Test Your American Indian Knowledge
Take this quiz to test your American Indian knowledge. Click on each question for the correct (and sometimes surprising) answers.
False. Gaming gives Indian tribes hope for economic development, but it has not created great wealth. And not all tribes have gaming. Only 198 of 558 recognized tribes have gaming compacts with their states, according to the National Indian Gaming Association. Most Indian tribes are struggling to lift themselves out of a century of poverty. The tribes that do have gaming operations are required to use proceeds for economic and infrastructure development, law enforcement, health care clinics, social services, and education. The tribes are trying to catch up with the rest of the country to develop infrastructure. Despite gaming, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that more American Indians still live in poverty than any other racial or ethnic group, with 28% living below the poverty line on reservations and 22% nationwide (compared to a national poverty rate of 15.3%).
False. The concept of wealth generated from casinos is greatly exaggerated. In addition, each of the Indian tribes in the United States are sovereign nations, just as France, England, and Germany, which are all part of the European Union, are sovereign, individual nations; or New York and Arizona are sovereign states that collect taxes from its citizens, yet are member states of the United States. Sovereignty means that a nation or state is independent and has the authority to govern all functions within its nation. Just as the nation of France does not support Germany or the state of Arizona does not bail out the state of New York during a fiscal crisis, sovereign Indian nations with casinos are not obligated to support other sovereign Indian nations without casinos.
False. Indian lands were not “given” to American Indians. Indian lands originally belonged to Indians, and the current Indian lands were negotiated by the executive branch on behalf of the U.S. president and ratified by the U.S. senate, just as the government would negotiate treaties with any other nation. Indian lands were settlements as part of those treaties in exchange for trade goods, yearly cash annuity payments, addendums for health and educational aid, and assurances that no other demands would be made of the tribes. Some American Indians receive lease payments for land that is held in trust for them by the federal government. These trust lands are used for mining, ranching, timber, and other purposes, and people receive lease payments for the government's use of these lands just as one would receive lease fees from a tenant.
False. American Indians pay federal taxes on their income and capital gains, just as any other American does. American Indians do not pay taxes on moneys earned from their land allotments, since those lease fees are from the government and were negotiated as part of a treaty. While earning money on the reservation, American Indians also do not pay state, corporate, or state license fees for income or enterprises on the reservations due to the sovereign status of the reservation. While earning money off the reservation, however, American Indians are subject to state income, corporate, and licensing taxes.
False. American Indians are active, patriotic members of the American community. In fact, there are more American Indians proudly serving in the U.S. military per capita than any other ethnic group, according to a 2007 study by Kimberly Huyser titled “Socioeconomic Achievement Outcomes and Veteran Status: Variations among American Indians, African Americans and non-Hispanic Whites.” Thousands of American Indians served in every war, and Indian Code Talkers were instrumental in World Wars I and II.
True and False. Public education is free for American Indians from kindergarten through twelfth grade, as it is for other Americans; a college education is not free. American Indians must pay tuition to go to private schools, community colleges, or universities. The exception is Ft. Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, where American Indian students do not pay tuition as part of a treaty agreement after the state granted free tuition to American Indians attending in exchange for the land on which the college sits.
False. American Indians achieve in all walks of life. Sherman Alexie is a writer who has won the National Book Award. Billy Mills is a gold-medal Olympian. Ben Nighthorse Campbell is a former senator from Colorado. Dr. Lori Alvord is a surgeon and published author. There are also American Indian lawyers, judges, newscasters, educators, nurses, business leaders, scientists, social workers, and more in every imaginable profession.
False. Studies have shown that people who are fluent in more than one language perform better on standardized academic tests, have a stronger sense of self-esteem, and perform better in life. In addition to the measurable benefits, language is part of culture. American Indians of all tribes have a distinct culture. But white educators told American Indians for decades that to succeed they had to forget their language and culture and adopt American ways. This cultural assimilation was often forced in boarding schools and other institutions. This forced assimilation caused physical, social, and psychological destruction of many people. As more students learn to speak the language of their ancestors, they are reconnected with their history and traditions, and the healing process begins. In addition, as many Native languages disappear as fluent speakers are dying, students who learn their Native languages are helping to preserve them for future generations and the world.
False. A history of conquest, which brought war, disease, and forced impoverishment, took the American Indian population at European contact during Columbus' time from an estimated 5 million to 250,000 by 1900. Yet today American Indians and Native Hawaiians number close to 2.8 million, according to the 2000 U.S. Census figures, or one percent of the U.S. population.
False. American Indians live all over the country, and all over the world in far-flung countries. Some Indians live in urban areas, others live off the reservation, and some American Indians live on reservations.
False. Many graduates of tribal colleges and universities choose to remain home on the reservation because that is where they can affect the most change in their careers while helping their people. In addition, the reservation is more than just home to American Indians—the reservations are the home to the sacred places for religious rites and ceremonies, the reservations are the home of ancestors, and the reservations are the cultural center for the tribe.
False. Congress passed The Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, declaring American Indians citizens of the United States . As a result, American Indians then had the right to vote in national elections. One must be a member of a tribe to vote in tribal elections. Indians did not give up their citizenship in their tribes for American citizenship. One can be a tribal citizen and a national citizen, just as one can be a citizen of Florida and a citizen of the U.S. simultaneously.
American Indians can and do hold political office at the federal, state, and local government levels. History books are filled with the names of American Indians who have served for 100 years as congressional representatives and senators on a state and national level, school board members, mayors, and even the vice president of the United States.
False. American Indians are no more predisposed to alcoholism than any other racial or ethnic group or gender. Alcohol is seen as a means to escape suffering by all people who drink, and many American Indians have endured a lot, causing some to seek this escape. Devon A. Mihesuah, author of American Indians: Stereotypes & Realities, says that “drunkenness among other groups is often less visible due to the extent their positive socioeconomic condition distances them from the streets.” In addition, Jack Utter notes in American Indians: Answers to Today's Questions that this myth may have had its origin tied to a pattern of consumption that some Indians, like others, tend to follow, called binge drinking. He says this pattern began to develop among some Indians to reduce the chance that authorities would confiscate alcoholic beverages, as Indians often could not purchase and consume alcohol in the same way that non-Indians could. He notes that binge drinking may continue among some Indians due to prohibitions against alcohol by certain tribes on some reservations. However, there is no evidence to suggest that American Indians are more susceptible to alcohol than any other group of people.
False. American Indians had highly developed societies at the time of conquest. They had highly egalitarian systems, tribal government systems, irrigation and farming systems, languages, religions and rituals, and more. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution which has member sovereign states as part of one nation is based on the structure of the Iroquois Confederacy, or “League of Peace and Power,” comprised of six nations: the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Onondaga, the Cayuga, the Seneca, and Tuscarora. These nations formed a federation around 1142 and a constitution between the middle of the 15th and early 17th centuries.
False. With more than 500 tribes, obviously all American Indians are not alike, and it would be quite difficult to know each tribe's customs and languages. That would be like saying that all Europeans are alike! Each tribe has its different traditions, style of dress, language, religious practices, social structure, world view, gender roles, and housing styles.
False. American Indians live in all 50 states in a variety of dwellings. They live in high-rise apartment buildings in cities, duplexes, wood frame houses, and house trailers. Some Plains Indians go camping in the summer and erect teepees, just as many other Americans go camping and erect tents.
False. Tribal colleges are accredited institutions, and must meet the same standards as any other higher education institution in America. As such, a tribal college degree is recognized by any other higher education institution or hiring organization, on or off the reservation.
False. The majority of American Indians are of mixed heritage. Indians intermarried with other tribes, with African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Caucasians, and people from other countries. American Indians may have straight or curly hair; blue, green, gray, or brown eyes; be blonde, brunette, or redheads; and more. There is no “Indian” look. In addition, many American Indians dress in their traditional ways, others in business clothes, and others in jeans and t-shirts. In addition, many Indian people have traditional and anglicized names; and some have only anglicized names. American Indians are as diverse as any other group.
False. Indians leave the reservations for school and work opportunities, as well as for military service, and more.