An American tradition dating back to early times is*Thanksgiving. When the English arrived in Jamestown many died during the long cold winter, but in the following spring Native Americans showed them what local foods they could eat. In the autumn, well-prepared for the winter, settlers and Native Americans had a special dinner together, the first Thanksgiving, to thank God and the Native Americans for all the food they had.
Another story describes how the Native American princess *Pocahontas saved the life of John *Smith, the leader in Jamestown, when her father, *Powhatan, wanted to kill him.She later married another Englishman, John Rolfe, and went to England with him. The story of Pocahontas is widely known and many Americans are proud to have her as an ancestor.
But Native Americans were more often seen by white settlers as the enemy. *Westerns,i.e. films and books about the *Wild West, use the threat from Indians as their central theme. In this context Native Americans are still called 'Indians'. Children often play 'cowboys and Indians' and pretend to kill each other. When *Buffalo Bill,began touring the US with his Wild West show, the chief Sitting Bull was one of many Native Americans in it, and many people went to see this former great enemy.
Many Americans have an image of a 'typical Indian', a chief who lived in a teepee with his squaw (= wife), smoked a peace pipe after signing a treaty with the white man(whom he called pale face), sent smoke signals to communicate with people far away,and spoke broken English full of colourful expressions such as 'big heap wampum' (a lot of money) and 'speaks with forked tongue' (is lying). Most of these ideas have some basis in Native American culture, but it is wrong to put them all together and believe that that was how Native Americans lived.
Americans make such mistakes because they have little interest in Native Americans.Having succeeded in pushing them out of the way onto reservations, most American signore them. This may be because the Native Americans who are left are living proof of a hard truth: America wants to be, and often is, a land where everyone has a chance and where the government behaves fairly and honestly to all, but this America is built on land stolen from the people who lived there first.