8 things natives wish non-natives knew about them


Here’s what our editor found people wanted to know
Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society
In this historic photo, a Native American gazes at the Wisconsin River.

Madison Magazine editor-in-chief Karen Lincoln Michel asked her Native American friends what they would like non-Native people to know about them. Here is what they had to say.

1. We were the people before “We the people”. Benjamin Franklin proposed in 1754 the “Albany Plan” for a unified government of the 13 colonies on the model of the Iroquois Confederacy.

2. Our nations are sovereign. Indigenous people and their governments have inherent rights and a political relationship with the US government that has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. Because of this, we are citizens of three rulers: our tribe, the United States and the state in which our tribe is located.

3. We pay taxes. Native Americans pay federal income tax like all other Americans. The exception, according to the National Congress of American Indian website, is that income received directly from treaty or trust resources, such as fish or timber, is not taxed federally. States cannot tax tribal citizens who live and derive their income from tribal lands, but those who work or live outside tribal lands are generally subject to state income, sales, and other taxes.

4. We are patriots. American Indians and Alaskan Natives serve in the United States military at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group. During WWI and WWII, Native American code speakers used their languages ​​to convey messages that confused the enemy. Their codes have never been broken. World War II code speakers from three Wisconsin tribes – Ho-Chunk, Menominee, and Oneida – were part of that effort.

5. Our tribes contribute to economic growth. Nine tribes in Wisconsin are the largest employer in the county (s) where they are located: Bad River (Ashland), Ho-Chunk (Sauk and Jackson), Potawatomi (Forest), Lac Courte Oreilles (Sawyer), Lac du Flambeau (Vilas) ), Menominee (Menominee), Red Cliff (Bayfield), Sainte-Croix (Burnett) and Stockbridge-Munsee (Shawano). This is according to the Wisconsin Department of Education.

6. We like to be identified by tribal affiliation, not just as Native Americans or American Indians. Learn who we are. Many of us come from families whose roots in this country stretch back over 400 generations.

7. We love to laugh. The stereotype of the stoic Indian is hilarious for many of us. We can be reserved in public because we are taught to respect others. But once you get to know us, you’ll find that we joke a lot, have a quick wit, and strive to make others laugh.

8. We are diverse. Although there are basic similarities, each tribe is different with its own teachings, customs, belief systems, language, songs and dances.


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