`Traditional' vs. `Progressive' Indian Ways

FROM the beginning, those Indians willing to obey the government agents and the missionaries fared much better than those who held to traditional Indian way. Full-blood traditionals sometimes refer to the mixed-bloods as ``breeds'' and to themselves as ``skins'' (short for ``half-breeds'' and ``red-skins,'' respectively), but since many mixed-bloods resist the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs], while certain full-bloods have reason to endorse it, these terms refer less to actual blood ratios than to cultural attitudes. Older traditionals who speak Lakota call the mixed-bloods iyeska, or ``those-who-speak-white,'' the name given to the scout-interpreters of the 19th century, most of whom had a ``squaw man'' for a father. Many traditionals ... lived ``out in the districts,'' in small outlying communities far from the bureaucratic trough, which was all but empty for those people who did not wish to send their children to government mission schools, where the Lakota language and customs were forbidden. Despised and exploited, the traditionals - many of them full-bloods who spoke little English - were the people who suffered most from despair and apathy, poverty and u nemployment, alcoholism, and the random angry violence that besets depressed Indian communities to a degree almost unimaginable to most Americans, who still suppose that ``the government takes care of the Indian.'' In truth, the government takes care of the ``progressive'' Indian who does not resist the assimilating policies of the BIA. Among traditionals, it would be difficult to find a family without an alcoholic or a member in jail, a recent suicide or car-wreck victim, a woman sterilized by the Indian H ealth Service without her consent, or a child removed to a government boarding school or foster home against the family's will. And almost everywhere, these people have been subjected to vicious racism that would not be tolerated by the public or the courts toward any other minority in the country.

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