Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Preserve Indigenous Culture and Identity

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Preserve Indigenous Culture and Identity

For thousands of years different communities of people lived in the Americas. The colonization and the subsequent genocide of indigenous peoples caused the indigenous population to diminish. In 1838 the Trail of Tears began [part of President Andrew Jackson's native American removal policy]. Native culture and traditions are firmly connected to the land they live on. Without their land, tribes lost a part of their identity.

Indigenous children were sent to boarding schools where they were alienated from their parents and forbidden to practice their religion or speak their language. Traditions are passed down orally through generations and without anyone to pass their traditions on to, indigenous culture was being lost.

Today conditions on reservations are bad, houses are overcrowded, and not all the homes are connected to a public sewer. More than 10 percent of people living on reservations are unemployed and those who are employed are making below a living wage. The lack of economic opportunity pushes younger members to leave reservations.

A tribe’s language is the way tradition is passed down. Each language is based on stories, spiritual beliefs, and how the tribe interprets the world. The language is a way for indigenous tribes to speak to their Creator or God. A tribe’s language is what their culture is anchored on and when these languages are lost, so is the culture.

There are only 170 indigenous languages still spoken in the United States. By 2025 it is predicted that only 20 native languages will be spoken. Government funded schools on reservations should provide students the option to be taught their tribal language. The class could teach students their language and culture. Most tribes have a cultural preservation department that could provide a teacher. It is imperative to protect these languages in order to preserve indigenous culture and identity.