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Saturday, October 27, 2007

2007 Letters I Receive by CFT

Here is a sample of the kinds of letters and questions I receive and my responses…

Dear Ms. Fox Tree,

My name is Anna (named changed) and I am a student at Local (name changed) College. Last week the College had A Pow Wow, in which I was informed by Ms. Deep River (name changed) from the ----- Nation that the Taino Tribe from the Caribbean Islands, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, still exist and was referred to you. This was a shock to me because I was raised to believe that the Tainos were sweep away from La Quisqueyana when it was invaded by the Spaniards. About 3 years ago I was told by one of my sisters that I was part Indian from my father side, later I was told not to believe this because the Tainos were dead! I would like to know the truth. Where or what can I do to know more about the Tainos and if I do belong to it. Sorry for the bother, but is important for me to know more about myself, this information will help a lot. Thanks for your time and again sorry for the bother.




This is a busy time of year for me with Columbus Day and Native American Heritage month presentations, as well as my full time teaching job and five kids!

No, we're not all dead. Check out this recent article! More and more information is being "dug up" everyday! It wasn't like we were waving our hands and saying, "I'm over here, you missed me!" when Columbus was looking to kill us all. We hid in caves in the mountains, or with other Nations on other islands. We survived!

I grew up NEVER having seen the work "Arawak" in print my entire K-12 education and asking my father to "please spell the word again" several times in my young life. Once I got to college, I am forever indebted to Howard Zinn (a writer and amazing activist), because on page 1 of A People's History of the United States, there it was, the word "Arawak" IN PRINT for the first time. The book was published in 1980 (I graduated high school in 1982). In 1995, James Loewen pubished Lies My Teacher Told Me and that is also an excellent resource. I have since learned that most of the information these white, Euro-American men wrote about comes from the original journals of Columbus, as transcribed by Bishop Bartholome De Las Casas.

Since then, I have read many, many more books. I have traveled to the Caribbean. I have met other Taino and Arawak people in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. And, I have found on line web pages, blogs, MySpaces, and list servs which offer ways to connect with the living, breathing community. It's like a puzzle coming together when you begin to speak with people. You know some things, they know some things, and before you know it, you are piecing together stories, songs, traditions, healing methods, ceremonies, etc. It's not like we've lost it, it's like it was broken apart and is now being held by the community. Once the community comes together, so does the culture.

We are NOT extinct!

Good luck on the journey,

Ms. Fox Tree:
I am a Sociologist at the University of West Georgia. I am currently teaching a Cultural and Racial Minorities course, and in class yesterday, my students shared that they are interested in the German and other European education systems' American/Native American narrative. They are interested to know if they teach a more accurate story of colonization and the European colonizers than our education system. I read that you were mostly educated in the U.S., but I thought you might be able to shed a little light on this topic. If you would be so kind as to share a little insight, I and my students would greatly appreciate it.
Thank you for your time,
Talia (named changed)


Hi Talia,

This is an interesting question and not one that I have ever been asked. My experience is that, in fact, other countries do have a different view of United States history than U.S. texts. Having said that, one needs to understand that in other countries students are learning about their OWN country's history, so the U.S. is not highlighted in detail. Also, as is the case in U.S. books, other countries highlight the great achievements on their own lands, and the not-so-great things other countries did (because, of course, then their country looks even better). So a U.S. book will have a lot to say about the Nazi's, but a German text will have less focus on this negative part of history. Keep that in mind, if you ever look at books from other countries.

One does not need to go as far as Germany to see what other countries are writing/teaching about U.S. history. An elementary history text published in Canada or the Caribbean will tell you a lot. For one, the first chapter is often about the Caribbean and how Europeans invaded, killed, and took over the land to begin a system of slavery. Now, how many U.S. books start like that?

Hope I relayed some "food for thought."



I am a student in U.S. History. For my project, I have decided to research the history of Native Americans from 1492-present. I'd like to have a thorough and completely true report rather than the bland statements I read in American History textbooks. Can you offer an extra, little-mentioned tidbits, stories, or events in Native American History? Any insight or sources for me to get information would be much appreciated.


Well Lori (named changed),

That's a long time period to cover! 500 years of completely true reporting can't really be captured in a movie, report, or talk. You don't mention what grade/level you are in, is it middle school? high school? or college? How long is your paper?

I suggest you choose one region or Nation and focus on what happened to them (that could be a 40 page paper though!). You might want to pick some key events with a Nation and write about the event from the Native perspective and then pick up with a "where are they now" piece. It's important to talk about present day people in all the work you do.

You can check my website below and get details about Columbus, Thanksgiving, and some specific Nations as a start. Just "search" the blog for topics and maybe something will strike you as interesting.

Good luck!