November 22, 2010
Several of Rollins’ courses teach the important lesson that history is written by those in power. As a result, the vast majority of books do not thoroughly recognize that America was a great nation before 1492, and we largely accept that Christopher Columbus discovered America. However, from the perspective of Native Americans, he was simply the first European to make contact.
This point was one of many addressed by John Echohawk during American Indian Education week. Brought to campus by the American Indian Student Organization (AISO), Echohawk was invited to Rollins to speak about modern Native American rights issues and diversity. He is a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and the executive director of the Native American Rights Fund. Since 1988, he has been named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal.
Echohawk strives to attain the American ideal of self-determination for Native Americans. In this role, he represents 565 different tribes, 229 of which are in Alaska, and the four and a half million people who officially claim to be descendents of Native Americans.
While we may not be able to erase history inscribed in textbooks, Echohawk encourages everyone to participate in telling a new chapter of our joint history. Part of that includes the Native American story—both past and present. Native American history has been one of incremental increases in rights, such as gaining civil rights in the 1960s and self-determination and religious freedom in the 1970s. As with any marginalized group, however, many contemporary issues still need to be addressed.
Two of these issues are water rights in the West and the public education system, which is particularly ineffective for Native Americans. Climate change is another concern, as it directly affects Native American lifestyle.
When asked what people can do, Echohawk replied, “Get educated, get involved, and see where you can help. We will succeed and survive if we have the support of the American Public.”
For more information about the Native American Rights fund, please visit www.narf.org/index.htm.
For more information about the American Indian Student Organization (AISO), please contact Sonia Minors, president of AISO, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Rachel Luce, assistant director of multicultural affairs, at email@example.com.
By Michael Barrett (Class of 2013)
Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.