American Indian Heritage Month: Commemoration vs. Exploitation
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The question of how best to recognize the unique history of Native Americans is a difficult one. From the creation of Senate Bill 1852, which suggests establishing a National Native American Heritage Day, to the building of the massive Crazy Horse memorial in South Dakota, no real solution has been reached that meets the approval of all parties affected, both American Indian and non–American Indian.

Our first author, Don Fixico, argues that passing Senate Bill 1852 would bring positive recognition of Native American heritage to the forefront of public awareness. There is a perception of Native Americans as being apart, or outside of, American history and society, Fixico says. This perception is strengthened by the large number of negative stereotypes and adjectives used to describe Native Americans. Fixico feels S. 1852 would help reverse this. Our second author, Margaret Field, agrees with the idea that Native Americans are falsely stereotyped. The American public, Field explains, gets negative ideas about American Indian history from popular culture. Further, it leads the American public to believe that all American Indian cultures are alike, and worse, that they are dying out. Our third author, Steven Danver, underscores Margaret Field's assertion that the American public must be reeducated regarding its perception that Native Americans are dying out. The public must have wide access to accurate knowledge, Danver says, citing positive steps recently taken in this direction, such as the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., in 2004. Such steps, while positive, are not enough, Danver indicates, while questioning whether a national recognition day would be adequate as well. Danver believes that public education must be made a priority.


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