Friday, November 6, 2009

What About the Indians?

Friday November 6 2009

We looked at the Utter Disaster story from 1860. I just rode over the trail where the event happened near the Snake River. Here in Murphy, the county seat of Owyhee, is a monument for the massacre of the Utter wagon train pioneers, erected by the Sons and Daughters of Idaho Pioneers in 1935.

My question: What about the Indians?

If you have read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, you know the story. If you haven't read it, that's one book you should read in your lifetime. But here's the short of the story:

White man comes to America with the need to discover, to escape tyranny, to explore, (or to explore and conquer), or with noble self-righteous goals of 'helping the poor savages'.

Indians don't always see this noble White intention as salvation. Sometimes they fight to keep what is theirs. (Can this really be surprising.) White Man wants the land. White Man needs the land. White Man has more and bigger guns. Indians die. They lose their land. (Except for the dreariest and crappiest places in America for their Reservations the White Man so kindly and generously gave them.)(Unless the White Man changed his mind and wanted those places too). The End. Epilogue: White Man gets the plaques.

John Winthrop, who led a group of Puritans from England to their new home in Massachusetts in 1630, was convinced that part of their mission was to help the native Indians, who wanted and needed their help.

In 1845, journalist John O'Sullivan talked of America's "manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our multiplying millions." (Ah - now there's much more of the truth - 'We's got too many peoples and no room - so scootch over!').

I get it, Manifest Destiny and all that Hoohaw.

Now, I myself am from Sorbian stock (Slavic immigrants from Lusatia, an area in eastern Germany) - Texas Wends - who fled oppression, discrimination, and religious tyranny in the 1850's; and while my ancestors ensconced themselves in a rather peaceful corner of Texas (very likely the Indians had already been run off), I reckon they would have done the same thing to claim and keep their new home, as did the Whites who moved from East to West, taking over their great new land. So you can say my Euro-White Man ancestors did the same thing - came to the New World for a new life, and everything included in that quest; and they probably would have fought and died for that right. And we would have put up plaques for them.

I seem to have the Vagabond gene I must answer to (I know I'm meant to be in the West), and probably would have done the same thing in 1680 and 1860 that I'm doing now (though I'd'a refused to wear those Little-House-On-The-Prairie dresses, thank you very much), so I would have Manifested my Own Destiny, whoever was in my way, too.

Now, back to Owyhee, Idaho and the Utter Massacre (and all the others):

I'm not pointing fingers, I'm not accusing, I'm not acknowledging this was not a tragedy (for both sides), I'm simply reciting history, and I'm just sayin'.

What about the Indians?


  1. Valid question. Got no answer and I be part Cherokee :-)

  2. Loved it Merre, Thanks

  3. Merri, that was my question when I first read your "Utter Disaster" ... yes sad that the Utter group were killed, but they were invaders, ultimately. We all are, or most of us. I'm part Cherokee too. My grandmother's grandfather came from Scotland to Tennessee, married a Cherokee woman and traveled to Texas. I was SO proud of being part Cherokee, and so was my grandmother. Another great, great grandfather came over from Ireland, settled in Texas and was killed by Indians just before his 5th child was born, who was my great grandfather. His mother raised 5 children on her own, in east Texas. :) Tough women back then, a lot tougher than we are now. No doctors, no hospitals, no grocery stores (ha!), they were self sufficient. Even my own father grew up with a mule and a wagon to get to town, that wasn't that long ago. Dirt roads, open range, hard work. He plowed their fields with a mule, walking behind the mule with a plow. Now that will make you strong.

  4. Good thoughts, Merri. I taught on the Wind River Reservation in central Wyoming for seven years. Another good book to consider reading is, "Broken, A love story," by Lisa Jones. It's a very realistic view of the Wind River Rez. Cindy

  5. my grandmother could never understand why I would ride a horse long distance just for fun, when she had to ride a horse 25 miles to get to school and back. she didn't like when the horse would get loose and go home without her and she had to walk....they were definitely tough women!