Though most people probably don’t know it, September 26 is Native American Day. What we know, or what we think we know, about Native American culture is often a mix of folklore, actual facts and misinformation from the media, thanks to the portrayal of Native Americans on television, in movies and our schools’ history books. For example, it’s interesting to know how Spotted Tail Brule, a Sioux leader in 1877, viewed the war his people fought. He said, “This war did not spring up here in our land. It was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father (whites) who came to take our land from us without price, and who do many evil things…It seems to me that there is a better way than this. When people come to trouble it is better for both parties to come together without arms, to talk it over, and find some peaceful way to settle.”
In honor of Native American Day, we took a moment to check some of our misconceptions and common biases about the indigenous people of North America. Here are 15 facts about Native American culture and history that everyone should know.
1. Pocahontas is just a Disney movie.
Matoaka was her real name and the Powhatan Nation vehemently disagrees with the Disney version of her story. They allege that at age 17, she was actually taken prisoner by the English and agreed to marry John Rolfe in exchange for her freedom.