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Interview With A Native American Essay

1306 words - 5 pages

The Interview I interviewed a Native American woman, via the Internet, named Velda Friedlander-Shelby. She is part of the Kootenai tribe, which is located in the Flathead Reservation in Montana. The reservation is a combination of white people as well as Indians. Currently she works as a Political-Economic Analyst in the government of the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Economics at the University of Montana. I met her through sending emails to different Native American websites and she was eagerly responded to tell me of her experiences. Velda's ethnic identity is very important in her daily life. Her job consists of dealing with the people of her tribes' constant struggle against stereotypes, discrimination, and inequality towards their sovereignty. She also has experienced many forms of discrimination and racism throughout her life. She first became aware of her identity and ethnicity in first grade. Velda said that, " the children physically attacked me for being what they perceived to be a "˜dirty Indian' because I frequently wore the same clothes throughout the week." As she struggled to keep her balance, she accidentally scratched another girls arm. She continues to say that as the teacher led the girl away she overheard "her reassuring the girl that she did not have "˜Indian germs', but the school nurse would check her out anyway." The act of defending herself was considered fighting and she became aware of her differences from those of the "white children" at the school and living in the reservation. By the time she became a freshman in high school, many of her Indian friends had dropped out for reasons other than academic achievement. Most were quite intelligent but because of the constant harassment and abuse in the school system it was too overwhelming for them to continue. Two of them eventually took their own lives, many of them have died from death related to car accidents that were usually related to drug and alcohol abuse. Also some have ended up in jail, and in Lake County the majority of inmates are Native Americans. She related another story to me in which she was helping an Indian friend who was intoxicated and had been stabbed. Instead of the hospital helping him they called the police. "The police said they could help my friend only if I spoke to a reporter, who was called to the scene. In the meantime my friend had fallen off the operating table and was bleeding all over the floor." She refused to speak to the reporter and went to help her friend to a different hospital that treated him promptly. Many of the problems Velda and her people have suffered because of stereotypes perpetuated by television, movies and children's literature. They also come from ignorance of the rights and laws that protect the many different tribes that make up the Native American label. Many of those that she has to...

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