Shekóli. There is an American Indian proverb that says, ‘Tell me the facts, and I’ll learn; tell me the truth, and I’ll believe; tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever.” This magazine is an opportunity for Natives to tell their stories to the world, and in this Travel issue we have put a special emphasis on stories about place—our places, as natural and breathtaking as Antelope Canyon or as architecturally sophisticated as the Chickasaw Cultural Center.
One particular story in these pages is dear to us here at the Oneida Nation: the recognition of the role our ancestors played in the establishment of the United States of America, now on display in a culturally-sensitive installation at the new National Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. Today, many Americans have no knowledge of Native Americans’ role in the revolution. But now they have a chance to learn the rich and compelling story of how our people reached across cultural lines and worked together with the founders in a unified fight for freedom. Before the French helped the effort against the British, it was the Oneida people who became George Washington’s first allies—and at great sacrifice to our people.
For generations, the history of this continent has overlooked Native contributions. Our stories have not been included, our memories have been discounted, and when we have been written it has been by people outside our culture through an ethnocentric lens. Why are Indian-sponsored installations at museums, or magazines such as this one, important—aside from the fact that they tell the truth? Because when our stories aren’t told in the mainstream, we are sometimes treated—by politicians or lawyers or judges and even the general public—as if people don’t know who we are. Native Peoples are intricately intertwined in many key issues throughout this nation. What do people who make decisions about us really know about us? How good is a decision if the information isn’t accurate? How many Supreme Court justices have ever talked to an American Indian? Their decisions have far-reaching effects on our lives for generations. Unless they know the correct information we will continue to have conflict.
Our participation in the museum gave our people great peace of mind, because it was the culmination of years of work to preserve, honor and enshrine our historic role. It ensures the stories of our history are told and retold for generations to come. Stories in this magazine, and on the Indian Country Media Network website, can do the same.
Preserving and teaching the true story of America—then and now—makes certain that an increasingly diverse nation’s history accurately reflects the diversity of the people who were part of it. This is particularly important for all people of color, who too often are the victims of historical revisionism, distortion and omission. In an ever-more diverse country, it is more critical than ever for future generations to learn and appreciate their cultures’ contributions.
NΛ ki' wa,