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Indian Renaissance
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Indian Renaissance Zoom In @ National  Geographic Magazine
By Joseph BruchacPhotographs by Maggie Steber

Growing in numbers, cultural awareness, and economic clout, American Indians—honored with a new museum on the National Mall—are reclaiming their place on the national stage.

Read or print the full article.

I was on a train clattering south along the Hudson River, heading toward a place as Indian as anywhere in the United States: New York City. Famously traded to (or stolen by) the Dutch in 1626, New York today is home to more than 85,000 Native Americans. About 85 percent of Indians in the United States now live off the reservation, and every large city in the U.S. has its own Indian community. This is partly due to a government relocation program, begun in 1952, that sent thousands of Indians around the country in search of work.
Brad Bonaparte is one of these urban Indians, a 42-year-old Mohawk artist and ironworker whose father and grandfather walked the high steel with wrenches and welding torches, making the city's skyline. Every workday he puts on a brown hard hat bearing the insignia of an eagle feather, a potent symbol of blessing and protection worn by many Mohawk ironworkers.
Brad remembers admiring the World Trade Center from his apartment in Jersey City. "I used to see those towers at night, and always thought how cool it would be to have the job of changing the lightbulbs on the antenna." After the towers came down on 9/11, Brad was one of the many Mohawks who worked to clear the debris and search for remains, putting in 12-hour days for three and a half months. And like everyone else working in the ruins, Brad's crew soon carried burdens heavier than concrete and steel.
"Every kind of priest was there, from the Catholics to the Buddhists, but there was no one for us Indians. One day we heard there was a tobacco burning ceremony a few blocks away, at the New York branch of the National Museum of the American Indian, so we all just walked off the job and went there." It helped. A few days later Brad's crew found the radio tower he'd dreamed about. "I ended up standing on it," he says, "but not in the way I thought."
For Brad and many thousands of other Indians, Native identity is a growing source of strength that helps them cope with the mainstream America that flows all around them. Yet it can also be a source of turmoil. I speak from personal experience: Like many Native Americans today, my heritage is mixed. My mother was Abenaki, my father was Slovak, and it didn't really dawn on me that I was Indian until I was in my teens. Even then, it took a long time for my own mother to accept that I was the first of my family in three generations to go "public," to seek out relatives and elders who could teach me the stories and language my Abenaki grandfather never shared with me. For a while my mother referred to me as, "My son, the Indian," until my younger sister Margaret asked, "But Mom, what does that make you and me?"

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Listen to traditional American Indian stories as told by author Joseph Bruchac.
Interactive Image
Maneuver around a U.S. map to get a snapshot of Native Americans today.
Photographer Maggie Steber talks about how Native Americans are defining their future.
In a persistent push toward self-determination, American Indians are continuing to wage legal and political battles for greater control over their lands and to reclaim land lost to them long ago. What should the U.S. government do to compensate Native Americans?
Flashback to 1917, when a retired New York dentist sent 
photographs, including one of an Apache man, made "in Arizona away back in 1879 & 80."

More to Explore

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
The only independently owned Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) team, the Connecticut Sun, is owned by an Indian tribe. The Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut purchased the Orlando Miracle in 2003 and relocated the team to Connecticut, where they play at the massive Mohegan Sun casino and entertainment complex. Up until that time, every WNBA franchise had been owned by an NBA franchise.
—Heidi Schultz
Did You Know?

Related Links
National Congress of American Indians
What is a federally recognized tribe? What is the relationship between the federal government and Indian nations? Do Indians pay taxes? Who funds health care and education for Indians? Get answers to these questions and updates on national Indian issues from this national tribal government organization that monitors federal policy.
Carlisle Indian Industrial School
Learn about the 10,000 Indian children who attended the first off-reservation boarding school between 1879 and 1918, where the goal of "civilizing" Indians meant that students were punished for speaking their native languages and maintaining other aspects of their culture.

Indian Country Today
Get your news from the national Indian weekly newspaper.

Indian Land Tenure Foundation
Navigate the complex history of Indian land ownership with publications and FAQs on subjects such as allotment and checkerboarding.

The Harvard Project on American Indian Development
Access dozens of publications on Indian self-governance and nation building, economic development, gaming, health care, and education.
The Iroquois Confederacy and the Influence Thesis
Did the Founding Fathers borrow from the Iroquois constitution when drafting their own? Brian Cook reviews the debate over how much the Iroquois Confederacy influenced the development of the U.S. government.

National Museum of the American Indian
Explore the exhibits and locate special events coinciding with the museum's grand opening on the National Mall on September 21.

American Indian Policy Center
Learn more about the unique relationship between the U.S. and Indian tribes—history, current standing, and directions for the future.

Wild Rice—Manoomin
Learn about the stages of harvesting wild rice and the central role it plays in Ojibwa culture.


Adams, David Wallace. Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928. University Press of Kansas, 1995.
Anderson, William, ed. Cherokee Removal: Before and After. University of Georgia Press, 1991.
Connell-Szasz, Margaret. Education and the American Indian: The Road to Self-Determination Since 1928. University of New Mexico Press, 1999.
Fixico, Donald Lee. The Urban Indian Experience in America. University of New Mexico Press, 2000.
Hoig, Stan. Sequoyah: A Cherokee Genius. Oklahoma Historical Society, 1995.
Pevar, Stephen. The Rights of Indians and Tribes: The Authoritative ACLU Guide to Indian Rights and Tribal Rights, 3rd edtion. Southern Illinois University Press, 2002.
Rasenberger, Jim. High Steel: The Daring Men Who Built the World's Greatest Skyline. Harper Collins, 2004.
Thornton, Russell. American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492. University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.
Vennum, Thomas. Wild Rice and the Ojibway People. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1988.


NGS Resources
Davis, Wade. "Deep North." National Geographic (March 2004), 102-21.

Talbot, Margaret. "Searching for Sacagawea." National Geographic  (February 2003), 68-85.

Viola, Herman J. Trail to Wounded Knee: The Last Stand of the Plains Indians 1860-1890. National Geographic Books, 2003.

Bruchac, Joseph. Trails of Tears, Paths of Beauty. National Geographic Books, 2002.

Bruchac. Navajo Long Walk. National Geographic Books, 2002.

Bruchac. Hiawatha and Megissogwon. National Geographic Books, 2001.

"Tribal Accord a Win-Win-Win." National Geographic (July 2001), Geographica.

Tarpy, Cliff. "Pueblo Ancestors Return Home." National Geographic (November 2000), 118-25. 
Beddingfield, Katie. "Tribal Powwow." National Geographic Traveler (November/December 1999), 15-16.
Hodgson, Bryan. "Buffalo: Back Home on the Range." National Geographic (November 1994), 64-89.

Bruchac. "1491: America Before Columbus." National Geographic (October 1991), 68-83.


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