Untold Stories | Danielle Marhanka

The legacies of Native Americans in Georgia are truly amazing in their sole existence, and being able to see even the reconstructed or limited remains is of no small impact. Often it seems that the times we are most conflicted with the terms of past injustices, is once we have been faced with the scant physical traces left to tell a tragic story. The average person is likely unaware of the true Native history of the United States, save the little stories of the victors we may have been taught in primary school. Many may not even be aware that Emory and the surrounding Dekalb County is land once belonged to Creek Indians, or that just north of Atlanta in former Cherokee territory, is the start of the Trail of Tears. All this is to say that the indigenous history of America is not told through the reality of past genocide, ignorance, and conquest. In fact, its not really even told at all unless one seeks the information.

Largely, many Natives have commented on the importance of maintaining their culture, as well as making the injustices that perpetuate today known to the public. Though there does seem to be an increasing platform for minorities to address relevant political issues, a platform for Natives is really only just beginning to make its way into the political arena. Therefore not only is there the external struggle of finding an identity within American politics, but also the internal politics within one’s own tribe. It seems that a common notion that still exists in many Americans’ minds is that there is a strict divide between Native people and others, instigated through limited knowledge, for example, on entrusted land to Native people and Native rights. This designation of land and other government stipulations for Natives has added to a general belief that Natives are content in their current setting, and the debt has been repaid. Needless to say, it has not.

The relevancy of the past is essential to understanding current political movements of Native people, the external struggles they face, as well as the lesser known internal struggles as long term consequences of the past. Cultural preservation and identity has become so extremely important to some tribes, that those who do in fact have relevant native ancestry are denied native recognition so as to keep bloodlines of subsequent generations purer. So what is this to say about the identity of an individual who has native ancestry, but yet is not recognized by the ancestral tribe? Where is it that they belong, and what is their role now? There does not exist one answer to these questions as many Native people have such different stories to tell, and may see their roles ever-changing. However, one answer seems to withstand the effects of time: a native saying that is used as an expression of the lack of Native recognition by others, as well as to express Native persistence today, “We’re still here”. And they are.

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