It is a dream. It is what people who have come here from the beginning of time have dreamed. It's a dream landscape. To the Native American, it's full of sacred realities, powerful things. It's a landscape that has to be seen to be believed. And as I say on occasion, it may have to be believed in order to be seen.

- N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa)​

 

THE WEST

(Through Native Eyes)

 

Freedom, adventure, simplicity, resilience, honesty, and pastoral bliss describe the supposed characteristics of the cowboy and the American West, today and in times past. Genocide, racism, intolerance, displacement, inequity, brutality, and despair are more accurate terms to describe the West if you are one of its first inhabitants, a Native American. The myth of the American West and the romanticization and simultaneous vilification of its first inhabitants can represent itself in many social constructs: literature, films, poetry magazines, art, photography, clothing, speech and the internet. In my research, I explore the turbulent history of the West and the myths that have grown up around it and how this history has impacted the West’s first inhabitants: American Indians--namely, those located in Montana (where seven Native American reservations reside). Being a Native American woman born and raised in Montana, I have been personally impacted by misleading notions of Native American people in the West. In my research, I examine the often hostile nature of the West--both geographically and culturally. I explore the roots of the inherent racism embedded in the West. I interrogate the long-held belief among Westerners (past and present) that Native American people are an impediment to American progress. While historians of the American West abound, the Native American (and female) perspective on the West is seldom heard. I am compelled to bring a new perspective to America’s vision of the West.

 

©2020 Haley Rains