It's always there. It hides well and often appears to be a bygone product of history but make no mistake, it's presence is as much a fact as the sunrise in the east. It only takes a whisper, one event or a single issue to peel back the camouflage of serenity and reveal it in all its glory. It's apparently a permanent part of the American psyche despite all thoughts to the contrary. Don't look now, because it is once again on the loose and running wild all over the continent. What is "it" you ask? Why it's anti-Indian sentiment, the lesser known brother of racism that most Americans would rather not discuss but the First Nations of this country know intimately.
The funny thing is, in talking to the average American, there appears to be a commonly expressed affinity for American Indian people and culture. I've often been told by white Americans that "you Indians sure got a raw deal". One can hardly peruse the romance novel section of your local bookstore or sample any wild west movie without reading or hearing about the noble people of the past. And that perhaps is the underlying issue, for as soon as people in the present have to learn, up close and personal, that American Indian people are not a forgotten relic of the past, but part of modern vibrant cultures, with human and civil rights that have to be recognized, we get an accurate snapshot of what America really thinks about Indians.
Maybe it's your local beloved sports team with a racist mascot like the Redskins being pressured to change. Perhaps it's the revelation that a so-called Christian adoption agency is targeting Indian Country to steal and traffic in Indian babies. From time to time it's when Indians stand up against the destruction of their land base as we've seen in Canada lately. Or possibly, as a small town in Wyoming is learning, that some treaties do matter, will get enforced, and the realization that Indians have legitimate legal claims that sets the pot boiling. Imagine it, American Indians having legal and civil rights. Oh the humanity.
One need only look in the comments section after these or any number of similar stories are run in a local or national publication to get a feel for how many Americans still feel about Indian people, and Indian rights. Safe behind a keyboard, Americans blindly call for a return to scalping, argue that the theft of Indian land are the spoils of war, and that God has decreed the decimation of the Indian race. I mean really you couldn't make this shit up. It's like we turn back the pages of history two hundred years every time an Indian stands up for him or herself.
This country has a guilt trip born of a denial of its history. Every American lives their daily live knowing deep down they are the recipient of benefits born of genocide. The fact is, slowly but surely many of these chickens are coming home to roost. Those pesky treaties, the highest law in the land according to the American constitution, are still waiting to be enforced. Whether it be in American or International courts, tribes have been slowly but surely winning righteous victories that even conservative justices cannot completely stop. And along the way, the American redneck or racist or social conservative, choose your own superlative, goes down slowly, always kicking and screaming about the good old days, and those ridiculous "special rights" all Indians seem to have..
So whether you live in Washington D.C. and root for that abomination of a football team mascot, or in Riverton Wyoming and have found you're subject to aboriginal title, or anywhere else on this continent once populated by millions of Indigenous people, it's time to ask yourself a question. How do you really feel about the Native American and why? Are you personally willing to take responsibility for historical wrongs, as a beneficiary of genocidal policies? It's a tough conundrum to be sure, but like it or not every single American has to face these issues sooner or later. This isn't the good old days where Indians had no voice, and as some have said, we're not your Indians anymore.