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By James Smith, columnist for the Battle Creek Enquirer
Ralph Ellison wrote a novel in 1952 titled "Invisible Man." The book deals with a black man who considers himself socially invisible to white society. Native people are much like that character in Mr. Ellison's book in that they are more times than not invisible to white society as well.
President Obama proclaimed November as National Native American Heritage Month and Nov. 27 as National Native American Heritage Day, something I personally find ironic given that the 27th followed Thanksgiving. If President Obama knew how a lot of Native Americans really feel about Thanksgiving, he might have wanted to reconsider the date. A presidential decree honoring Native Americans is fine, but how often are they in our conscious thoughts as a society? I've heard public figures and lawmakers describe the ethnic makeup of this country when trying to be inclusive of the different racial groups that comprise America.
You know, blacks, whites, Latinos and Asians. Rare is it that Native Americans are mentioned in the mix. Because their numbers are small due to almost being exterminated by the government and white man's diseases, they are invisible!The only time Native people are in most people's thoughts is when a casino is about to open in a community. And that's only about the revenue it will bring to that city or town. People don't think about how poor living conditions are on reservations.
The suicide rate for Native American youth is well above the national average because they have no hope for the future. Substance abuse is high due to low or no self-esteem because of racism they encounter in trying to find work or in housing if they want to live off the reservation. Native Americans were never looked at in the first place as people; they were something that was in the way of white expansion in the Americas and had to be gotten rid of.