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Historian: Native Americans deserve to be remembered as Southerners, too

The people clamoring over whether to keep or remove Confederate monuments agree on one thing: This is a black-white issue. Last month, a graduate student doused the University of North Carolina’s Confederate monument in a mixture of her own blood and red ink. The monument, she said, “is the genocide of black people.”

I recognize my blood on these statues, too.

When people see Southern history in black and white, where are American Indians? Most people believe that the American Indian genocide took place long ago. But it wasn’t completely successful. There are over six and a half million American Indians, and many of them live in the South. North Carolina is home to the Lumbee Tribe, the largest tribe of American Indians east of the Mississippi (55,000 strong), of which I am a member. We are the original Southerners, and we shaped and continue to shape Southern history.

And yet even the most progressive Americans don’t seem to realize this. The coalition organized to oppose the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., last August did not inviteany representatives of Virginia’s seven American Indian tribes to participate.

When asked about his tribe’s exclusion, the chief of the Monacan Nation, Dean Branham, seemed to confirm the general view when he said, “I don’t have any problem with those statues.” He continued, “I just don’t think it’s an Indian issue.”

The “Indian issues” he deals with include how to protect his people’s lands from mining and drilling, how to promote economic development, health and education, and how to obtain, after 10,000 years of tribal history, the federal government’s acknowledgment of the Monacan as a sovereign nation (this was finally achieved in January).

Like Chief Branham, I used to believe that the monuments had nothing to do with me, because American Indians often confronted both the North and South as enemies. Usually the last mention of us in K-12 classrooms is the Trail of Tears, when five Southern tribes were forced West in the 1830s. Even though a small elite group of these Indians owned slaves, their nations had to be removed so that whites exclusively could profit from slavery. ...

Read entire article at NYT