In writing this article I am admitting something that I have never told anyone: I am a Native American. I do not dress up in feathers nor do I sleep in a tipi or igloo. I also do not know anybody that owns a casino, so please if you know my name please don’t ask me for money. And just so you know, we Native Americans do exist; we are not extinct (for the time being), so don’t expect us to be with cavemen in a GEICO commercial anytime soon.
I guess the tough part about being a Native American (glad we got rid of the term Indian) is that for the most part people don’t think we exist. Throughout the more than 200 years we have been together as a nation, Native American’s have rarely been represented in congress. We are rarely portrayed in the mainstream media, and when we are, we’re usually depicted in a not-so-positive way.
Most students remember Mel Gibson and Apocalypto and the comments he made at CSUN saying that if we don’t like his movie we should make our own. I know how much Asian-Americans complain about not getting proper representation in the media, but compared to Native Americans, they get way more attention. When is the last time you saw a movie in which Native Americans were portrayed in a good way? Ok, maybe few times, but only when he is nice to the ‘white’ man.
The fact is Native Americans are the most forgotten race here in the U.S. even though we were here first. If I’m not mistaken, my ancestors came to this continent over 6,000 years ago. That’s even earlier than Adam and Eve, according to some Bible Scholars.
I’m tired of hearing about how Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo) “discovered” America, and there are two reasons. The first Europeans to reach the new world were Vikings, and also, Native Americans were living here for thousands of years before we were “discovered”.
I call Christopher Columbus a Conquistador (conqueror) who helped facilitate the extermination of 90 percent of the native population of America. From the Aleuts that live near the Bering Strait in Alaska to the Yahgan who live in Tierra del Fuego near Antarctica. What Europeans call the age of discovery, I call the age of genocide (and I’m not overusing the “G” word).
I do wish to dwell solely on the past. The greatest threat to Native Americans is not extermination but assimilation. We are taught that if we change who were are, we may be accepted into a race of more ‘culture.’ I’m not saying that in a mean spirited way, after all, I myself am not pure Native American. I have Spanish, Chinese, and African ancestry in my blood. That, however, does not make me less Native American as the next person around.
I will not pretend that I am of another race just as so many of my family members have done. I will not be ashamed of being called an ‘Indio’ (racist name used against native Americans in Spanish). I will not tell my kids that the only ways to be successful in life is to assimilate and become an ‘American’ (whatever that means). Instead, I ask every CSUN student not to be ashamed of his or her ethnicity, origin or sexual orientation. We may be able to fool other people, but we cannot fool ourselves. Because the moment we fool ourselves is the moment that racism and discrimination truly win.
If somebody would have asked me what race yesterday I would probably would have said Salvadorian, today I can say that I am Douglas Sierra a proud member of the almost extinct tribe called the Pipil.