Merriott column: The white man cometh again, but it’s Thanksgiving
For many of the four million Native Americans in the U.S. today, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning. A bit of saddening enlightenment.
When the Europeans arrived in North America, there were around 10 million Indians living north of present-day Mexico. They had been here 20,000-30,000 years. I actually used to sit in the Dixie Theater in Ruston, La. and cheer when the cavalry came to the rescue with the bugler playing charge. This is embarrassing. But, hey, we have had various lies perpetrated on us over the years.
Bottom line is there is little room for error in what we must do to right the wrongs done to the American Indian.
Tall Oak of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe helped to create the National Day of Mourning in 1970. He wanted to say in his speech he had been asked to deliver by the locals that the Pilgrims had only explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they desecrated the graves of his ancestors and robbed them of their corn and beans.
The organizers would not allow this 350 years after the cross-cultural feast that most Americans are taught is the root of our modern-day Thanksgiving. We must be aware of this revisionist history.
The plaque at the site near Plymouth Massachusetts reads: “Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of people, the theft of their land and the relentless assault of their cultures. Participants in the National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today.”
What comes to mind to me is the Dakota Access Pipeline being built across the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. No way the white man should add more insult to more injury. After all, the Fort Laramie Treaty (signed in 1851) guarantees the “undisturbed use and occupation” of reservation lands which surround the location of the pipeline.
And the words of my friend Michael Murphey’s song:
“Warden don’t you know the prisoners have no place to go. They took Old Geronimo by storm and ripped off the feathers from his uniform. Jesus tells me, and I believe it’s true. The red man is in the sunset, too. They took all their land and won’t give it back, and sent Geronimo a Cadillac.”
In the book “The Apache Wars” by Paul Hutton, when the last Apaches are removed from their homelands and put on a train to live out their lives in Florida the description is heartbreaking. The chiefs had been kidnapped after meeting with President Grover Cleveland and were being held as “prisoners of war.” The other 383 tribe members had brought all their possessions, their valued ponies and dogs for the “roll call.”
There was no room on the train. Armed soldiers were everywhere.
“The train pulled out and the pups began to bark and yelp and howl as the train rumbled away. Hundreds of the loyal animals ran barking after the train. Some of the dogs ran more than 20 miles before they collapsed and died in the searing desert heat.”
But now the white man comes again to pillage and ruin, only it’s in the guise of Rocky Mountain Resources (RMR) running rough shod over the tribal councils of the Roaring Fork Valley, including the councils of Carbondale, Aspen and Basalt.
The tribal council of the Glenwood Springs tribe have gone so far as to “declare war.” I wonder if this is how the Indians must have felt? The all-mighty Federal Government blowing charge with the BLM and Department of the Interior now, instead of the 7th Cavalry.
I mean the leader of the BLM and/or the Secretary of the Interior will signal (or not) the final charge into the Valley with a total disregard of our feelings, beliefs, possessions and future plans.
You see, Chad Brownstein is head of Rocky Mountain Resources and they have hired the Denver firm of Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber et al to lead the proverbial cavalry charge. Their website reads, “Where business, law, and politics converge.” It goes on to say, “Our political connections deliver results.” Oh yeah, guess what, David Bernhardt the Secretary of the Interior once worked for Brownstein, Hyatt, et al.
Chief Seattle said to President Pierce in 1865: “Where is the eagle? Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.”
Frosty Merriott is a CPA in Carbondale and former Carbondale Town Council member. He is a registered independent and considers himself a fiscal conservative but an original tree hugger from Louisiana. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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The gray wolf once roamed freely throughout more than two-thirds of the United States. However, they were extirpated (locally extinct) from most areas of the U.S. when settlers from Europe came to the new world.