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tv   Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian  CSPAN  January 4, 2021 2:01pm-3:03pm EST

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feature american history tv programs to preview what's available every weekend on c-span3. tonight we take a look at america and its allies, various companies in the nato, the north atlantic treaty organization founded in 1949. the films in the atlantic community series were financed by the u.s. government. the series includes a look at france, west germany, the united kingdom, canada and the united states as they were in the 1950s. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. >> next a visit to the smithsonian national museum of the american indian on the national mal. director kevin gover joined us to talk about the museum's history, artifacts and issues of importance to native americans today. first, a short clip from the museum's opening in 2004.
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>> we have lived in these lands, in these sacred places for thousands of years. we are thus the original part of the cultural heritage of every person hearing these words today. whether you are a native or not native. we have felt the cruel and destructive edge of colonialism that followed contact and that lasted for hundreds of years. but in our minds and in our history, we are not its victims. [ applause ] as the mohawk have counselled us, it is hard to see the future with tears in your eyes. we have survived. and from a cultural standpoint have even triumphed against great odds. we are here right now. 40 million indigenous people
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throughout the americas, and in hundreds of culturally distinct cultural communities. and we will insist that we remain a part of the cultural future of the americas. in the different journey through history together, that the eloquence of chief joseph commands and that the national museum of the american indian so powerfully demands, i offer in conclusion, and with this hope these words in cheyenne. [ speaking foreign language ] in english, the great mystery
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walks beside you and walks beside your work and touches all the good that you attempt. thank you. >> more than 15 years since that opening day in september of 2004, we're live now from the national museum of the american indian. we're joined in the exhibit space there by museum director kevin gover. director, explain first the exhibit you're sitting in now and the story it tells about how native american imagery is represented and portrayed in popular culture. >> well, thank you. good morning. welcome to the national museum of the american indian. so, i'm in a gallery for the exhibition we call americans. and this is an exhibition, as you would expect, in part about native americans, but also about americans generally and american culture. and we have intrigued by how native american imagery is used
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broadly in the american culture. and so, on the walls in this gallery, you will see many, many depictions of native american people, native american designs. and we literally wallpaper to make the point that at the same time indians are everywhere in the popular culture, but remain unknown to most people here in the united states. >> do you think the average american has a sense of how often we see these images in our everyday lives and the products that are purchased at the store that are out there? >> i don't think they do, because it is wallpaper. it's background. if you're native, you do notice it and you see it everywhere. so we know it's real as a phenomenon, but we also know that most people don't
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experience it that way. >> what are the images of native americans generally meant to portray and show when they are used in these products and in companies advertising their services? >> yeah, that's a good question. obviously, if someone is trying to sell their product and they use an image of a native person or some native design, they think of it as a positive thing to be associated with native americans. it's different things for different kinds of undertakings. but most of them actually are quite weird. so for example, you would see citrus companies were very fond of using native imageries and native names to sell their product. one thing we do know is that at least in north american, native americans didn't grow citrus products. same with apples. same with baking soda.
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we've all seen the calumet can. but the point is that they associate it with something positive because they're trying to sell us their product, so we're kind of intrigued by that. >> i want to focus specifically on the headdress, the native american headdress that is so often seen, whether it's in products or used so often. that was specific to the american plains indians, correct? why was that become such a symbol for all native americans? >> yes, it was mostly confined, at least the feather headdress that we most often think about when we see native imagery, was confined to the plains tribes and confined to a relatively short period in history. there were a few tens of thousands of plains indians and there were many millions of other kinds of indians that had
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inhabited all of the americas for thousands of years, and yet that's the image that we chose. that's the image that continues to be used and that's the image that for some reason we seem to like very much. one of the things we explore in this exhibit is the battle of little big horn and pose the question, why does the country really hang onto this story and keep telling this story and apparently like this story so much, when it was a crushing defeat of american arms. and we invite the visitor to explore how that battle has been interpreted and how the indians who fought that battle sort of became national symbols of courage and defiance, bravery over time so that that is the dominant image of native americans, even though, again, it was only a very small percentage of the native
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population at any given time. >> kevin gover is our guest, the director of the national museum of the american indian. phone lines are open for you to join the conversation. if you've been there or you have questions about the museum or you want to talk about native american culture. 202788-8000 if you live in the eastern time zones, 202-7 202-788-80001 if you live in the mountain and pacific time zones and a special line for native americans, 202-788-8002. we certainly invite you to join this conversation this morning. a minute ago you mentioned the millions of native americans who lived in the americas throughout the centuries. how many tribes are we talking about and how many specific tribes' history do you try to explore in the space you have there on the national mall? >> we believe they're something
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around 2,000 separate native cultural communities in the western hemisphere. there are 573 indian tribes recognized by the united states as eligible for a government-to-government relationship with the united states. there are several hundred in canada and in central and south america, the descendants of many of the great civilizations that we all know about that still exist and still live, in some ways, in very much the same way they were living at the time of contact. how many are represented at any given moment, a handful. we can only present a limited number in the space we have and with the resources we have. so i think it's fair to say we will never be finished in presenting the variety of native american peoples that exist in the western hemisphere. >> what is your guiding principle in how you tell the story if it's a story that may never be finished with so many
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different stories to tell? >> i think the guiding principle and what set this museum apart from its beginning was that we rely on the people themselves for information on who they are, what they are, what their history is and what their culture is today. for a very long time, that privilege was reserved to the so-called experts who worked in museums, who were not themselves native american. and they took it upon themselves to go out and study native people and then come back and speak to the public in their museums as though they were the leading thinker about these cultures. it seems obvious now, but
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obviously the leading thinkers on native american history and culture are the native american people who inherited it and who practice that culture today. >> and how often are those people on the ground there at the museum on the national mall doing that on a daily basis at your museum? >> yeah, we receive a lot of native visitors and a lot of native people have business in washington. and we like the idea that when they come to washington, they come over here to spend some time and maybe to have lunch. the real research work, though, takes place at our cultural resources center in maryland, which is the home of our collections. we have something north of 800,000 items in our collection and we receive tribal groups who come in to look at what we have that originated in their community. and it's a wonderful exchange because we can show them what we have and they can tell us what it is, because all too often when the experts were out there
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collecting from native communities, they weren't sure what it was they got. and so we have many of our collections to this day that are still mislabeled because the original collector didn't really know what it was. and so they'll come to us and tell us, no, this is what that is and this is how it was used. and so it enriches our knowledge of the collections. and in return, we have a project of sending as much of our collections back to these communities as we can by lending to their tribal museums and by working with the tribal museum staff on the interpretation of their cultural objects. so it's a rich two-way experience. >> and we'll be exploring throughout this hour of the washington journal just a fraction of those collections and trying to show them as much as we can to our viewers as
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we're joined by kevin gover, the director of the museum. before we get too far into the segment, i wonder, is there a preference between native american and american indian? >> we get asked that question more often than you could possibly imagine. i think perhaps every native person has their preference as to what they wish to be called or which of those terms they prefer. prefer. to us, they're interchangeable. and a good friend of mine, one of the founders of the museum once told me they're equally inaccurate, so you could use them interchangeably. what she meant by that is that native people don't identify first and foremost as being native, native american, indigenous. we identify first as citizens of our tribal nation. and so if you ask me what i am,
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depending on the context, i probably wouldn't say i'm native american. i would probably say i'm pawnee. but there sort of needed to be a term to be used to refer to us, all these different tribes collectively, and so american indians was first and then native americans. now we use native and indigenous, and we use them interchangeably. >> let's chat with a few callers. clifton is waiting out of harrington, delaware. good morning. >> caller: good morning. my question is my family can go all the way back to the dogue indians, we carry the english name of showell, who took us in under the king and queen of england. so we have been disfranchised from the native americans and now they're telling us that we do not exist. and we do exist here on the eastern shore.
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>> mr. gover? >> yes, that's not uncommon. i'm not familiar with the particular culture that you're talking to, but, you know, after contact and after the confrontation quite often with the colonies or with the state, native communities scattered and went underground. and so there are a great many out there even to this day who are saying we are native, we are a tribe, and are petitioning the united states to be acknowledged as such. >> mary is next out of somerset, ohio. on that line set aside for native americans. good morning. >> caller: good morning. thank you for taking my call. [ speaking foreign language ] the daughter of the choctaws is here. i would like to say a few words, if i may. >> please, go ahead, mary.
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>> caller: it's a lot to do with how we teach native american history, and i was a native american educator at historical sites here in ohio that date back 15,000 years. our history is long, but current memory is short. we need more native american people teaching native american history because they understand the culture so much better. for one thing, when you talk about the long feathered headdress, the beautiful headdress of the plains indian, then people take that as a i'm from the woodland people, thick, deep forests, rich earth. you try wearing one of those headdresses in the forest, you're going to be caught up and not come home with anything to
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eat. very practical and intuitive that we're not expressing and some of these things are much deeper in terms of identification. my mother wrote a book "the ones who got away: the choctaw trail of tears," describing how some people were not involved in the registration rolls at oklahoma. oklahoma, okla means people, and homa means red and that is a symbol of honor and dignity and honesty. so we need to start going back to some of the original people to get our lessons to learn. and i really appreciate that we now have a smithsonian museum that's dedicated to doing that and thank you very, very much. >> mary, thank you. mr. gover?
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>> yes, i agree with all of that. you know, americans get their information about native people from only two primary sources. one is the formal education system and the other is the popular culture. and we show in this gallery that i'm sitting in that the popular culture creates a lot of wildly misleading and, frankly, very strange ideas about the native americans of the past and the present. but the one that is even more problematic in some ways is that the information that's being passed on in our schools is at best incomplete, and all too often is simply inaccurate. and so children are learning a version of history that actually
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more reflects the stereotypes we see in popular culture than reflect reality. one of the things our museum is trying to do about that is a project we call native knowledge 360 and we are creating materials for use by teachers in the classroom. it's available online and it's free. teachers are out there, they are quite often required by their school district or by their states to teach native american history and culture, but they don't have any background in it. and so they're left to rely either on just terribly outdated textbooks or to sort of search broadly on the internet. and the internet is just another version of the popular culture where you're going to find a great, great many things that are untrue. so reforming or -- really not so much reforming, but helping teachers by putting good information in their hands is a
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primary need, in my opinion, and one that the museum over many years is going to try to fill. >> one of the items you have in that gallery that you're sitting in is a tomahawk cruise missile and i want to talk a little bit about on the use of native american imagery the relationship between the u.s. military and native americans. not only the tomahawk cruise missile, the apache helicopter, the blackhawk helicopter. can you talk about why it's so prevalent in military terms? >> it's a little mysterious, right, because the apaches and blackhawk and the various other tribes for whom different weapon systems have been named fought the united states army, and so it's obviously quite unusual
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that you would name a modern weapon system for an old enemy, and yet that's what they do. and i should add very quickly that the tribes really like that. you will see in the case of these helicopters that the army will hold a special ceremony with the leadership of that tribe present and present, you know, miniature models and plaques acknowledging that the army is borrowing their tribal name for a particular weapon system. if you also look at the patches of many units in the military, they will select native american imagery as their insignia. and obviously they're thinking in terms of indians have a reputation for being gallant, for being brave, ferocious in
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many cases. but ultimately for strength. and that the military would adopt these images and these names is a show of respect that i think most native americans find to be respectful, if perhaps just a touch hard to understand in the first instance. >> brooklyn maryland is next. this is kat. good morning. >> caller: good morning, sir. i love your museum. i've been there many, many times. i am a descendant of the kiawa in oklahoma. and, in fact, my great grandfather and great great grandmother were sooners there. i kind of wonder -- we don't hear too much about too many tribes anymore and i was wondering how they fare in this modern age still in the oklahoma territory there.
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>> mr. gover? >> as it happens, i'm from oklahoma. i fwru grew up in lawton among many kiawa people. i have comanche relatives. and to see what has happened in the state of oklahoma in, i don't know, the 40, 45 years i since i lived there is really quite remarkable. so when i was there, i was fully aware, of course, that there were a lot of native american people there and that there were a lot of tribes, and i learned in oklahoma history how they all came to be in oklahoma from the various parts of the country. but out in civic life, in the political life and economic life of the state, indians were invisible. but that's not the case anymore. and now we see many of the tribes are thriving economically. they are among the largest employers in the state of
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oklahoma, and many of them are the largest service providers to all people, not just to indians, in their respective jurisdictions, supporting education projects, health projects, roads, all sorts of different things. so the tribes are no longer invisible and they are very much in the economic mainstream of the state of oklahoma and it makes me feel really good to see how well they're doing. >> bill is in portland, oregon. good morning. you're next. >> caller: hello. this is bill ray, member of the tribe in oregon. you shared that in d.c. and you talked about sharing resources with classrooms and online. what has the museum done with the veteran population, both native and -- well, especially the native veterans, because they play an active part in
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native society today and historically? >> mr. gover? >> yeah, i'm glad you asked me that. so it would surprise most people to know in the first instance that native americans have served in the american armed forces in every conflict since the revolution, that they are currently serving in all branches of the american military. and it's an article of faith, even though it's hard to prove from d.o.d. records. it's an article of faith in most native american communities that natives serve at a higher rate per capita than any other group of people in the united states. so, we have done the occasional
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program on veterans. we have a couple of exhibitions going around, one on the code talkers and one that we call patriot nations, which sort of recites this history. but the really good news is that in 2013 congress passed legislation that allows us to build a national native american veterans memorial on our grounds here in washington. >> we're showing our viewers an image of what that memorial looks like. >> and i'm happy to say that it is under way, construction is actually happening on our grounds as we speak. it's the result of an international design competition which, as it happens, produced a winning design by a cheyenne peace chief, harvey pratt. harvey is himself a marine, a
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vietnam veteran, and has a career in law enforcement. he's a working artist. he's sort of our version of a renaissance man. he just came up with this incredibly beautiful and moving design that is intended to honor not just all native american veterans, but all veterans. because as you know, in tribal communities, veterans hold a special place and the honor that we offer to veterans is not confined to native veterans. all veterans hold a special place and status in native american communities. so it's our honor to have the opportunity to honor their service through making this memorial available to the people who visit washington. >> and when is it expected to be finished? >> we will open the memorial on veterans day 2020, so november 11th of this year we will be
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dedicating the memorial. we're hoping that we will have several thousand native american veterans attend the opening, but we invite all veterans to come here and allow us to celebrate and honor their service. >> with about a half an hour left in this segment, part of our week-long museum week series here on the washington journal, joining with our friends at american history tv on c-span3 today, we're live from the national museum of the american indian with director kevin gover. we're taking our phone calls and have a special line set aside for native americans, 202-748-8002. jackie is next out of verona beach, new york. good morning. >> caller: [ speaking foreign language ] first, i would like to express gratitude to you, kevin, and all the others who have been stewarding and promoting this
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remarkable legacy for native americans, but i'm wondering if you can speak about the relationship of the national %ym museum of the american indian narrative for nonindigenous people compared to that for native americans. >> well, thank you, first of all. that is a complicated question, of course. there are those, many in the native american community, who think that we should take a very dark view of american history and make the museum almost into a native american holocaust museum where we recite all of the different tragedies that were put upon native communities in the 500 some years since contact.
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and be assured that that has a place in our museum. but as you heard in the opening where richard west was talking about this, we refuse to accept the narrative that native americans are victims, because we are not, because we persist, because in a very real sense we prevailed against astronomical odds. in the year of 1900 or so, there were only 250,000 native americans in the united states. their population had been reduced from who knows how many, the historians guess anywhere from 5 million to 15 million to 20 million people that once resided in what is now the united states. so the continued existence of native america was very much in doubt. and add to that that the policy of the united states quite
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literally was the eradication of tribal existence, that the only way for indians to remain in the modern world was to abandon their tribal ways and give up their identity as the people of their particular tribes. that's a lot of force being brought to bear against only a very few people, and yet look at us now and look at how our communities are recovering, how our communities are beginning to exert economic and political power, but most importantly how their cultural power and their right to be different in certain respects and to believe in the old things and the old ways as still being -- still bearing important lessons for how we're
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going to live in the world today. so when it comes to communication, that's a pretty complicated set of thoughts to get across to an audience in a museum. we have data that says that the typical museum visitor spends an hour, maybe an hour and a half in the typical museum. they might spend 20 minutes in one of our exhibitions. and so we have to find a way to connect with them very quickly, communicate with them and give them something that they latch onto, and hopefully give them something that they leave with that they never thought about before. so the matter of tone is paramount. we could sit there and shake a finger at everybody and say look what your country did to us, but nobody wants to hear that.
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so instead, we're trying to say, look, this history that we share belongs to all of us. we're going to be truthful with you about what that history is and we're going to try to give you a new way to think about this history. but without being accusatory and without trying to lay blame on contemporary americans. you know, they didn't do any of these things to our people in the past and i think it's a terrible mistake to lecture them as though they're somehow responsible for what happened. i would rather that they choose to be responsible for what happens next and that's where i think we can be effective in saying these things that happened in the past, yeah, they were bad, but there are contemporary conflicts that you should know about and that you have the opportunity to have an
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impact on. and if we can do that, then we feel pretty good about how americans are going to deal with those issues. >> one visual that represents a little bit about what you were talking about just there, this map from slate showing the extent of indian homelands in blue and reservations in red and how that changed just over the course of the 100 years between 1800 and 1900. you can see the shrinking blue on that map and shrinking red as well. you said there was about 250,000 native americans in the united states in 1900. where does the population stand today? >> somewhere between 3 and 5 million. it depends on how you count them. if you say -- if you choose to count as native americans only those of us who are citizens of one of the federal or state recognized tribes in the united
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states, then the number is north of 3 million. if you add to that all of the people who identify themselves as native or part native, the number goes up, according to the last census, over 5 million. so however you count it, there are a lot more of us than there were in 1900. >> to high rock, north carolina, this is flyer on the line for native americans. flyer, good morning. are you with us? to flora in seattle, washington. good morning. >> caller: this is flora. >> go ahead, flora. you're on with kevin gover. >> caller: we, we have the tribe in seattle that landed here, i call them our plymouth rock, as opposed to the east coast. but they were recognized,
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supposedly recognized by clinton. the minute bush got in, he unrecognized. how can you unrecognize a tribe? please enlighten me. thank you. >> well, i should say i'm not neutral on this question. in a prior life, i was the assistant secretary for indian affairs at the department of the interior, and one of the matters that came before me was the petition of the duamish for federal recognition. and through a variety of circumstances, it was only in the closing days of the clinton administration that both the chinook tribe and the duamish tribe were finally granted recognition through the administrative process. those decisions were appealed
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and while george w. bush was president, and in the course of the appeal, the administrative law judges determined that we should not have granted recognition to chinook and duamish. and so that is the process. it's not an easy one. i think in many respects it's a tremendously unfair process. but that's what happened. >> who didn't want that to happen? who led the appeal? >> you know, i don't recall. i don't recall who did the appeal. >> philip is next on that line for native americans. sterling, virginia. good morning. >> caller: good morning. i was wondering if you could speak to the cherokee indians. namely their roots and islam. the word cherokee actually has
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arabic roots, meaning cherokee, in the arabic word means those who face to the east. i believe they were called cherokee indians because they used to pray facing the east toward mecca. i was wondering if this was in your knowledge or whether you could speak to that at all. thank you. >> i can't speak to that specifically. that's the first i've heard that. i can relate to a couple other things you said. but, first, remember that the word cherokee is not what they called themselves. that's what europeans came to call that group of people, and so they don't call themselves -- they didn't at least in the first instance, refer to themselves as cherokee. second, facing the east is one of the most common things in all native american cultures, or virtually all of them. and if you look at traditional
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native american homes, you would see that their front door always faces the east. and in many tribes there's ritual associated each day with greeting the rising sun. so i think in those cases it's not so much that they're looking east to face mecca, but rather to greet the rising sun. >> what are cherokee days here in washington, d.c.? >> oh, yes, thank you for mentioning that. so annually the cherokee nation of oklahoma, the eastern band of cherokee indians in north carolina and the band of cherokee indians come to our museum in april and they have a culture festival, where they'll have demonstrations and arts and crafts and songs and dancing to greet our visitors and invite our visitors to come in and
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explore cherokee history and culture. so they'll be here again this year. look on our website for the date in april. and as always, we're anxious to greet the cherokees and turn our museum over to them. >> your museum opened in 2004. faith in california brings up a question on twitter about how the smithsonian institution has dealt with native americans over its long lifetime. faith asking, do you remember when the smithsonian had eskimo skeletons behind glass until someone wanted the bones returned to their ancestors? >> i can't say i recall that specifically. what i do recall from my youth was that the national museum of natural history had a series of
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dioramas, with mannequins of indians doing different kinds of things, usually rather dramatic things and usually dressed in dish materials from the collecti collections of the national museum of nature history. that was the state of native american study at the time. and it is frankly part of the reason that congress chose to establish a national museum of the american indian, to give a much stronger voice to -- not only to native american experts themselves and native american political and cultural leaders, but also to have a museum whose first interest was in having native american people themselves tell their story. so i think it's fair -- i should hasten to add, by the way, that the national museum of natural history would not put on such an exhibition today and that the entirety of the museum field has
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made a dramatic move forward in dealing with native american material. and so we're all struggling with sort of how to take these different narratives that say native people have or african-american people have, or white people have, white people from a certain region, from a certain country, and figure out, how do we weave all those things together, because they're really not separate, at least from the point of contact. they're not separate at all. and yet to sort of pull all those strands together and turn it into a cohesive story about all of us is really very difficult to do in the limited space that we have in any of these museums. so i think what you'll see going forward, though, is all of the smithsonian museums, certainly, but all museums across the country try to figure out how do we do this, how do we be broad
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and inclusive in our storytelling, because there really is no story in american history that could not be told through native eyes. there are no stories in native history that cannot be told through african or african-american eyes. but those native and african-american perspectives have largely been erased in history, history text and the textbooks, and popular culture. and we're working to put them back in, but not to erase anybody else's story. and we think that that's going to make for a much richer story. there are stories we tell ourselves about ourselves in the united states and in every other c
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version of the story you have to leave a lot of things out, a lot of very terrible things. and we're saying as great and as terrible american history can be, it all belongs to all of us. and so learning how to tell those stories, these complex stories in a way that's really accessible for our visitors is one of the great challenges all museums face in this century.--w >> i should note that we'll be at the national museum of african-american history and culture tomorrow in what will be our last stop on this week-long series focusing on d.c. area museums, looking at the american story. that's tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. eastern. about 15 minutes left in this segment with kevin gover at the national museum of the american indian. shirley is in knoxville, tennessee, on that line for native americans.
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good morning. >> caller: good morning. i'm cherokee. we had our dna checked in 2005 and it shows that we are scandinavian country 45% in iceland and norway, 6% in sweden and mexico 82% to 91%, panama 83% to 98% and greenland 80%. >> that's a lot of percentages. >> caller: i'm sorry? >> that's a lot of percentages there. >> caller: yes, yes, and it makes sense because we didn't come to this area until, oh, i don't know, 1600 or 1700s that i understand. and one thing i want to ask. i've been to your museum and it is beautiful, the design is beautiful. but i wonder, do you have the history that -- when i went through, i was with a group of people, so i didn't get to see everything.
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do you have a basic history of the doctrine of discovery and the papal? do you have all of that in your museum? >> no, we do not. you're digging into some pretty complicated and sophisticated territory there. the doctrine of discovery was a european invention that rationalized that the indigenous people not just of native america, but throughout the world, did not actually own the land that they lived on and occupied for many, many generations, and that therefore any christian country was free to come in and take it because they did not own it. and that's a startling concept
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at any stage in history, but it was particularly startling then. and much of american law on the rights that native american nations and their people have are rooted in that doctrine of discovery, which itself was rooted in a series of papals that the spanish explorers enforced throughout the new world. >> it's just before 5:00 a.m. in hawaii and i mention that because jenny is calling from honolulu this morning. good morning. >> caller: good morning, john and kevin. when i was teaching at a college in st. louis, a little tiny school, proprietary school, near the 4th of july i asked my class if they could name tribes of native americans. and it was pathetic in a room full of young adults that they
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couldn't come up with more than a few names of tribes, and there are so many. i do not know how many nations there are. but i had a particularly strong desire to visit hoppe and learn about them because my father took me to visit the hoppe as a child. i wanted to note that hawaii, the culture here, you see many things that remind you of native american experience, but they don't have the writers yet here that i have found, such brilliant writers among native americans on the mainland. i hope it comes here. the hawaiians have strength and a renaissance since the 1970s, which i think was strengthened by the peace movement of the '60s and i think that's true for the american natives on the mainland. thank you for this program. i've been very excited to listen to you and see what you've shown. >> thank you for being up early and watching.
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mr. gover? >> one thing you should know is that as part of our responsibilities at the national museum of the american indian, congress told us that we were to present material about native museum of the american india is that congress told us that we were to present material about native hawaiian history and culture as well and so we've had a couple of exhibitions about native hawaiians. and we have an annual hawaiian festival at the museum each may. so, again, look at our website and you'll find the date for our hawaiian festival which will come up in may. i'm glad you mentioned the writers, because there is just a flowering now of native american literature. there are so many just brilliant writers out there who are doing remarkable work. i should certainly note that the poet laureate of the united
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states is a member of the muskogee nation in oklahoma. there are other writers. there's a young man name tommy orange who just wrote a brilliant book called "there "they're there." they built upon the work of their predecessors. so, you know, native american contribution to the arts of the united states is really quite remarkable and that's one of the things we try to get across at the this museum with our exhibitions and with our programming, and, you know, they are at once distinctively native but at the same time very american and that's the point. that native americans are americans, and that americans really can't escape the indigenous contributions to this country. >> a viewer from ohio brings up
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a topic that's very much in the cultural discussion. the viewer from clark county, ohio saying the mascots at schools here are ridiculously in error. a chief in full headdress is called a wearier. our chiefs are represented as red, white and blue figures. there are four schools in this county with the same clip art images as warrior, chief and braves. the education regarding these figures is absent from the curriculum, insult to injury. what would you say? >> i totally agree. i agree with all of that. it's insulting. it's quite often racist. you know, you can't -- i concluded that -- that non-natives simply can't be trusted with american indian imagery. the football fans in this city tell us that oh, look, you know, we're honoring native americans
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and then they dress up with feathers and behave like fools and tell us that they are honoring us. well they are not. they are engaging in racist conduct. we're offended. we're insulted. we ask you to stop that. >> midge is next out of oregon. good morning. >> caller: good morning. i am comanche and my husband is northern cheyenne. and the time of -- i would like you to speak to the sterilization that has happened to a lot of the northern cheyenne. my husband is a direct descendant of little wolf. >> mr. gover? >> well -- >> go ahead. >> i don't know a lot about the specific situation at northern cheyenne. what i can say is that in the 1970s it was revealed that the
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indian health service upon which many, most reservation indians relied was engaged in a program of involuntary sterilization or uninformed sterilization and that happened to a great many women and families over the course, probably, of some decades. it happened as well in african-american communities where people thought rather than be poor and have a tough life, it was better to see that, that these children weren't born at all, and that's a grotesque and is really genocidal. not enough is known about it. that should be a story that's more commonly known to all americans, because i'm certain that they would not approve. >> david is in gaithersburg, maryland. good morning. >> caller: hey, good morning.
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thanks for taking my call. thanks to your segment. i learned a lot about native americans in the iwo jima segment, too, so, thank you. i'll get to the point. i was hoping you could expand more on your mention of indigenous people in center and south america. i practiced immigration law for about 15 years and met a lot of indigenous folks who didn't even speak spanish and such. you know, a lot of them are able to claim asylum because of being persecuted on account of that, but what the immigration bar is not asking or looking into at all is that is there a connection between our recognized tribes and idnidenous folks and can they be subject to your immigration laws if they are being welcomed to a tribal nation? that kind of thing. so just curious if that connection exists. thank you. >> thanks, david. >> well there are almost certainly connections going way back.
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we know that there was a lot of trade between north and south. there's no other way to account for, for example, parrot feathers in native american design than that they were trading far south and we find material from the north that's in wide use in the central and south american regions. i think -- i'm a lawyer, by the way, by training -- i think it would be pretty tough to maintain that because these people are indigenous and have whatever ancestral connections to tribes would excuse them from the immigration laws. there are a couple of exceptions. one is that all along the southern border, maybe not all along, but certainly in new
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mexico, arizona and california, there are tribal communities that were split by the border itself. for many, many years they didn't know there was a border, they didn't acknowledge a border because they were one community or one set of communities. and that's still the case. in many cases, as i understand, the authorities, the american immigration authorities have found accommodations that allow the free movement of those tribal people back and forth $$r across the border but there's no doubt that it becomes more complicated as the enforcement aggressive. you said one other thing that i think is important to note and that is that many of the people coming to our southern borders and seeking asylum are seeking
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to immigrate are indigenous. they are direct descendants of the indigenous people of the past and many don't speak spanish they only speak a native language and that too complicates any efforts to ensure that their rights are respected under american immigration laws. time for maybe one more call. this morning sally in edwardsville, illinois. you're next. >> caller: good morning. what i wanted to ask about is my understanding is our system of government is based on native american system, that also had three parts to it, legislative, executive and judicial, basically and i want to talk -- i want you to talk about that and talk about how the museum addresses that. >> thank you, sally. >> yeah, i don't know we got anything on display at the moment that makes that connection, but certainly there's a well-established theory that the
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founders, the men who wrote the united states constitution and who fought the idea of independence relied very much on native american ideas of governance, and in particular that of the iroquois or shonee people where they have -- ah, really, a very firm separation of power system, where authority, governmental authority, was distributed over several different bodies and in several different ways, and that when americans, when the early americans were trying to develop a form of government that they borrowed this idea of the separation of powers from what they observed. i think also it would be hard to escape the conclusion that the very idea of freedom, to be truly free and not to have government telling you what to
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do, and limiting government authority over you, must have been something that the early colonists observed in native american communities, which were, if nothing else, very free societies. and very egalitarian. and so, you know, there could be no doubt that native philosophy as expressed through their form of government found its way into american thinking, including what's included in the constitution. >> mr. gover, a final question for you from one of those folks who tweeted in their question, steve in nebraska -- what one thing would be the most beneficial action taken to advance native americans? >> well, out of a range of genuine possibilities, i would say that encourages, if not requiring all americans to learn more about the history of native
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people and their engagement with the colonists and with americans would go far because one of the things people have a hard time understanding is, hey, why is it these indians get to live by their own laws on their he reservations? why do they have reservations nay? why do they get to have casinos? and all of those are fair questions to ask. but there are answers. and those answers simply aren't being taught in our schools right now. it would benefit native people enormously if people just knew more about the basic history and civics of native america and of the united states itself. >> kevin gover director of
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national museum of the american indian. thank you so much for having us in this morning. >> you're welcome. thank you for having me. you're watching "american history tv" every weekend on c-span3 explore our nation's past. "american history tv" on c-span3 created by america's cable television companies. today brought to you by these television companies who provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. next on "american history tv" a visit to the smithsonian national museum of african-american history and culture in washington, d.c. our guest military history curator who joined us from the exhibit, we return fighting. 9 african-american experience in world war i. this is an hour. >> we take you no


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