Now that the campaigns are in full swing between the Republicans and the Democrats, we are witnessing the role the American Constitution will continue to play. The 5 - 4 ruling by the Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia's ban on handgun possession and decided for the first time in the nation's history that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to own a gun for self-defense.
What is very interesting about that ruling is that the indigenous peoples of this land - the American Indians and the Alaskan Inuits - were not legally able to have firearms until 1953. This is very bizarre when one considers that these indigenous Natives were hunters and gatherers. We did, of course, keep our firearms. The Europeans that came here tried to turn us into their image and become farmers.
There are other ironies with the American Constitution. Take, for example, the right to religious freedom. It was only a few years ago that Natives were granted, of sorts, religious freedom. The access to peyote and other tribal practices were prohibited.
In contrast, all other faiths have more freedom than the original Americans, the First Americans. The strangeness to all of this is that the American Constitution was not first written by ''the White-Haired Fathers,'' but by the American Indians.
I am an old man now, but in the last 15 years I taught courses about the American Indians at American University, Catholic University and George Mason University - all in the D.C. area. It was interesting to see the expression on students' faces when they learned that the American Constitution first appeared as a blueprint of the Iroquois Indians' Constitution. You will find this most interesting and should make you all proud that again the Indian made a contribution to the modem world.
- Dr. Edwin Richardson
President, Kiyan Indian Consultants
Fairfax Station, Va.