Name Changes of Native American Events

I have been reading The Education of Blacks In The South, 1860-1935 by James D. Anderson (1988) and have been thinking about one of Anderson’s arguments that southern Afro-Americans fought against deprivation and racism to promote and provide education for their young people. For instance, African Americans before, during and after Reconstruction often paid for the majority of school building construction and education materials, despite lack of resources and little aid from white-southern governments. Anderson argued that viewing blacks as having produced their own opportunities, rather than being the beneficiaries of white-northern philanthropy, gives us a clearer idea of how they struggled and produced their own success.

While reading about black self-perseverance I also thought about how those who want to change historical terms are often racially connected to the historically disenfranchised. The desire to change the term from “Japanese internment” to “Japanese concentration camp” comes from groups composed of American citizens of Japanese origin. Modern Japanese Americans know there is power in words and demonstrate their self-perseverance by making demands for term changes.

Native Americans also make demands for the renaming of events. I taught in South Dakota and my students and I discussed how the Battle of Little Bighorn and Custer’s Last Stand are the same event. My Native American students tended to have more opinions on why this was, but all of the students would debate on why historical events were named the way they were.

Although I discussed the two names of one event, I was ignorant of the history behind naming the event. What about Indian efforts to challenge the language of western migration, Manifest Destiny, or the Indian Removal Act. As someone who taught U.S. History in eighth grade, I can quickly remember teaching The Trail of Tears and the Battle of Little Bighorn, but I am unaware of how these terms were added to our national history lexicon.

What are some resources that can help students understand the history of name changing of Native American events?

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