SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Independence Day means fireworks, barbecues and
get-togethers. It is also a reminder to many American Indians of several
centuries of injustice.
As a result, some American Indians have mixed or generally disinterested
feelings about the holiday that marks American independence from Britain.
From the redwoods to the Mexican border, California Indians and American
Indians living in California spoke out on how they feel about Independence
Ray Crabtree, a video technical manager for Shodakai and a Coyote Valley
tribal member in Mendocino County, said: "I never really gave it much
thought. I do know that it damn sure wasn't our independence."
Crabtree said he felt that Independence Day is just one of many holidays
that do not really pertain to American Indians.
"Christmas, Easter, the Fourth of July; it doesn't matter, one's not really
better than the other," said Crabtree.
When asked if there are any holidays that he celebrates, Crabtree said that
he likes California Native American Day on Sept. 22.
Heather Jiminez, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin living in
California, said that she goes to Independence Day celebrations. Her
reasons are more personal than political.
"I just think the celebration, any celebration, is fun for the kids and
it's great to be around a lot of people. I've wondered if I should, though.
I'm proud to be Indian and I don't know; I've never really studied the
reasons behind it [Independence Day]," said Jiminez.
Filmmaker Monique Sonoquie, Chumash/Apache, has studied the reasons behind
it and offers several perspectives on the holiday.
"I think that Indian people are patriotic, but for us patriotism is a
different concept than for everyone else. We're patriotic because we fought
in every war this country has ever fought and we respect our veterans. We
respect the flag because our people carried it in battle, but we're not
fooling ourselves. I mean, we know that we got the shaft," said Sonoquie.
Sonoquie went on to explain the reasons behind the generally indifferent
feeling that many American Indians seem to have toward Independence Day.
"This country just started out horribly on the wrong foot [in regards to American Indians] and is still hopping around on that foot," said Sonoquie.
What about official celebrations for organized tribes?
"We have a pow wow here at the casino on the Fourth," said Pechanga tribal
member Leslie Stevenson, adding that she didn't know if the pow wow is
meant to consciously mark Independence Day or if it just happens to
conveniently fall on a long holiday weekend.
"I don't really think about the meaning. I do like the pow wow because I
can see my friends that I used to work with in L.A. I especially like to
watch my granddaughter dance," said Stevenson.
"Nope" was the succinct answer given by the Mariposa County-based Picayune
Rancheria of Chuckchansi Indians when asked if they have an official tribal
celebration. "I think that everyone goes over to Bass Lake and some other
nearby places, but nothing official here," said a tribal headquarters
worker who did not give her name.
A Santa Rosa Rancheria tribal member named Mary - who declined to provide
her last name - has probably the most personal reason not to like
"I don't like the Fourth of July [holiday] because it's my birthday. When I
was young I was naive. I thought everyone was celebrating my birthday,"
"Now I just try and get away and make it a day for myself."