Recognizing the Marginalization of Indigenous People
A poll released by NPR revealed that 55% of Native Americans living in tribal communities say they have been discriminated against when interacting with police and 54% when applying for jobs (NPR 2017). With more than half of Native Americans experiencing some form of prejudice, research from First Nations Development Institute and Echo Hawk Consulting showed that only 34% of Americans believe that indigenous people face discrimination (Crystal 2018). A lack of representation in social media, films, and school education has produced an inaccurate perception of indigenous people and their history. Not many people understand the devastating impact colonization had on Indigenous people, particularly in North America and Australia. Disease, forced relocation, and blunt genocide purged many indigenous people of their land and loved ones as a consequence of power hungry Europeans. With groups such as the Choctaw, Cherokee, and Aborignal people having to deal with diminishing numbers in members, many memorials and monuments have been built to pay respects to those who have died to the hands of colonization. Although the construction of these sites does not reverse the wrongful actions of colonization, in this digital exhibit, I will argue how memorials can offer recognition to the injustices inflicted upon indigenous people while also honoring their heritage.
Tribute to the Choctaw Indians: Kindred Spirits Monument
The Kindred Spirits sculpture commemorates the generosity of the native North American Choctaw Indian Nation during the Great Hunger in Ireland of 1845 - 1851. The Choctaw were a tribe of Native American Indians who originated from modern Mexico and the American Southwest to settle in the Mississippi River Valley for about 1800 years. After the formation of the Mississippi Territory in 1798 and the election in 1800 of Thomas Jefferson to the U. S. presidency, the federal government had an increasing hunger for Choctaw land. In what became known as the Trail of Tears, thousands of people walked more than 1,000 miles, having been forced to leave without gathering their possessions (McAleer 2017). About 2,500 people died of hunger, cold and disease along the trail of tears, leaving only about 5,000-6,000 Choctaws in Mississippi by 1831. Moved by news of Irish starvation in 1847, a group of Choctaws in Oklahoma organized a relief fund from their own meager resources, raising $170 to forward on to the US famine relief organization. That would be tens of thousands of dollars in today's money. It was a show of solidarity with the Irish people, having suffered a similar fate themselves just 16 years before after they were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands.
Tribute to the Cherokee Nation: New Echota
New Echota is one of the most significant Cherokee Indian sites in the nation and was where the tragic “Trail of Tears” officially began. In 1825, the Cherokee national legislature established a capital called New Echota at the headwaters of the Oostanaula River. Guided by policies favored by President Andrew Jackson, the Trail of Tears was the forced westward migration of American Indian tribes from the South and Southeast (NPS 2017). Across the United States, the Federal Government consolidated and relocated tribes to reservations forcing them to surrender their lands in pieces by negotiating one treaty after another with the tribes. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 targeted particularly the Five Civilized Tribes in the Southeast. As authorized by the Indian Removal Act, the Federal Government negotiated treaties aimed at clearing Indian-occupied land for white settlers. The Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole were among the resettled tribes. After Andrew Jackson's term, the following president, Martin Van Buren, sent General Winfield Scott and 7,000 soldiers to expedite the removal process (History 2009). Scott and his troops forced the Cherokee into stockades at bayonet point while whites looted their homes and belongings. Then, they marched the Indians more than 1,200 miles to Indian Territory. Whooping cough, typhus, dysentery, cholera and starvation were epidemic along the way, and historians estimate that more than 5,000 Cherokee died as a result of the journey.
Tribute to the Aboriginal People: Aboriginal Memorial
The Aboriginal Memorial is a work of contemporary Indigenous Australian art from the late 1980s and is located in the National Gallery of Australia. It comprises 200 traditional hollow log coffins or pole for each year of European settlement, representing the Aboriginal people who died defending their land and denied a proper burial. The poles were made by 43 artists from Ramingining and several surrounding communities in Central Arnhem Land Northern Territory, Australia. Prior to British settlement, more than 500 Indigenous groups inhabited the Australian continent, approximately 750,000 people in total. In the 10 years that followed colonization, it's estimated that the Indigenous population of Australia was reduced by 90%. The most immediate consequence of colonization was a wave of epidemic diseases including smallpox, measles and influenza, which spread ahead of the frontier and annihilated many Indigenous communities. The expansion of British settlements also resulted in competition over land and resources, which quickly resulted in violence. Though some Aboriginal Australians did resist, most were subjugated by massacres and the impoverishment of their communities as British settlers seized their lands.
Hawk, Crystal. “Research Reveals America's Attitudes about Native People and Native Issues.” Cultural Survival, 27 June 2018, www.culturalsurvival.org/news/research-reveals-americas-attitudes-about-native-people-and-native-issues.
History.com Editors. “Trail of Tears.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/trail-of-tears.
McAleer, Brian. “Sculpture Marks Choctaw Generosity to Irish Famine Victims.” BBC News, BBC, 18 June 2017, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40304645.
National Gallery Of Australia. “The Aboriginal Memorial.” NGA, 2020, nga.gov.au/aboriginalmemorial/.
NPR, et al. “DISCRIMINATION IN AMERICA: EXPERIENCES AND VIEWS OF AFRICAN AMERICANS.” NPR, Oct. 2017.
NPS. “Multi-State: Trail of Tears National Historic Trail (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 17 Aug. 2017, www.nps.gov/articles/trailoftears.htm.