8 things Native people wish non-Natives knew about them

Here's what our editor found people wanted to know
8 things Native people wish non-Natives knew about them
Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society
In this historical photo, a Native American gazes upon the Wisconsin River.

Madison Magazine editor Karen Lincoln Michel asked her Native American friends what they’d like non-Native people to know about them. Here’s what they had to say.

1. We were the people before “We the People.” Benjamin Franklin in 1754 proposed the “Albany Plan” for a unified government of the 13 colonies modeled after the Iroquois Confederacy.

2. Our nations are sovereign. Native people and their governments have inherent rights and a political relationship with the U.S. government that has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. Through that, we are citizens of three sovereigns: our tribe, the U.S. and the state in which our tribe is located.

3. We pay taxes. Native people pay federal income tax just like all other Americans. According to the National Congress of American Indians’ website, the exception is that the income received directly from a treaty or trust resources, such as fish or timber, is not federally taxed. States cannot tax tribal citizens who live and derive their income from tribal lands, but those who work or live outside of tribal lands generally are subject to state income, sales and other taxes.

4. We are patriotic. American Indians and Alaska Natives serve in the U.S. military at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group. During World War I and World War II, Native American code talkers used their languages to transmit messages that confounded the enemy. Their codes were never broken. World War II code talkers from three Wisconsin tribes – Ho-Chunk, Menominee and Oneida – were part of that effort.

5. Our tribes contribute to economic growth. Nine Wisconsin tribes are the largest employer in the county or counties where they are located: Bad River (Ashland), Ho-Chunk (Sauk and Jackson), Potawatomi (Forest), Lac Courte Oreilles (Sawyer), Lac du Flambeau (Vilas), Menominee (Menominee), Red Cliff (Bayfield), St. Croix (Burnett) and Stockbridge-Munsee (Shawano). That’s according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

6. We like to be identified by tribal affiliation, not just as Native American or American Indian. Learn who we are. Many of us come from families with roots in this country going back more than 400 generations.

7. We love to laugh. The stereotype of the stoic Indian is hilarious to many of us. We may be reserved in public because we are taught to respect other people. But once you get to know us, you’ll find that we joke a lot, are quick-witted and thrive on making other people laugh.

8. We are diverse. Although there are basic similarities, each tribe is different with its own teachings, customs, belief systems, language, songs and dances.