Our American Indian Heritage

Hello!  Hello!

Perhaps it’s the times in which we live.  Or maybe it’s something else that joggles my memory to recall  things I’ve read, things I’ve experienced.  And my mind turns over and over again to Native America.  To all the things that are a part of our heritage as Americans, each and every one of us, regardless of whether or not we have a drop of American Indian blood running through our veins or not.

But what exactly did the Indians give us.  If you’re at all like me, I don’t recall learning any of these things in school.  This all comes from research.  Yes, we hear of Thanksgiving and of other Indian ceremonies.  But what else did the American Indian contribute to our society that we live in right this very moment?  Can you guess?

Now before we go any further let me mention that I’ll be giving away a book to some blogger today.  All you have to do is come on in and join the conversation.

Okay, so what did Native America give to our society?  Well, probably the most obvious gift is that of names…Mississippi…Iroquois…Illinois…Kansas…Dakota…Iowa, Ohio, Missouri — how about phrases like “bury the hatchet,” we council together,” or organizations like “boy scouts,” “girl scouts.”  Their names for places, their ideas and many of their ideas on government remain with us to this day.

It was the Iroquois who gave us the game of LaCrosse — the Indians of the plains who taught us our most common swimming stroke — the Indians who gave us corn, beans, squash.  Even some of our ceremonies date to the American Indian (Thanksgiving was one of the seasonal celebrations of the Iroquois and Eastern Indians.)

Probably one of the most important things that the American Indian gave to our culture was the idea of liberty of individuals and the sovereignty of the individual.  Remember that the European who came to this continent was escaping oppression and tyranny.  But here in America he met a new being.  A man who considered himself free of all government ties.

In fact, not too many people are aware that the Iroquois had probably the longest running “republic” on this planet.  Yes, the Greeks strived for it, wrote about republics,  so did the Romans.  But these attempts were relatively short lived.  How many people are aware that the Iroquois founded and enjoyed a true “Of the People, By the People, For the People” government (1140 A.D. — dated by the elders of the Iroquois to around 1778 — when they lost their Independence just as we gained ours).

Interesting, too, that after the Iroquois Confederation was formed in 1142, it lasted in a peaceful fashion up until the European invasion.  Europe was at war — often Native Americans were recruited to fight those wars on behalf of the European powers.  But even more important than war — that changed the face of the continent — was that was trade.  Europe had gadgets and things that Native America couldn’t manufacture on their own.  Gadgets that made life easier.

Tribes went to war to secure that trade because whoever had the best trade with the European powers, could control the continent and keep their people free…and most of all, enjoy the comforts that Europe brought.

Personally, I think it was a high price to pay.  Some trinkets, pots, pans, material for clothes.  All, in the end, bought for the price of enslavement…or if not enslavement, then at least banishment from one’s home grounds.  As a result, the Iroquois who so grandly postulated the peaceful end of war forever in this part of the world (America) were scattered all over the American Continent after the Revolutionary war, their land bought up by the large corporations that were already starting to spring up on the Eastern seaboard.

To my mind it was a high price to pay.  Too high.  But then, aren’t we involved in a similar situation today?  Is the price of gadgets and “things to make life easier or more enjoyable” to be paid by the surrender of one’s sovereignty?  Perhaps it’s a mute question — perhaps many have already paid this price already.  But there are still some — maybe us romantics — who remember their history, who remember a time when we were truly free, free to choose our own way, free to speak and to be heard, free to think as one sees fit.  As Nathanial says in THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, — “I don’t call myself subject to much at all.”  Indeed, there were no subjects to be found on the American continent.  At least not at this time period in history.

Perhaps this is the greatest gift that the American Indian gave to us:  the memory of a truly free, independent, and happy people.  But more than that, perhaps the idea that America would lead the world to peace — to a world without war, a world where grief was ended forever, and a world where nations could live with one another without the need to try to “change” them into the image of oneself.

These are true gifts.  We carry that heritage in our bones, each one of us.  And it’s in the West, the cowboys and Indians, where that tradition is carried on to this day.  Ah, how I love the Indians … and cowboys. 

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of one of my latest releases, BLACK EAGLE or SENECA SURRENDER.

So come on in a let’s chat!

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
Please refer to https://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules for all contest rules.

25 thoughts on “Our American Indian Heritage”

  1. When I think of what the Native Americans taught me:

    1) Respect for nature
    2) Kill only what you need to eat, do not waste
    3) Prayers to Mother Earth for what they had
    4) Plants for treating disease
    5) Respect for family especially one’s elders
    6) Responsibility- protecting the tribe, finding food

  2. Laurie,
    Excellent list.
    Resposibility for and respect of each other and the world they lived in are the first thoughts that come to mind when I consider the American Indian. The Eastern tribes had worked out more formalized inter-tribal relationships and the Cherokee had developed a written language. These “civilized” tribes tried to coexist with the white settlers, but in the end, the sharing of talents & skills as well as the acceptance of european ways did little to protect them from the destructive greed of the settlers.
    It is too bad that we as a nation did not pay closer attention to what the Indians had to teach and share with us. Our society and country would be much better off today if we had.
    Have a great week, Karen.

  3. I totally agree with Laurie’s list. As always, Karen, you give us a great post with thought provoking questions. I love the living in peace and the fierce protecting ones own that the Iroquois were known for. Thanks for sharing. Hugs, Phyliss

  4. Beautiful pix today as always, Kay, including of course Adam. But your content is truly something every school child should read. I knew nothing “fair” about Native Americans as a child other than Thanksgiving. Most movies and TV shows portrayed than as enemies, with a rare exception. They are indeed the “first” recyclers who cared for the Earth, ther mother, and took nothing from her they didn’t use completely.

    Reading Dee Brown’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” changed my life. It is a must for anybody interested in the American West.


  5. oh kay, i always love your posts…they always leave me wistfully dreaming of a simpler and freer time
    i am amazed at how little we learn about the native american people—but reading your books has really pushed me to want to learn more on my own
    they were so wise in the way they lived–much can be learned from them even now
    i think i’ll take tanya’s suggestions about Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee…

    i watched a movie this past weekend that touched on the idea that men carried blankets around to native american villages that were infected with small pox and such
    is this true?
    i know it’s off subject…but i figured you would know the answer

    also…which disney movie is it that you have the picture of?
    i can’t place it

    great post as always!

  6. Wonderful post. Even as a child, I always thought the Indians were treated poorly. I do remember learning how many treaties we broke, how many times we lied and how we forced them on to smaller and smaller reservations. Of course we were taught this was necessary. I never agreed. We pride ourselves as being the land of the free – not really if you think about it.

    And, Tabitha, I have read that it is true about the infected blankets. Biological warfare, even then.

    It saddens me that we didn’t take after the Indians more than our European ancestors. As Kay said, our ancestors came here to get away from oppression and tyranny and then we did the same thing to the Indians.

    For the life of me, I cannot understand how we are so intolerant of differences. We are more alike then we want to think – or so it seems. Always a thought provoking post.

  7. Hi Patricia!

    I so agree with you on your view of Native America. There is so much that we could have learned from them. Thank goodness we learned as much as we did.

    The only thing I would correct is that in many cases, it was the corporation that caused the taking of the Indian lands — not individual settlers, as most people seem to believe. In my research almost one for one it’s been the corporation that has taken those lands — either that or Land Management in the Government, which is a different kind of corporation, but a corporation nonetheless.

    This I found really interesting,because the weight of the blame has been put on the individual settler, and it simply isn’t very true. Again, it was the corporation.

  8. Interestingly Jefferson warned us against the big corporations, stating that if we allowed bankers or such to control the currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, they would enslave those whose ancestors fought so hard for freedom — somewhere in that statement he named the corporation — I just can’t recall the exact statement. The interesting thing was how spot on he was.

  9. Hi Phyliss! Thank you so much for your compliments. You are one of the most warm-hearted individuals that I know. I’m proud to be a fellow filly with you. 🙂

  10. Oh, Tanya,your post touched my heart. You are so right. You know something, I couldn’t get through all of that book. It broke my heart and I cried so much, I eventually had to put it down.

    Maybe someday when my confront of such evil is greater, I might again pick up that book. It could happen to us all and perhaps that’s the lesson to be learned from it. Thanks Tanya.

  11. Hi Tabitha!

    It was in the French and Indian war that Amherst sent smallpox invested blankets to those Indians who were fighting with the French. Not that it wasn’t done also by the likes of that idiot, Sherman, who not only devastated the south but devastated the Native American also — and at a time when the Native American wanted peace with the incoming civilization.

    But no, he had to go and kill as many of them as possible. Was it Sherman who coined that phrase — that I won’t repeat — about the only “good Indian, etc”

    A man I truly detest — for his wanton destruction literal rape of the South and Southerners (and women) and the same for Native America. I only hope he became a cockroach in his next life — be that heaven or hell.

  12. Hi Catslady!

    Like you I can’t seem to understand the intolerance of racial diffences. Never have been able to understand it, even though I’m technically from the south, and still believe that the wrong side won the war between the States. 🙂

    You are so right. We are so very alike — and yet different in our own ways — but those differences make for excitement in my opinion.

    Thanks for your thoughts! 🙂

  13. Oops! I forgot! That picture is from one of the Pocahontas movies. Perhaps the first one? I’m not too certain.

    Believe it or not, even though Disney distorted history so badly in that movie, I still like it. Sigh…

    Always the romantic.

  14. Yes, Native Americans had a different way of living and believing in the equality of man. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had another continent to move to about now? I’d love to leave all our politicians behind! Period.

  15. Another wonderful blog, and I love the quote from the movie ‘Last of the Mohicans.’ You brought up some wonderful points!
    I love that ‘Canada’ (where I am from) is an Indian name, Huron-Iroquois word for village.

  16. Great post Karen! I wish that our schools in this country had taught more about the Indian history snd lifestyle in school, namely the respect that the Indians had for mother earth and it’s creatures (including other humans). I wonder if this country would be in the mess it is in now. We owe so much to the Indians, and being part Cherokee, it makes me sad that their way of life no longer really exists in this world.

  17. Lyn, you made me laugh aloud. ISn’t that kinda what humanity has been doing down through the ages — moving along when the oppression became too much. Problem is we’ve run out of places to run to.


    However, I’ve seen animals cornered and there’s probably nothing more fearsome than a cornered animal.

  18. Hi Tammy!

    Like you I love and respect the ways of old. However, some of those ways still exist in every one of us. : )

    It only takes a few drops to fill up that glass of water. : )

  19. Hi Kay,

    I feel as you do. Native Americans are the peaceful ones. They protect the land, water, and environment, and they consider everything to be connected to each other. The four sacred directions, Respect of all, especially the elders. To protect the animals of all kinds for they have a place among us all

    I have to say that the American Indian is what we all should strive to be

    Walk in harmony,

  20. Hi Melinda!

    So nice to see you here. It’s been a while. And yes, I so agree with you. Harmony comes to mind. But also liberty, freedom, individuality and personal ethics. These also come to mind. 🙂

    Hope all is well with you!

  21. Hi Kay,
    Better late than never! I loved your post, as always. Your insights are always so interesting. I also wanted to add to the “list” of evil-doers President Andrew Jackson. I know Indians to this day who will try to “break” a $20 bill so they don’t have to carry him with them. He was just awful.

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