North Dakota Eclectics

Family Lives

There is a common belief that, among the Native Americans, women did all of the work and were very unhappy, living in abject slavery.

This is likely greatly exaggerated. While Indian women did work hard, as was necessary in primitive life, overall they were happy in their surroundings and had no desire to change it.

Sullen Disposition

Many people think of Native Americans as being stoic people, who never laugh, and seldom speak. Even the occasional student of history will realize that, in their encounters with Europeans, there was often a need for seriousness, and little for laughter. This impression of Native Americans may have been formed when they met for treaty purposes, as Native Americans most always took on an air of dignity and solemnity in these occasions. Perhaps if the European Americans had taken their treaties more seriously, there would have been less bloodshed.

Among family and those who they considered friends, Native Americans were happy and playful. They laughed, they told stories, and they enjoyed themselves, but they seldom appropriated the fake smile of the white man.

Land Ownership

The chief struggle between the European Americans and those who were here before was over the possession of the land. This problem had much to do with a misunderstanding of the Indian's idea of land ownership. While tribes did struggle over hunting areas and territories, they did not believe that they owned the land in the way that the Europeans understood it. Whatever a Native American made, or shot, or traded for, was his own personal property, but he did not consider land to be among the things that could be owned.

Therefore, when a few of the chiefs, after being flattered, lied to, or bribed with presents, signed away their land, it is unlikely that they understood that they were giving away the exclusive right to the land, and others in the tribe didn't believe that the chiefs had the authority to sell it anyhow.

This, of course, was compounded by the fact that nearly every treaty that was made with them was broken as yet more land was sought.

Of Interest