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'We didn't get treated too well': American Indian man opens up about growing up in southern Indiana

American Indian history is included in most school curriculum, but many of the lessons aren't the entire story.

SEYMOUR, Ind — As we move more into November, it's important to take time to educate ourselves and better understand American Indians during "Native American Heritage Month".

WHAS11 News reached out to a Southern Indiana Cherokee man to learn more about misconceptions and how to make mistakes gracefully.

Inside his law office in downtown Seymour, Brent Gill, former Chief Justice of the Southern Cherokee Nation, proudly describes the American Indian artifacts he has on display.

"Arrow head, spear point, axes, that kind of thing," he said as he pointed to items in a shadow box hanging on the wall opposite the door to his office. "The other stuff has been gifted from other people."

Gill describes himself as a human being, a modern day traditionalist and a Cherokee.

Credit: WHAS11 Staff

"Growing up as an Indian boy in a small town that, like all small towns, was back then, I hate to say racist, but they were Eurocentric in their beliefs," Gill said about his upbringing.

"We didn't get treated too well. So, I set out on a journey to try and find out, what am I? What's this all about? Why are people denigrating us, so to speak," he said.

American Indian history is included in most school curriculum, but some of the lessons aren't the entire story.

Gill believes there's always time for people to learn a more accurate history and he's made it his mission to educate.

"The change has been, in primarily the attitudes of the average person," Gill said. "Growing up, people of my generation saw Indians on the TV as savages, conquering people. That viewpoint is being changed."

Part of the change in view could be an increase in at home DNA testing.
According to YouGovAmerica, more than 20% of Americans say they've taken a mail in DNA test.

"It helps make us better people when we know we come from diverse people," Gill said, encouraging the use of at home tests. "How can you be a bigot against Africans, Latin Americans, or any other ethnic group when you find out that's in your DNA?"

As people continue to learn about different backgrounds, accurate histories, proper language and word choice, Gill believes future generations will grow to be even more accepting and inclusive people.

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