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“Merciless Indian Savages”. That’s how Native Americans are referred to in our nation’s Declaration of Independence.

The United States Continental Congress adopted the document on July 4th, 1776 - 247 years ago and the phrase remains there, forever fixed in our legacy.

Indigenous activists have been drawing attention to these words in social media posts and on T-shirts on “Independence Day” for several years now, as those of us whose ancestors came from somewhere else commemorate the occasion by attending parades, eating hot dogs, and making a lot of noise.

It’s a bit ironic that the phrase, ”we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” occurs in the same document as “merciless Indian savages”.

Thomas Jefferson came up with this reference to Indigenous people in his 27th grievance against King George as he accused the king of inciting “domestic insurrection” by Native Americans against the colonists.

I wonder how you would characterize what we Europeans did to an entire race of human beings who had inhabited North America for thousands of years before we arrived....

(My father took this accompanying photograph of Ben Black Elk in 1963 at the base of Mt. Rushmore)

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