Native Peoples Essayspicture of compass


Southwest Home

Discovery Home

L & C '03 Home

On Wednesday, June 15, while riding the motorcoach in Arizona, students were asked to write an essay addressing one of the research objectives for the Native Peoples curriculum.  The objectives: 
bulletUnderstand how Native American and broader American cultures have interacted with and impacted each other;
bulletAssess the direction in which the relationship between Native American tribes and non-Americans is heading;
bulletIdentify significant challenges the Navajo and Poarch Creek tribes currently face;
bulletInvestigate what Native American culture has to teach us about sustainability; and, 
bulletCompare the governmental structures of the Navajo Nation, Poarch Creek and the United States and understand how they work together.

What follows is a selection of six student essays:

Kristin Bell


            The United States of America has many different Indian tribes.  In the last hundred years many of these tribes have had some difficulties making a living.  These challenges can cause tension in various relationships.  Some even make it hard to run a tribe.  Problems donít just fade away; in fact many tribes continue to have the problems that they have had for years.

            Two examples of these Indian tribes are the well-known Navajo Indians, who are found in the Southwest United States , and the lesser known Poarch Creek Indians. The Navajo have become their own nation and are fixing their problems by using their leader as a key component.  The Poarch Creek Indians were recognized as a sovereign nation in 1984, and live on a reservation.  Both of these nations have a hard time trying to find solutions to their problems.

            The Navajo people are working on many different challenges currently.  The President Youth Assistant, Alray Nelson, told us about some the projects that the President of the Navajo Nation is working on right now.  A main focus for the Navajo is how to keep their nation together and how to preserve their culture and history.  President Shirley focuses on the youth by working with the Boys and Girls club of the Navajo Nation.  Nelson also talked about how President Shirley has been working on relations with foreign countries.  By doing this the President is solving future problems that may occur, and also making friends/allies for the Navajo Nation.  One other thing that Nelson mentioned was that the President wanted to have casinos for the Navajo Nation because it would truly help the economy.  However, the Navajo people see gambling as a sin.  For most Indian tribes there is the challenge of creating unity with the difference in religion.  Mr. Morgan explained to us that Christianity and a type of spiritualism are found in their nation.

            The Poarch Creek Indian reservation covers 6500 acres and they have their own business enterprises and law.  They also have a judicial system, fire department, health clinics, social services, schools, recreation complex, hotel, restaurant, metal works, manufacturing firm, and cattle/cat fish farms.  Like the Navajo Indians they do work as their own nation.  For the Poarch Creek Indians money has been a challenge that they are trying to work on.  However, unlike the Navajo they do have a casino, which has helped their economy somewhat.  Another problem that the Creek Indians face is unity.  There is also the division between Christians, those who follow the old traditions, and those that donít believe at all.

            Indians in the US still have the same challenges they used to because most of these problems are hard to solve.  There is strength in unity and Indian tribes are trying to get over their disagreements to work towards that goal.  Both of these tribes have different options of finding ways to survive, hopefully both will work.  Iím glad that these tribes can be their own nations and are finding ways to work out their problems. 

Dirk Holsopple

Since the arrival of Europeans, the Navajo and the Poarch Creek Indians have had several problems. These problems include poverty and weakening culture. The Navajo and the Poarch Creek Indians have faced several challenges in recent years.

            The United States has forced both the Navajo and the Poarch Creek Indians away from their homes. The United States imprisoned the Navajo in Bosque Redondo for four years and only allowed them to return after signing a treaty in 1868. The U.S. removed most Poarch Creek Indians from their territory in Georgia and Alabama and moved them to Oklahoma not recognizing them as a nation until 1984.

            Poverty provides another challenge for the Navajo. Reservation grazing has led to soil erosion and impoverishment. The Navajo also have a very high unemployment rate, around 60%.

            Another challenge for the Navajo is weakening culture. A major reason that Navajo culture has remained strong in the past is that many Navajo are in a single area. When Navajo leave the reservation they lose some of their culture as they go.

            The Navajo and Poarch Creek Indians are presented with several challenges. These include weakening culture, impoverishment and loss of land.

Ian Suttles

            Since the birth of our country and even before the relationships between Native Americans and those that are non-native have been constantly changing. They have gone from times of war to times of agreement and cooperation. Both sides have different beliefs, values and goals that they strive for. These differences have led to a recent deterioration between natives and non-natives. This deterioration can easily be stopped if both sides would be willing to cooperate.

            America bears a bit of a grudge against the Navajo. The Navajo Nation is a sovereign nation within the U.S. This raises many problems dealing with governmental issues. In the treaty of 1868 the United States relinquished much of its control in the Navajo lands. Now with little or no control over what goes on with in the nation, the U.S. wants some influence once more.

            The Navajo also feel some resentment toward the other side. Being surrounded by and often immersed in U.S. culture, some Navajo see the U.S. as corruptive influence. Proof of the ďcorruptionĒ can be seen everywhere. It can be seen by the replacement of older farming and ranching techniques with more technologically advanced methods and by the youth wearing t-shirts that bare popular music groups. This move towards American culture is weakening the traditional Navajo culture.

            Both groups are very different. If the U.S. would just respect the Navajo way of life and try not to meddle in affairs that are not theirs, and the Navajo would learn to respect the ways of the U.S. both groups would get along much better.

Katelyn Shank

Generally Americans have been greedy Europeans that try to conquer as much land as possible.  Though done by other nations, it may be more evident in the U.S.   We violently pushed Native Americans out of the land that was rightfully theirs.  Natives didnít even claim the land, but saw it as mother earth for the use of all creatures in harmony. 

Americans through their greed, have interacted and impacted Native Americansí culture negatively, but have helped their economy slightly. 

            The American cultures need for resources such as coal, causes them to impact the Native Americans in a negative way.  According to one woman, American strip mining in her area was a horrible thing.  The American miners drank and gave alcohol to the young kids.  The coal dust also killed the animals and contaminated water.  Explosions from the mines scared the horses and other animals.  American miners were also there without permission.  Native American culture is to protect Mother Nature, and so they pray that the water, air, herbs, and land will still be usable.  They think that the ďwhite manĒ is ruining mother earth. 

            Americans, because of their greed and manifest destiny, pushed the Natives off of their own land.  Americans put them on a reservation and took their land. Americans basically claimed the Indians, their land, and their water.  They ordered them around and made laws for them to follow.  The Americans then enforced the laws by using violence.  In schools, Americans rubbed in that they had guns, tanks, and also soldiers to enforce the laws.  Not by choice we shoved the Natives into a small area called a reservation and thrust our culture upon them or restricted their traditions. 

            Today, Americans and Native Americans interact for the good of the Native American economy.  Americans visit the reservation of the Natives and it has become a tourist attraction.  This is a good thing for the Indian Americans because they can then sell these visitors hand made goods.  The Natives sometimes over price their products and the Americans can afford to pay that price.  If not than the Americans will bargain and the Natives can still make a profit.  It also helps that the Native Americans are so willing to show Americans their way of life.  This connection will hopefully educate the people of the U.S. about Natives and maybe produce changes for the benefit of the Native Americans.

            Though Americans help Natives Americansí economy diminutively, they have mainly interacted and impacted Native Americansí culture harmfully.  Americans interrupted the Indians way of life by using resources on Indian land.  Then Americans took over the land all together and tried to claim the land and water for themselves.  Finally, Americans and Indians have been able to trade goods to make a living.  Americans have taken much from the Indians and not given back.  Though a reservation seems like a lot, it isnít much compared to the free roaming land that the Indians used to control.


Max Weaver

How has the relationship with Native Americans and Non-Native Americans changed?

            The relations to the Native Americans did not start off pleasantly when the Europeans first visited.  The Europeans and their idea of converting everyone into Christians caused the near extinction of the Native Americans.  The Natives were pushed out of their homeland because the Europeans thought that they had made a great discovery in finding this new territory.  The population of Native Americans dropped an extreme 90%.  Today we have learned to respect the Natives because we are disturbed by the monstrosities committed by former explorers and we have sympathy for their race.  People value and respect the Native Americans.

            The U.S. government reserves specific land in different areas where the Native Americans can live.  A lot of Natives choose to live there because they receive many benefits from the federal government.  Inside these reservations the Natives can set up their own official government as if they were their own country.  They elect a president and congress.  The Navajo nation has a democracy which is like most Native American governments.

            Native Americans do not have to pay any costs that have to do with U.S. governmental funding.  They are exempt from federal and state taxes.  They do not have to pay income tax or pay for Social Security.  They receive grants from the U.S.

            Natives can get rides to prestigious schools if they have low income.  If the parents have an income under $55,000 the U.S. will send their kids to Harvard, Prince, or Yale with a full ride scholarship.  This gives a lot of Natives an equal opportunity however the President of the Navajo Nation disagrees with this privilege.  He believes that people should earn their schooling because of their brains, not because of a low income.

            Today we see lots of museums set up around the U.S. that support the Native Americans.  In fact, just recently an American Indian Museum was built in Washington , D.C. near the Museum of Arts .  It is a very interesting and enlightening place.  Today the Natives of this country are respected and valued.  We owe a debt to them and they deserve to be treated like humans.

Stuart Ferguson

June 15, 2005

The Navajo people are an ancient and proud people. This tribe of Indians has had a hard time during the developing and changes of their nation. The Navajo tribe has been identified as a sovereign nation, but the Navajo tribe faces numerous societal difficulties and setbacks.

The Navajos history if filled with war, oppression, and discriminatory treatment. The Navajos currently are located in the largest Native American reservation. Their lands do not spread as far as they once did and their population has declined since the coming of Europeans to North America . The Navajos have had a difficult past. The Navajos had numerous feuds with the Spanish. These feuds tended to end in the enslavement or defeat of the Navajos. Although the Navajos fought bravely, they were outclassed by the Spanish military. The Navajosí total land decreased during the Spanish occupation of their territories. Things only got worse. The United States gave them even less freedom. The Americans feared them and considered them a hindrance to development. The United States Government put the Navajos into a small Native American reservation and had utter control over the Indianís well-being.

The Navajos, not having enough land to sustain their lifestyle, were at a disadvantage to other economies. The Navajos didnít have enough land to allow their herds of livestock to feed or to have farms. The Navajos soon had their own dustbowl because their herds had eaten away the vegetation. Erosion and other problems were found in the Navajo reservation. These problems led to difficulties in agriculture. The economy declined as did the Navajo way of life. The Navaho reservation was poverty stricken and had no chance to change their situation, seeing how they had no say in the government.

The United States eventually recognized the Navajos as sovereign nation while giving them more land, but even with these large steps forward for the Navajos, they still face many trials in every day life. The United States has increased the size of the Navajo nation, and this increase in land has helped to utilize the Navajo way of life. The Navajoís now have land to feed their herds as well as to farm. The Navajosí now also have their own government. This has allowed them to make changes that are in the best interest of the Navajo people. Unfortunately, because the Navajos have poor soil in parts of their reservation (because of their earlier practices,) they still have trouble farming and herding in some areas of their reservation. The Navajos are discriminated against because of their color and the fact that they are clumped together in one area. The Navajos in general are still poor because they havenít completely recovered from the weaker economy they had during the early years of their reservation.

The Navajos are a proud people that face many societal and economical difficulties. The Navajos have overcome the obstacle throughout their history and are now beginning to reap the benefits with their own sovereign nation. The Navajo nation will always have a special place in the hearts of those who studied their history.


Copyright © Eastern Mennonite High School.
For questions regarding this web contact
Last updated August 18, 2006