Balancing Present with Past: Contemporary Native American Life as Studies through the Phoenix Indian Center
MetadataShow full item record
Contemporary Native American Life: it is often hard to identify, much less define. Something about Native America evokes thoughts of simplicity, nature, strong cultural ties, and if nothing else, tradition. While these elements are integral parts of Native American culture, they too often beget sweeping generalizations, oversimplifications, and stereotypes that plague the societal view of American Indians today. The complexities and struggles facing today's Native American tribes are overwhelming, and understandably so; history stores a quagmire of separation, isolation, and bigotry which, in turn, has created a downward spiral pattern of poverty, substance abuse, and depression among the first people of this nation. Yet an unequivocal strength remains in the Native American cultures; despite the societal ills, the remnants of bad blood, wars, and prejudice, things essentially more solid stand. There remain the art, the music, the craftsmanship, the oral literature and tradition, and perhaps most global, the belief in a larger harmony: more expansive than man to man, rather man to nature, incorporating areal "world view." In these political times of ethnic recognition, and breaking of barriers, open minds, animal rights, and preserving and recycling of the environment, the Native cultures of North America stand how they always have: with basic beliefs of respecting, preserving, and nurturing the world around them, and living as one with all that occupy space on earth. Although few characteristic generalizations may be made from tribe to tribe, this idea is perhaps the one that does most justice to the sense of tradition in all Native American cultures. It is not the purpose here to elevate these people to the status of gods; they are not any worse or better than any other race of people, and they do not pretend to be. They were not the first nor the last to endure atrocities because of their color or creed or way of life. And certainly, they have and do make mistakes, commit crimes, and fall prey to evil ways just as all others do. Still, the fact remains that they were robbed of their land, and more importantly, they were robbed of their pride in the way they cared for their earth; they have been repeatedly disrespected as a people ever since. The lack of recognition of the rights of Native Americans and their vast knowledge is a disaster in itself, exemplified by the fact that they have known for centuries what the larger American society is only now discovering as it regrets its pollution, mourns its destroyal of land, and runs from its chemically-caused disease.