Modern Native American life has changed drastically from that of what it used to be. One can only imagine how incredibly hard life would have been in the late 1800s without the help of modern technology. In James Welch’s book, Fool’s Crow, one not only learns what the Western United States was like in the late 1800s, but can also grasp the ways of early Native Americans. Fools Crow, the main character in the book, portrays exactly what the average Indian boy of his day was like. He had strong family values, faithful religious beliefs, and knew his direction in life. Unfortunately this is not so true for most Native Americans of today.
Many current Indians are suffering from poor family structure, lack of education, and loss of religious beliefs. Family structure was one of the most important aspects of life for Native Americans of the 1800s. Back then there was almost no difference between an Indian man or woman’s fifth cousins and his or hers sister. Both were treated the same, and both were respected immensely. But now the family structure of Native Americans has diminished. The communication between the majority of parents to children is very slim, if any, and many young Native Americans don’t even have contact with there grandparents and other extended family.
In Fools Crow’s generation it was very common to often have ceremonies where all members of a family were expected to attend, whether they were a grandparent or a brother. This failure of family structure in modern Indians has caused many individuals to lack security and subsidity. Education is a problem among Native Americans as well. It used to be that when a young Native American turned a certain age it was his or her duty to learn the ways of survival. For boys it was hunting and learning to provide for his future family.
For the women it was learning various duties such as cooking, tanning hides, and caring for the children. Indians used to educate themselves in order to survive as a team. Each person learned to do his or her specific duty in order to prosper individually, and as a tribe or band. But now education is substantially different. It still focuses on the essentials for survival and the need for one to prosper as an individual, but it lacks what white people are learning. Teachers on reservations are often the product of poor education themselves, and have nothing to offer young Native Americans.
One of the most prominent problems, however, is that reservations can’t afford to hire quality teachers to educate their children. Thus, there continues to be uneducated Native Americans, which, in turn, causes this misfortunate cataclysm to continue. Another, and most important, aspect for a specific group of people to thrive, is religion. Ever since the first civilized human lived, there was religion. For most people, religion is the glue that holds their life together. It helps to provide purpose and meaning to all life.
Native Americans of the 1800s, and before then, held very strongly to their beliefs. Religion was in everything they did. Whether it was planting crops or going on a big hunt, religion was the key to it. But now the Native American’s religious beliefs have faded dramatically. Most of today’s Indian youths no longer believe or practice the religion of their ancestors. Without religion, modern Native Americans find themselves insecure in what their purpose in life is and they often lack moral responsibility as well.
The key to possibly fixing this problem is to educate young Native Americans about what their people used to believe in, and what role it played back then. With some good leadership skills and a lot of enlightening, maybe the old Indian religion will be fully restored to what it once was. In conclusion, Native American culture is rapidly being destroyed. Modern Native Americans have lost what it takes to keep a culture alive; religion, structure, and education. If Native Americans are once again going to flourish as a ethnic society, people need to do whatever they can to help build back the essential parts of Native American life.
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