A Thanksgiving Reflection

American_bison_k5680-1I was recently at an Elton John concert in Vegas during which he played a song I hadn’t heard before. The song was about Native Americans and it got me choked up, which I hate not only because it’s unseemly but because I hate being emotionally manipulated by topics that are exploited by the political class. I also know there were many atrocities committed by both sides in the battle for this country, and I have even pondered the origin of property rights to assess whether hunter-gatherers have the same rights to the land as those who mix their toil with the soil. However, there is no denying that the Native Americans suffered the greatest tragedy, and I found value in reflecting on what they must have gone through.

I recalled the Surrender Speech of Chief Joseph which my daughter’s class recently included in their performances of America’s Great Speeches. I thought about how it must have felt for these people, these tribes, cultures, nations–however you want to think about these communities of peoples–to see the past and see the future and know that their culture was dying, that their children would not be their children, would not know the values and wisdom of their own parents. I see this happening in my own age, but the profound grief of it is dampened by the fact that it is not as obvious because it is not an invading culture but our own leaders who are undermining us, and it is not happening in one generation but incrementally.

I realize the American Indians did not disappear as a culture in one generation either–the span between Christopher Columbus and the last buffalo was a full 400 years–but I can’t help thinking that many fine and proud men and women had that one moment, like Chief Joseph’s, when they knew their cause was lost. Perhaps there is a lesson in this for us before we have that moment.

Here is Chief Joseph’s speech…

“Surrender Speech”
1877
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce

Introduction
In 1877, the military announced that the Chief Joseph and his tribe of Nez Perce had to move onto a reservation in Idaho or face retribution. Desiring to avoid violence, Chief Joseph advocated peace and cooperation. But fellow tribesmen dissented and killed four white men. Knowing a swift backlash was coming, Joseph and his people began to make their way to Canada, hoping to find amnesty there. The tribe traveled 1700 miles, fighting the pursuing US army along the way. In dire conditions, and after a five-day battle, Chief Joseph surrendered to General Nelson A. Miles on October 5, 1877, in the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana Territory, a mere 40 miles from the Canadian border. The Chief knew he was the last of a dying breed, and the moment of surrender was heartbreaking.

Chief Joseph:
Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our Chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Ta Hool Hool Shute is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are–perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my Chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.

Here’s my previous Thanksgiving post, in case you’re in the mood for more 🙂 Thankfulness Is in the Eye of the Beholder

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11 Responses to A Thanksgiving Reflection

  1. Mark Dankof on “America, The Beautiful: Why We’re Finished” http://wp.me/pfMo6-xw

    • hugh says:

      AJ,
      I have read the article you appended to Monica’s message, and of course read Monica’s words also. Neither piece was easy to read, and I say that because the messages were similar, oh so true, and gravely dire! Rev. Dankof used the word ‘remnant’ in his piece, and I recall Monica using that same word in another of her postings, not too long ago. We must rise from our slumber, and now! How we are being destroyed is all right before our eyes! Why can we not see that? Why do we not act?

      • I think it’s natural for us to want to save the land of our birth. We love our country and want to do what we can to save it. The question is: Is it too late? I think it is. Mark thinks it is too. Add the religious element to the equation: Is the USA under the judgement of God? If the answer is “yes” then the USA cannot be saved, and whoever tries to save it will find himself fighting against God. I think the USA is under the judgement of God. I didn’t always think this way, but I do now.

  2. Norman says:

    Great reading … “May you live in interesting times” has always been one of my favorite quotes

    • Anonymous says:

      I was just telling my ten-year-old son that if I died and went to Heaven and God asked me what I felt like doing to kill time during eternity, I would say, “I would like to live a life in an interesting and important time–really experience it without knowing it was just a lark.” Then I said, “Maybe that really happened and here I am!”

  3. Gloria says:

    One of the sweetest and most powerful pieces of music I have ever heard is “Robbie Robinson and The Red Road Ensemble / Music for the Native Americans”. This link will take you to his spectacularly beautiful and very moving concert in Italy, “Robbie Robertson in unity concert- live in Sicilia – YouTube”. Enjoy the music and the beautiful costumes, color, sets!

  4. Clare Gray says:

    Monica, I just read your Thanksgiving piece and loved it. You write so well and eloquently portray how enormously blessed you are. Thank you for sharing your words and message–so inspirational!

  5. Steve B. says:

    I grew up in Albuquerque N. Mex and could see what the federal govt. did right and mostly what they did wrong with the Native Indians. Example; One Indian reservation, the govt. came in and built about 50 track housing and no one moved into them why? Because the govt. forgot to ask them what they needed instead giving what they thought they needed. This type of thinking by our govt. continues around the world with policies.
    Out of guilt, the govt. continues to send them checks every month and the result is; out of control abuse, highest alcoholism rate of any group in the country, and obesity. Why; because there is no value in free , not only did we defeat them, our guilt robbed them of their sprit. “Free” appeals to human nature, self reliant, and independence appeals to the human sprit. At a very young age I learned what “free” did to people and has stuck with me through life.
    This should be a real lesson of what the results will be with the current trend of our govt. as “the govt. will take care of everything with free stuff galore”.

    Sent from my iPad

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