Interview With A Native American

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate August 2001

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The Interview I interviewed a Native American woman, via the Internet, named Velda Friedlander-Shelby. She is part of the Kootenai tribe, which is located in the Flathead Reservation in Montana. The reservation is a combination of white people as well as Indians. Currently she works as a Political-Economic Analyst in the government of the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Economics at the University of Montana. I met her through sending emails to different Native American websites and she was eagerly responded to tell me of her experiences.

Velda's ethnic identity is very important in her daily life. Her job consists of dealing with the people of her tribes' constant struggle against stereotypes, discrimination, and inequality towards their sovereignty. She also has experienced many forms of discrimination and racism throughout her life. She first became aware of her identity and ethnicity in first grade.

Velda said that, " the children physically attacked me for being what they perceived to be a "˜dirty Indian' because I frequently wore the same clothes throughout the week." As she struggled to keep her balance, she accidentally scratched another girls arm. She continues to say that as the teacher led the girl away she overheard "her reassuring the girl that she did not have "˜Indian germs', but the school nurse would check her out anyway." The act of defending herself was considered fighting and she became aware of her differences from those of the "white children" at the school and living in the reservation.

By the time she became a freshman in high school, many of her Indian friends had dropped out for reasons other than academic achievement. Most were quite intelligent but because of the constant harassment and abuse in the school system it was too overwhelming for...