Independence Day: Should Native Americans Celebrate July 4th?

The Fourth of July celebrates the day in 1776 when colonial American representatives ratified the Declaration of Independence, making official their intention to break away from England and organize a sovereign government. We all know what that meant for the Native Americans of this continent, whose numbers had already been dramatically reduced since the time European explorers first set foot on American soil. At the time of the revolution, the 13 American colonies didn't extend far beyond the Atlantic seaboard, and many European settlements still coexisted with large Native populations. But it was gradually becoming clear that the colonists were set on all-out continental expansion, and forming their own nation was part of that process. America achieved its rise to sovereignty largely at the expense of Native Americans (and the imported African slaves who formed much of the economy). So it is understandable that many Indians today have some less than positive feelings about the holiday.

Despite the dark history that has overshadowed much of the American record, it bears keeping in mind that much of what has made the founding of this country outstanding is the product of a shared heritage between the Native Americans and European immigrants. It was never inevitable that white presence in the Americas meant the extermination or removal of an entire race of peoples. The wrong turns taken by the American civilization are the collective result of greed, prejudice and consistently misguided leadership—but at no time were they inevitable. The fact remains that many of the people who emigrated here did so for genuinely upright reasons: because they were living in oppressive, impoverished European countries and it was the only decent thing they knew to do for their families. Native Americans themselves recognized this by consistently extending friendship and hospitality to the settlers. It was the diligence and ingenuity invested by so many immigrant Americans, and the generosity of resources and knowledge contributed by Native Americansthat not only made this country possible, but made it thrive.

A glance at these early interactions, and how they helped to birth the high ideals this country supposedly represents, prompts us to think about the way things could have been, had history taken a different course. And they still stand out like a beacon, showing the way things should be. (Source)

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