At the time the first Europeans came to the continental United States, there were at least three million Native people living here. By the time that the Europeans had finished their slaughter in 190, there were only 300,000 Natives left. Since then we’ve regenerated. There are about 1,400,000 Native people in the United States at this time.
At first, however, the Europeans- few in number- asked the Native people if they would share with them. They asked the Indians if they would give them a little land. The Native people had a great sense of generosity. They said, ‘Well, yes, you are our brothers. You share the same mother with us, so here is some land for you.’ After a while the Europeans weren’t happy with that. They kept saying to the Natives, ‘Move over a little, we need more land.’ Then the immigrants over-strained the Indians’ generosity and started forcibly driving the Indians out of their homelands. They began to take more and more land, often at the point of a gun.
The Natives couldn’t understand the concept of the settlers owning the land. They thought the Europeans were using the land as they did. That meant that other people also had the right to go there. Pretty soon there were conflicts because of these different concepts, and the Europeans began killing Native people. To avoid conflict many Natives simply retreated to more remote areas, hoping to avoid the new settlers.
Originally the Native chiefs had brought gifts to honor European men. They asked for their gifts back after they saw the killing that was happening. ‘You haven’t honored the gift,’ they said. ‘You haven’t shown friendship.’ This is where the expression ‘Indian-giver’ comes from. It was the Indian answer to the European practice of not keeping a treaty or agreement. To the Indian people this showed that the gift of friendship or land had no value to the recipient anymore.
Every bit of the land is sacred to the Native people. When the European settlers came across this land, they didn’t understand this sacredness. They didn’t respect the land, so the Natives resisted them.” -From, “Black Dawn, Bright Day” By: Sun Bear with Wabun Wind