After Independence Day, one thing strikes me: if American Indians are ever going to be free of poverty and being treated as second-class citizens, education is vital.
Education does not just mean the basics: the math, the science, the language and reading skills: education also means being educated in the Indian way. Learning our native languages. Learning our traditions and ways as Indian people, and preserving them.
Why is this important to our independence? Because we were then, as we are now, strong and independent people. And to appreciate that strength and independence, we need to continue to cultivate our strengths as Indian people, preserving our languages and teaching them and our ways to our children, rather than subverting them to a dominant culture. Just as other groups celebrate their heritage while achieving great things as the part of this great democracy, so should we as American Indians. Education is the key to that freedom: freedom from poverty, and the freedom to define who we are as a people.