• Denver Indian Center, Inc

A few words from Rick Waters, Executive Director

What are you doing here?

Recently, a co-worker and I were distributing information about the Denver Indian Center at a local event and a frequently asked question by those taking a moment to stop was “what are you doing here?” I must point out that I detected no irreverence or malicious intent from those asking , but I have been thinking about the question itself, and in a way am thankful it was asked. Here’s my thought…The biggest challenge American Indians face today is “Invisibility”. What I mean is that the majority of Americans know little or nothing about American Indians, issues we face, contributions we’ve made or even the fact that we are still here. In a sense, this invisibility can threaten tribal sovereignty, our fundamental rights and ultimately our culture and the well being of our children. This reality is supported by the findings of a two year initiative called the Reclaiming Native Truth Project which was conducted by and for Native people. Its goal is to change perceptions, introducing America to its own history, and to educate the uninformed to the issues important to Indians. I won’t go into all the numbers, facts and figures, but the bottom line is that most Americans do not acknowledge the contemporary American Indian, or look right through us as if we are invisible. But fortunately, all is not doom and gloom. Education in the form of accurate and relevant information about “real” US History that tells the story of the first Americans and where we are today is a good step towards changing the narrative. (mandatory American Indian history curriculum in schools would go a long way in helping solve the issue) The findings also showed that the majority of people polled, once they were given some basic, accurate facts about Indian history and issues, indicated they were interested in knowing more and were supportive of correcting the story. I was once told that if you wanted to know something, ask. If you’re an Indian, be prepared to answer questions when asked, and to non-Indians, if you’re sincere and respectful, don’t be hesitant to ask. What are we doing here? The answer should be clear, we never left and we’re here to stay.


Rick Waters

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