Western Courier

Learn your Native American history

Jason Adams, Courier Staff

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During an anti-immigration protest late last month outside of the Arizona state Capitol building, protesters were reportedly stopping individuals walking by and asking about their views on immigration.

 Unfortunately there were also reports of protesters asking darker-skinned members if they were here illegally and were yelling at them to go home, and other derogatory comments. Members of the protests contacted by the media denied that the harassing comments and questions were made, but unfortunately for them we live in the 21st century. A video was released of protesters asking Arizona State Representative, Eric Descheenie, who is of Navajo descent, if he was here illegally and seemed infuriated when he would not give a yes or no answer.

 A Native American man was asked if he was an illegal immigrant. He answered that he was “indigenous to these lands” and did not suffice the needs of the protester. Picking up a history book or just looking up the definition of “native” would have answered their question. Paying attention to history class in elementary school might have also helped avoid the question entirely. This really doesn’t help the protester’s claim that the people they were reportedly harassing were based on skin color, unless they actually know nothing about Native American history, but I’ll get to that later.

 Latino legislators and other minorities also reported being harassed, which still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and could be easily answered by a trip back to middle school. In every state in the U.S., you must be a U.S. citizen to become a state legislator which I assume they will actually check. Asking legislators if they are here illegally is about as useless as checking the fridge 10 minutes after you just looked in it. The result is not going to change no matter how hard you look. There is a more gray area on the First Lady’s original immigration status in the 90’s than the status of these representatives.

 These puzzling interrogations show either one of two (or both) problems that seem to be becoming more prominent in the U.S. The lack or misinterpretation of education (especially in history) or just blatant ignorance. Even in the most whitewashed textbooks that discuss Native American history, the fact they were here before the U.S. was formed is pretty well stated. Now different states have different requirements in terms of education but there isn’t a version of history where white settlers were here first. This is a major part of the reason why the term “Native American” is more properly used now instead of “Indian.” So how does a Native American come here illegally? The situation with representatives of other minorities being questioned is just as troubling.

 All high school graduates had to pass a U.S. civics test, which for some states includes a states civics test as well. While these tests are relatively easy to pass, it appears that the information may not be sticking with people as much as people would hope. U.S. citizenship is required for public office at any level. Protesters can always choose to ignore these things, but facts are facts. Just because you don’t believe it doesn’t make it not true.

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Learn your Native American history