America's racist history was about more than
water fountains and bath rooms
or where you sat on a bus
The plight of American Indians throughout the history of America was
determined by many factors. Forcing Indians to live on reservations by
the federal government was not enough.
For Immediate Release For More
November 24, 2004 Press Office, 617 635-4461
Mayor to Repeal
Mayor Thomas M. Menino today is filing a Home Rule Petition asking the
City Council to repeal the Indian Imprisonment Act of 1675. Passed in
the wake of a bloody Native American uprising known as King Phillips
War, the provision prohibited indigenous peoples from entering the City
Until 1980, Indians weren't allowed in Georgia. Now they're expressing pride in their heritage. ALBANY - As a child, Marian McCormick's grandfather told her to wear long sleeves to school to hide her skin color and perhaps escape ridicule. At the same time, the young McCormick was being told to have pride in her American Indian heritage.
As a result of those contradictions, said McCormick, Creek Indian chief for the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe in Cairo, she didn't often brag about her bloodline. When she graduated from Grady County High School in 1973, she always told people that she was white, never Indian."You could not come out and say you were Indian. There was a lot of prejudice," she said.
Not surprising, considering American Indians were not legally allowed to live in Georgia for nearly 150 years up until 1980. Indians had been forced from their land in the early 1830s in a journey that became known as the Trail of Tears. Since then, more American Indians have come back to Georgia to live, and McCormick is no longer shy about expressing pride in her heritage.
As elected chief, McCormick, whose mother was full-blooded Creek, speaks on behalf of Creek Indians in Grady, Mitchell, Decatur, Thomas, Seminole and Brooks counties and some who live in the Florida Panhandle. Grady County has the highest concentration of Creek Indians in Southwest Georgia, 151 out of the 320, according to 2000 Census figures.
Dougherty County has the highest population of Cherokee Indians in Southwest Georgia at 66 out of the 326 Cherokee Indians in Southwest Georgia counted in the latest census.McCormick, who pushes for better education, job skills, medical services, disability benefits, housing and federal recognition for American Indians, said the number of reported Creeks is low. She said she has 3,000 Creek Indians on her rolls at Tama Tribal Town and there are others who refuse to put their name on a list "because they're still afraid. There's still that mistrust.
"I think Georgia's way behind other states in Indian affairs," McCormick said. "They're slowly catching up. "About 170 years ago, American Indians were forcibly removed from Georgia after state legislators and their claims to Indian lands resulted in the Indian Removal Act of 1830, according to the PublicData.com Web site. The Act denied American Indians residence, the right to testify in court and to assemble in Georgia. They were also allowed only conditional travel through the state.
Thousands of Creek, Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians were forced to march to Oklahoma after gold was discovered on Cherokee land in Georgia, according to the Web site. Lacking food and enduring frigid weather and the cruelty of troops who escorted them, about 4,000 Cherokees died during the 116-day march known as the Trail of Tears.
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was repealed in March 1980, and it wasn't until 1993 that the Cairo tribe was officially recognized by the Georgia General Assembly.
McCormick said American Indians could secure a visa to travel through Georgia, but they were not legally allowed to live here until that Act was repealed. Those laws not only slowed the progress of American Indians, she said, but promulgated the prejudice that still exists.
"We have had very few kids graduate from this school system," said McCormick, who cited one Grady County High School graduate four years ago as the first in a 10-year span. "It's difficult because there's a lot of prejudice." Many students still conceal their race because "we've been shot at; some beaten up." Tommy Wildcat, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian of Tahlequah, Okla., has not endured as much prejudice, he said. Wildcat, who recently performed in Albany, said life as an American Indian is "great today."
"I'm making a living out of my heritage that I'm so proud of and educating the uninformed public."Wildcat jokes about how rich Indians were before whites drove them off their land. "We had all the wealth in the world," he said, citing minerals, fishing and hunting. "Whites brought taxes," he said before adding with a broad smile, that "we've never wanted. You just came in and invited yourselves. It's a dark shadow, but we make the best.
"Today, we're all Americans."
Valerie Benton can be reached at (229) 759-0726.
ŠAlbany Area Advertiser 2001
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