Ꭳ Ꮟ Ᏺ (OSiYo), I am Mark Parman, program evaluator for the Community and Cultural Outreach Department of the Cherokee Nation. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, I have a view of the American Evaluation Association attempts to bridge the gaps between those of different races and classes not common within AEA and brought into focus as Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day. During the first AEA Dialogue on Race & Class, Dr. Melvin Hall asked, “What do we need to know and understand so that we don’t perpetuate in-equality”? When it comes to Indigenous peoples, there is quite a lot that the dominate society does not know or understand.
Coming into an Indigenous community, understand that the Americas are our land. We have lived here for as long as 30,000 years. The European invaded just over 500 years ago. Our cities were equal to those of the world. Cahokia had a population of 20,000 in AD1000 making it larger than London. Along with great cities we built knowledge of astronomy, agriculture and arts.
Between 1452 and 1493, Catholic Popes, issued decrees declaring inhabitants of Africa and the Americas, Pagans, not deserving the right to own land and could be enslaved, converted, or killed. These papal bulls are still the basis for Indian Law in the U.S.
Despite these efforts, we still exist as sovereign nations. Many were recognized by European leaders before there was a US. My Cherokee Nation entered into the family of nations with a treaty in 1721.
Diversity of Indigenous Nations most also be understood. There is no Indigenous culture and especially no “American Indian” culture in which to become competent. From the Absentee-Shawnee to the Zuni, there are a wide range of cultures, histories, languages and spiritual beliefs. The United States recognizes 567 sovereign Indigenous nations. In Canada that number is 617 First Nations. Each nation is unique and sovereign.
The American Thanksgiving is a myth. Wampanoag warriors, in 1621, investigating gunfire at a Pilgrim village found them celebrating the harvest. As an act of peace, the Wampanoag, were fed. This was not repeated.
In 1636, a murdered man was discovered in Plymouth. Major John Mason’s soldiers killed over 400 neighboring Pequots, including the women and children, blaming them for the murder. The Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony proclaimed: “From that day forth, shall be a day of celebration and thanks giving for subduing the Pequots.” For the next 100 years on Thanksgiving Day, they honored the bloody massacre.
Lessons Learned: As you enter an Indigenous community there will be much you will not understand. Within my own Nation, there are words, customs and histories that I do not know. In these cases, ask questions. This is the human thing to do.
As the expert in evaluation, bring that knowledge. But our communities have much to offer you as well. Ask questions so that your work can be responsive to that community’s culture. Together we can sustain our communities.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation (IPE) TIG week. All posts this week are contributed by members of the IPE Topical Interest Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.