The Vanishing Indian
The introduction of Dawnland Voices not only explores the many obstacles that Siobhan Senier faced with creating this anthology. She also highlights some of the struggles and ignorance from others that the native people have faced as time passed by. One of these struggles helped inspire many of the stories and poems from the authors included in this anthology. That being the myth of the “vanishing Indian”. As explained in the introduction, the myth was developed by European settlers in which they labeled themselves as the “first” Americans. “Yankees like to believe that Native people ‘died off’ (or ‘lost’) early on and that those who didn’t die were ‘assimilated’ or have ‘very little real Indian blood”(Senier 2). This has been proved to be false following Senier’s search for different native writers that were believed to be nearly nonexistent. This discussion greatly refers to Donna Loring’s story “The Dark Ages of Education and a New Hope: Teaching Native American History in Maine Schools” which discussed the struggles that native people have have faced in public schools.
This story greatly relates to the topic of the vanishing Indian in which Donna explains how difficult it is to be enrolled in the public school system being a Native American. Like for most people of color, the public school system was made to educate city children. However, it just ended up setting students up for failure in which they do not receive the same opportunities or education as people who attend private schools. Native Americans often are discriminated against in the public school by both the teachers or professors as well as by the students. Donna explains, “I remember a nun shaking a girl by the shoulders and yelling, “Look at me, look at me”… [even though] direct eye contact between child and adult was considered arrogant in the Native culture. We were being forcibly disconnected from everything our parents and elders had taught us”(240). Otherwise explained, native children attended schools where they were not excepted and expected to change their ways. These public school authorities were trying to strip these children of their identity.
Donna continues to explain how even though she did not have the same experience as most Native American children (and other children of color) in the public school system, she still understands what it is like to live in the ‘white man’s world’. Another way that Indians were essentially ‘vanishing’ is because public schools did not educate students of native American history. Even in today’s society, there are still children and adults that believe that Christopher Columbus actually founded America. In reality he did not and he caused a serious travesty of the Native American group in which he and his men killed a bunch of Native Americans. With all of this being said, Donna stated, “I guess you could call the early years of “kill the Indian and save the man” the dark ages of education”(241). This stills remains a reality in our modern society.