I’ve been meaning to blog more often this year. It’s my year three goal, but I have to go back a bit first.
We are back in the Black Hills of South Dakota as we begin our migration away from cold weather. It’s actually still pretty warm here, although, the furnace has been on at night. My perspective of the western US is changing as I learn more about it.
I have become aware of my ignorance of our history as a nation. I haven’t told the story here, but I had a rude awakening that has changed me. I’m not usually emotional, until this event, and it seems to have affected me when it comes to thinking about treatment of all people.
One day Terri and I were traveling south in eastern Montana after visiting Glacier National Park. We stopped along a wide spot in the road for lunch. It was across the highway from a historical marker.
After lunch, I fully read marker. It turns out, I enjoyed a nice lunch on the very grounds that five or six hundred Blackfeet were starved to death because of US government mismanagement.
When that began to sink in the next day, I was pretty emotional. It still brings a tear to my eye when I think of the fact that I ate lunch where people starved to death, as though I wouldn’t have cared or didn’t have even the tiniest bit of respect for what past peoples and their descendants have gone through.
Since that day, I find myself more easily upset over the mistreatment of human beings. I don’t care where people are from, what language they speak, what imaginary beings they believe in, (OK, I wish people didn’t believe in the supernatural), where they are going, etc. My attitude is that people are people, and deserve to be treated as human beings, period, end of story.
The thing about this episode that bothers me, is that in my education I learned all kinds of so called “important things”. Like for instance, George Washington had wooden teeth and he couldn’t tell a lie, at least when it came to chopping down cherry trees. Benjamin Franklin supposedly tested lightning with a kite and a key. Haha, I call total bullshit on that story.
I learned about Paul Revere’s famous ride, but in twelve years of schooling and four years of college, I never once, heard about the five or six hundred people who starved to death in one extended event, in Montana, not that far from what I once called home, South Dakota.
To be fair, I did learn, but only in college, about Andrew Jackson and what a disaster he was in regards to humanity. I learned about Thomas Jefferson and his relationship and children with Sally Hemings, etc. So, at least, not all of my history education has been cleansed of things that are distasteful or disturbing.
Not once had I heard about this disaster involving the Blackfeet in Montana. I knew about the Battle of Little Bighorn, and Custer’s demise, and they’ve named all kinds of stuff around here after him, even though the calvary was instrumental in driving the Sioux from the Black Hills, which they owned. There were fewer soldiers killed at Little Bighorn than Blackfeet that starved to death during the winter of 1882-83.
Now that we know more about Custer, it’s apparent his name should be the last name on a state park in the Black Hills, and I’m sure the relatives and descendants of the men he so foolishly led to their deaths, find that disturbing too. Let alone, the descendants of the natives that were so mistreated at the time.
I do see that the US Government has renamed Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak. It has upset some of the current South Dakotans, but it’s doubtful anybody in 30 years will care. I’ll guarantee you, few here actually have a clue who General Harney was, or even General Terry for that matter, and probably, if they knew more of the general’s histories they wouldn’t think twice about renaming peaks in the hills.
It’s sort of ironic, how we sometimes name things after and glorify the losers! Things named after Confederate generals, and naming ANYTHING after Custer, a disastrous general, is misguided at best. I doubt few in Custer, SD want to rename their town, but it’s sort of odd in hindsight. Custer and his men were killed because of his misplaced bravado and disregard for reconnaissance, yet, they named a town after him and then a state park!
So, I am committed to learning more about how we got where we are and how we move forward.
Will young people learn about Elouise_P.Cobell? Will they learn the story of the Blackfeet Starvation?
I hope so and I hope to learn a lot more myself.
One thought on “Our history isn’t what I thought it was:(”
Great piece of writing George. It is amazing how “they” pick and choose what history to teach children in our country, seemingly that which is deemed less distasteful at the time! I have enjoyed so much of your content and I find many similarities in our journeys. I hope someday our paths cross…..