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The American Indian



      For a subject worked and reworked so often in novels, motion pictures, and television, American Indian remain probably the least understood and most misunderstood Americans of us all.

      American Indians defy any single description. They were and are far too individualistic. They shared no common language and few common customs. But collectively their history is our history and should be part of our shared and remembered heritage. Yet even their heroes are largely unknown to other Americans, particularly in the eastern states, except perhaps for such figures as Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce warriors of the 1870's, Osceola and his magnificent, betrayed Seminoles of the 1830's, and possibly Sacagawea, and Shoshoni "bird woman" who guided the lost Lewis and Clark expedition through the mountain passes on Montana.

      When we forget great contributors to our American history-when we neglect the heroic past of the American Indian-we thereby weaken our own heritage. We need to remember the contributions our forefathers found here and from which they borrowed liberally.

      When the Indians controlled the balance of power, the settlers from Europe were forced to consider their views, and to deal with them by treaties and to her instruments. The pioneers found that Indians in the Southeast had developed a high civilization with safeguards for ensuring the peace. A northern extension of that civilization, the League of the Iroquois, inspired Benjamin Franklin to copy it in planning the federation of States.

      But when the American Indians lost their power, they were placed on reservations, frequently lands which were strange to them, and the rest of the nation turned its attention to her matters.

      Our treatment of Indians during that period still affects the national conscience. We have been hampered-by the history of our relationship with the Indians-in our efforts to develop a fair national policy governing present and future treatment of Indians under their special relationship with the Federal government.

      Before we can set out on the road to success, we have to know where we are going, and before we can know that we must determine where we have been in the past. Is seems a basic requirement to study the history of our Indian people America has much to learn about the heritage of our American Indians. Only through this study can we as a nation do what must be done if our treatment of the American Indian is not to be marked down for all time as a national disgrace.

"Year of the Indian" by George W. Bush Sr.
Including A clarification of Columbus' Discovery...

      "Half a millennium ago, when European explorers amazed their compatriots with stories of a New World - what they actually described was a land that had long been home to America's native peoples.

      "The contributions that Native Americans have made to our Nation's history and culture are as numerous and varied as the tribes themselves. Over the years, they have added to their ancient wealth of art and folklore a rich legacy of service and achievement.

      During 1992, we will honor this country's native peoples as vital participants in the history of the United States. This year gives us the opportunity to recognize the special place that Native Americans hold in our society, to affirm the right of Indian tribes to exist as sovereign entities, And to seek greater mutual understanding and trust.

      "The Congress, by Public Law 102-188 has designated 1992 as the 'Year of the American Indian,' and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this year.

      Now therefore I, George Bush, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim 1992 as the Year of the American Indian. I encourage Federal, State and local government officials, interested groups, organizations and the people of the United States to observe this year with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities."

--President George Bush Sr. - March 1992

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