Voices of Native Youth

Native Americans in U.S. History Textbooks

civilized

Did you know history books give false information about Native Americans? Thousands of children open their history books and learn that Native Americans are “savages” (according to the textbook authors).

Native Americans are portrayed as outcasts and should advocate to make their history known because history books are not reliable, people think we are what history books call us, and at one point everybody was a savage.

A Lack of Education

History books are not reliable because they do not give enough information about Natives. According to a survey of the U.S. history books used in my classroom, there are 307 pages and only 10 pages talk about Natives. For example, the majority of the references talk about Native Americans being victims of the government, such as the time when Navajo people were forced to go on the Long Walk. The textbook fails to include about how the Navajo successfully regained their land.

Of course, there is no background information about the ‘savages’ nor about Native Americans. Children learn and are told that Natives were victims. Consequently, history books should provide more information about the culture of Native Americans before Columbus.

For instance, history books should be rewritten to provide more information and details about Native Americans so students can learn more. History books need to quit only portraying Native Americans as victims and giving false information. 

We aren’t Indians

People keep calling us ‘Indians,’ all because Columbus made a mistake. According to what I found in history books, Native Americans were the people Columbus found during his voyage. But because Columbus thought that he reached India, he called Native Americans  “Indians.” Therefore, people nowadays call Native Americans “Indians” as if we were from India.

People have called us all kinds of names, such as savages, Indians, outlaws, redskins, squaws, and braves. If people researched the meanings behind those names for Native Americans, they would discover that the names are not complimentary.

Schoolchildren learn about us by the names we are called, not about who we are as humans. #socialjustice #native Click To Tweet

As a result, children are learning about us by the names we’ve been called and not about who we are as humans. History books need to stop calling Native Americans by offensive names that people didn’t know the meaning of.

Savage or Civilized?

It might be time to take a hard look at your history books to evaluate them for one-sided history-telling. Native Americans were civilized. #socialjustice #nativeamerican #history

At one point in civilization, everyone acted savagely. The Bible gives evidence of people fighting, killing babies, and stealing from each other. Therefore, the Bible shows that characters acted savagely and acted the way they thought was right, but no one fills history books full of the savage acts of ancient cultures..

In general, it’s not fair that textbook authors call a group of people, such as Native Americans, savages while ignoring the evidences of civilization found among Native cultures. Likewise textbook authors shouldn’t ignore evidence of savagry among the so-called civilized cultures.

Chinampas are an example of Native Americans having more advanced technology than Europeans in the 1500s. Chinampas, which are floating gardens, showed that Native Americans problem solved and thought about their future to make it better.

Thus, Native Americans did not deserve to be called savages because they were more advanced than other civilizations. In other words, don’t call a civilization savage until you know its complete history.

End the Misinformation

Native Americans are not outcasts and should let their history be known. For example, history books only portray Native Americans as victims and give false information. This misinformation allows others to call Native Americans offensive names and make Natives feel as if they can’t speak up for themselves.

It’s time to include information about Native American civilizations and European savagery in history textbooks so that schoolchildren learn a balanced history. It isn’t right to go around spreading false information and name-calling without knowing the background of Native Americans.

Shawnewa Dahozy is a sixteen-year-old junior in high school. She is part Navajo and part Hopi. Her interests include blogging, reading books, journaling, coloring, and hanging out with other people. She wants to let her voice to be heard through writing because sometimes it’s not always easy saying it out loud. Her biggest peeve is when people talk nonstop even when you ask them to stop.

12 thoughts on “Native Americans in U.S. History Textbooks

  1. First, I loved your pet peeve. I, too, hate it when people talk non-stop and don’t even pause to let you get a word in edgewise. 😉

    Second, this was an amazing article! I had never even heard of Chinampas, nor did I know that the terms “braves” and “squaws” are derogatory! And I graduated with a History minor from college!

    I do know that “History textbooks” are not always accurate. The conqueror gets to rewrite history in their favor. Even in Christian education, they leave out information like how Protestants martyred other denominations like the Anabaptists. We all have a tendency to demonize those who are different or think differently from us. We have an “us vs. them” perspective. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” But that’s not true. We can all learn from each other.
    Lila Diller recently posted…Review of Finding Amor by Allison K. GarciaMy Profile

  2. “but no one fills history books full of the savage acts of ancient cultures..” Ah, but there one book that IS filled with savagery and man’s inhumanity to man and you briefly mentioned it… the Bible!
    It is also filled with the cure for that savagery… love and the efforts to understanding.
    It is difficult to love what we don’t understand. What we don’t understand we tend to fear. What we fear we tend to battle against.
    The other thing that tends to turn people into savages is greed, as in “I want what you’ve got and if you don’t give it to me, I’ll take it by deceit or force. So, in this respect the world is still filled with “savages.”

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