5 Things Jamie Taught Me About Life as a Native American

By Maggie Rulli 12.12.2014 blog

I spent only a day with Jamie, but it was enough to teach me these five essential things about living as an American Indian in the US:

Indian Schools1. Native American Indians exist today.

Native Americans don’t just live inside of a history book. Jamie Dull Knife is a Native American – and also a high school student in South Dakota who plays volleyball and basketball, sings Top 40 and hangs with friends. Jamie says that many people meet her and immediately exclaim that they didn’t even know people like her still existed. Well, she wants the world to know that both she and her family are real. They aren’t “mystical” people from the past – but rather, very real people in the present.

2. How to address a Native American Indian? Pine Ridge Flag

You hear many names: Native Americans, American Indians, Indians, Aboriginal, Indigenous peoples, First Nations peoples… and countless others. So what’s right? Ideally, you want to use the name of a specific tribe or nation. It would be like saying is someone from New York versus saying they’re from the United States. Jamie is part of the Oglala Lakota Nation.

 3. Not all Native Americans are the same.

Not every Native American is part of the same culture – each tribe has its own unique language, polices, traditions, history, economy and religion. Just as people who live in the South have a different accent and are known for different food than people from the Midwest. There are more than 500 different tribes all across America, and they are all very different from each other. As a Lakota, Jamie participates in sun dances, she compares a sweat lodge to church, and she can trace her family’s history back to before the coming of the settlers.

 640px-The_opening_of_the_fight_at_Wounded_Knee_by_Frederic_Remington_18914. It’s important to tell the history of Native Americans.

Jamie reminded us of the atrocities faced by Native American throughout history. She feels that regular text books do not dedicate enough time to Native American history and that what is taught in schools is often flawed. She told us about the history she learned from her father and grandfather – of blankets given to tribes that were intentionally contaminated with disease, of widespread killings and of broken promises. While the numbers vary, it’s estimated that 80 to 90 percent of American Indians were killed between the time they first came in contact with Europeans and today — and that is a statistic that Jamie wants us to remember.

stamp printed in USA showing Red Cloud American war leader of th5. It’s important to pass on her family traditions.

Jamie is close with her family, and says she grew up with her elders who taught her about her tradition and culture. It’s something that many young Lakota do not have and, as a result, the Lakota language and many of their customs are not being passed down to the next generation. Many experts warn that their way of life could soon become extinct. This threat is common among many Native American tribes, and it’s something that Jamie says worries her. She urged her classmates to do their best to learn more about their traditions and their language in order to help their culture survive.


  1. Loopseilou

    Jamie sounds awesome and nice unfortunately she has to go to a rankadanck school I feel bad for kids who go to that school for a few more years if people raise enough money maybe we could build a brand new school for them so they won’t be cold and left over money can buy new books for them to read so they can see all the words and not some of the words so they don’t have a hard time reading their books

  2. Stephanie

    me and my dad agree to what she has to say and my dad is from pine ridge. he gets mad becuase they don’t teach the truth about what happened in the past in school.

  3. denise velasquez

    woowww i thought racist people and this drama was over

  4. Jared Gordon

    This is weird but that is racist when people say that she’s going to steal something. It’s not like you don’t steal stuff. Ya bullies.

    • rachel

      have fun my school

  5. Rebecca Miller

    I am part Indianan

  6. ghelm

    Something that really irritates me are people who disrespect other people based on their gender, race, and religion. I am a thirteen year old with Native American blood in me (specifically Cherokee), and I am in a Social Studies class with a man who is prejudiced against African-Americans, Muslims, Native Americans, Jewish people, Mexican people, gay people, and pretty much everyone who is not a white American. It drives me crazy every day that he mentions it. He has stated the following thing in the past : “The ‘Indians’ are so primitive,” “These Muslims are a problem, and Obama just sits around thinking that one day the will decide to be nice, but the only way to deal with these evil people are to just kill them all,” “They’re letting gays get married, what next? Are they gonna let us marry our sisters? (he said that in a way that was meant to be discriminating)” among other things, and its gotten to the point where most of the class believes him. It makes me sick! Another example where someone said something like that was earlier today when we watched the story on Jamie, and a kid in my class said, “Her last name is knife, Jamie Dull Knife, what kind of name is that?” To some this all up, I just wish that people would appreciate one another for who they are, their capabilities, and the history behind them, rather than discriminate others due to their gender, race, religion, etc. We need to stop prejudging people before we realize all parts of the story.

    • Stormy_Lightning

      I really agree with you!

    • noah

      you tipe a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. kaylie boros

    i think that it is not fair that people treat u different because of your skin color and when u go to the mall they look at you like you are going to steel something and native american people are awesome not bad people at all just because what they did back then not like they are going to do it again they are different people every body is different and u just need to get to now them before you start judging them next time think about what you do and what you say about native americans

    • Charles mock

      I believe there should be no criticism and no separation of the races just because of the color the peoples does not mean that you should judge someone by what is on the outside because of there skin it does not mean that they are going to go out to a store and go in and steal stuff so do not judge someone by what’s on the outside like peircings or tattoos because not everybody is going to harm anyone in the world.

  8. anthony vazquez

    this is an outrage they tell us no racism but yet we still find it

  9. daejjah

    that so sad i dont think that right .i think kids sould not drink because there famiy drinks.

  10. sierra valentino

    i thought that was a nice speech people shouldn’t be judged just by there skin color!!!!!!!!

  11. Briona montano

    I am really sorry on how they treat natives back then and now, i think we should all try to help the natives and make there reserved territories a better place for them.

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