Common Ground |

Common Ground

It is not much to behold, just a fragile old blanket to those who do not know the heritage and memories woven into the thick wool fabric.

The heritage is Oklahoma Choctaw. The memories are as silent as the Ancestors who passed it to future generations, stopping with me, the last male heir on my Father’s side of the family. No one knows its true age.

No doubt it was made after the Trail of Tears when most of the Choctaw Nation was removed from Mississippi to Oklahoma “Indian” Territory after 1881.

The removal of the Choctaw People was made possible by the signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek on Sept. 15, 1830.

One of the four Choctaw representatives who signed the treaty that day, Mushulatubbe, would father children whose children would one day weave the blanket on the bed behind where I sit writing these words.

It is the only material object left that links my family to our Ancestors and their way of life. It connects our lives with those who made it possible for us to carry their story into the future.

That story will be told from my point of view … anthropologist, writer and storyteller, descendant of the People … to the CMC Indians of North America class next week. It fits well with the Turner Broadcasting video, “The Southeast, No Matter How White …” to be shown.

The full 10-page text of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek will be handed out to students who will be equally divided into two groups.

One group will represent the world court of public opinion. Their job is to simply decide whether the treaty was adhered to or violated by the U.S. government. Don’t tell me you can’t guess what their verdict will be.

A sidebar of history at this point would be that the 1830 treaty traded 10.3 million acres of land east of the Mississippi for 10.3 million acres already “owned” by the Choctaws under previous treaties.

The other group will in turn bring about a class action suit against the government on behalf of all the Choctaw People ” past, present and future ” to decide what the reparations should be made to the descendants of the Choctaws affected.

Only one witness will be allowed, our Choctaw family blanket. Everything it witnessed or heard from oral tradition is the only permissible evidence.

Let me make a few points about treaties. They do not grow “outdated” any more than age invalidates the U.S. Constitution.

Treaties, under that same Constitution in Article 6, Section 2, are held to be the supreme law of the land.

Treaties are binding contracts between sovereign nations that bind them in “perpetual friendship.” Violations of treaties do not nullify them.

Lastly, the fact that the United States has repeatedly broken treaties with Indian Nations reflects on the integrity of this country, not on the integrity of the treaties.

I cannot wait to hear what stories “the blanket” will tell.

Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week.

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