Many years ago during my childhood, one of my first cousins (who was a college student and knew everything) told me that Papa, our grandfather, used to tell her he was descended from the Blackfoot tribe. I looked it up at the library, and told her that the Blackfoot Indians lived up north and out west, not in southern Virginia where our people were enslaved back when. She said there were northern Blackfoot Indians and southern Blackfoot Indians. I accepted that as a compromise, and I accepted that we were part Indian and part African. I would later learn that we were likely part Scottish too, but that is material for a different chapter. (photo of Papa, below.)
As a consequence, I have identified, from childhood, with the plight of Native Americans, or, as they are known in Canada, members of the First Nations.
Which brings us to today. Sort of.
The pediment above the Senate doors at the East front of the Capitol has a marble sculptural group that is titled “Progress of Civilization.” Here is the whole pediment:
Let’s take a look at the far right end. Yes, Native Americans, First Nations’ people. Let’s zoom in for a closer look:
Erected in 1863. First sculptured in Rome, 1856, by the same sculptor who later made the pediment. Not a pretty sight. Pretty pessimistic view of the future. But official US policy at the time. Round them up, march them west, make them die. These are not nice words, I know. But the history is fairly accurate. The Supreme Court ruling on Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia (1831) was every bit as odious for Native Americans as the Dred Scott decision (Dred Scott Vs. Sandford (1857)) was for free Blacks (or any Blacks) at the time. Sometimes the Supremes get it wrong. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 passed in Congress by one vote.
Now, finally, today. Thanksgiving. We give thanks. But Native Americans have a different view. Since 1970, they have called it the National Day of Mourning. Native Americans figure prominently in the story we all learn about the first Thanksgiving. It is largely a myth.