Photo Courtesy of Standing Rock Reserve
Article Written by Mikaela Wall
How would you feel if the government came in, took away your property rights and stripped part of your land to build infra- structure? That is exactly how the indigenous people of America feel right now.
There have been many protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation that spreads over North and South Dakota. The protest is to protect the right of the indigenous people’s land—the land the government wants to step on and build an underground oil pipeline. More importantly, this protest gave U.S. citizens an opportunity to learn more about a culture they might not have even known existed.
Indigenous people are an ethnic group of people that inhabited certain regions or land and were native to the land. There are indigenous people who have settled all over the world, but more recently, there has been growing attention on the indigenous people of North America, who they are, and what their history consists of.
These indigenous people are commonly known as “Indians” or “Native Americans”. Ac- cording to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States has about 6.6 million Native Americans still living here, that is roughly 2% of the entire population. It is easy to see why they continue to be forgotten about but their culture is one that we should all be familiar with because the pilgrims who we idolize as discovering our nation were the ones who took the land that was previously colonized by the ingenious people.
There are many colonies of Native Americans still around and our very own Commonwealth of Virginia has a few active tribes. The Powhatan Indians is a term to describe the group of indigenous people living in Eastern Virginia. According to the Virginian Pilot, there are 11 tribes that Virginia recognizes which cumulatively consist of about 8,500 to 9,500 Powhatan Indians.
These tribes and nations still have requirements for membership, which can include paying dues, attending tribal meetings, belong to a tribal church, help out with events and represent Native American’s in the best way possible. In addition to tribal membership, they have held onto traditions that have descended through generations. Some of these traditions include festivals and wearing native clothing during pow- wows.
This culture is one most of us are unfamiliar with, but as Native Americans become more vocal and better known in the modern world, we should educate ourselves on their history and culture because it was once their land,we now live in it.