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Home Of The Free, Land Of The Braves? - A Wampanoag Perspective This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Plimoth Plantation is a living historical museum. The museum lets one experience how the pilgrims lived in the past. Ironically, the most lasting experience I had on a recent field trip there came not from the historical segment, but from a conversation I had with a Wampanoag Indian of the 20th century.

I had recently been watching the 1991 World Series, the Atlanta Braves versus the Minnesota Twins. Baseball is the American pastime, but not all "Americans" enjoyed watching the game this year. Some people were taking offense. These people are the native American Indians. The Indians are angered by the Braves fans' "tomahawk-chopping." I asked myself why the Indians are taking offense. What is their reason? During my visit to Plimoth Plantation, I found out it revolves around stereotyping.

"You being a true Indian," I asked, "how do you feel about the recent Atlanta Braves controversy?"

"A true Indian?" the Wampanoag replied. "That is where the problem starts." He said you cannot classify all the separate Indian nations as Indians. The people of America view all Indians as having the same culture. For example, Americans might picture all Indians wearing feathers, putting on face paint, and running around chanting and swinging tomahawks. The "tomahawk chop" of the Braves fans is creating a stereotype of all Indians.

This Wampanoag continued that each Indian nation has its own individual culture, which is more than Americans have. What is American? It is a melting pot of other cultures, therefore America is nothing culturally.

Columbus sailed to the new land, killed thousands of Indians and named the continent America. Nothing of the Indians was recognized by the newcomers. The white settlers treated all Indians the same and forced them to change their customs to fit into white man's society, or move off the land. The Indians were tricked. Their philosophy of owning land was different from the settlers'. Indians were tricked into losing their land by making several agreements with the settlers. The settlers asked the Indians to share their nation's borders and then took the land from them because the settlers believed the Indians were giving the land to them. None of the settlers realized that they were invading nations and taking over, no different from what Saddam Hussein did last year.

The Wampanoag disagreed with the American lifestyle. He said that the people of today live too close together. In his nation, 30,000 people lived in all of eastern Massachusetts territory which covers 20 miles north, west, and south of Cape Cod. Today a hundred thousand people live on Cape Cod alone.

The Wampanoag also disagreed with the American view of Indian life. Americans don't see different Indian tribes as separate nations. The Wampanoag however would see the Navajo and Mohawk tribes as separate nations, just as Americans view France and Mexico as separate countries.

The lifestyles of the Wampanoag Indians and that of the American citizens are two totally different concepts of life. Each nation doesn't respect the other as highly as it respects itself. Ironically there is a strong similarity: Americans don't consider the Indians to be separate cultural nations and this Wampanoag didn't consider America to have its own culture as a nation. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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