government, education and other concerns of their people.”

Geronimo, for instance, wanted 300 imprisoned Chiricahua Apaches set free, while Quanah Parker sought $500,000 that the government had promised the Comanche.
And:Despite their varied concerns, Native leaders were given little opportunity to raise their issues with the administration during the inauguration–a development that is perhaps not surprising given Roosevelt’s stance on Indian issues.

“While friendly with individual Indians,” Barreiro said in the newsletter, “President Roosevelt was adamantly against the survival of Native people as tribal entities.”
Comment:  A few interesting things here. First, the idea that Geronimo was recognized and accepted as a tribal leader. Although he was treated as a prisoner of war for the rest of his life, he wasn't tried or executed as a common killer. It seems his Euro-American contemporaries recognized him as more of a freedom fighter than a terrorist.

Second, Roosevelt's attitude is so typically American. In fact, it may represent the majority's opinion about Indians. We love our Indians to death as elders spouting wisdom, romance-book hunks, and sports mascots. We love them as long as they forget this nonsense about tribes and sovereignty and non-Western religions and cultures. Not to mention casinos. Then we stop loving them and starting hating them for being different from us.

For more on the subject, see "Out of Many:  A Multicultural Festival."

Below:  "I love Indians--as long as they act like stage props and not like real people with rights equal to ours."

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