Publication Date



The following essay developed out of a lecture given on November 17, 2011 as part of the Chautauqua Lecture Series at Eastern Kentucky University. November 2011, like every November since 1994, was designated by proclamation as Native American Heritage Month. Working with the theme for the Chautauqua series, “Living with Others: Challenges and Promises,” the lecture focused on an idea relevant to the series and the month—the place of American Indians in the national historical narrative and its meaning for the place and perception of American Indian individuals and nations in the contemporary United States. This essay will build on that idea to explain how common misunderstandings regarding the contemporary social, economic, cultural, and political circumstances of Native American individuals and nations more often than not grow out of a particular ignorance of Native American history.