The Trail Forward

I’ve written lots of words, and read even more, about the ongoing Trail of Tears controversy. I’m going to try to make this the last blog I write on the subject and the topic is how to move it forward, how to help make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Based on what I’ve read in the local newspapers the school’s path forward is to take a couple of class periods and teach the story of the forceful removal of Indians during the early 1800s. This was ordered by president Andrew Jackson, in defiance of a Supreme Court order, and resulted in the tragic deaths of thousands of Eastern Native-Americans.

Additionally the cheerleaders involved met with Hillsboro’s cheerleaders where an apology was offered.

McClain’s principal has said the girls will also be paying visits to Seip and Serpent Mounds. As I’ve said in an earlier article, I see no sense in this. The mound builders were a paleo native population that were long gone before the first Europeans washed ashore. There is nothing at either site to learn about today’s Native-Americans whose problems have resulted from centuries old clashes with invasive people from other continents, especially Europe.

After attending last night’s board of education meeting I came away thinking those in attendance get that the students should have been taught about the Trail of Tears. Well, I spoke with a current social studies teacher at MHS and was told that, in fact, every student is taught about it in the 8th grade. What I didn’t leave with was any certainty that everyone understands why the Indians are upset by the banner displayed at the Hillsboro football game. There were still people speaking about it all being political correctness and that people are too thin-skinned today.

Well, that’s just wrong and those feelings result from a combination of ignorance and lack of empathy. One has to be aware of historical events and understand how a long history of conflict can wear a people’s skin pretty thin. If the Trail of Tears had been a singular event in the history of Native Americans my comments would be quite different. It, however, isn’t. When Erik the Red put his Viking foot on North American soil in the late 900s, there’s been centuries of clashes. If the United States government hadn’t actively engaged in a policy of Native-American genocide this talk would be different. But these things, and many more, did happen and American-Indians haven’t forgotten. They especially haven’t forgotten when they still ( think North Dakota pipeline) have to fight for control over the lands that treaties promised them.

Our Native-People have a genuine bitch and we pale-faces cannot continue to just ignore their complaints or write them off as being overly politically correct. We need a dialogue and it should be a dialogue with living, breathing indigenous people, not thousand-year old bones buried in Adams County.

Here’s a list of events that might be considered as a means to acquire both historical and contemporary knowledge:

  • The administration at MHS make contact with some Southern Ohio tribal organizations and invite them to participate in a series of roundtable discussions with its American History classes.
  • Possibly individuals or groups of students could work on research projects that could be reported back to their classes.
  • How about students work with Indians to develop more historically accurate narratives to be taught. One example is the Thanksgiving story.
  • Given the ongoing struggle on the Standing Rock Reservation how about students organizing food and clothing drives for reservation residents.
  • For some local history assign the reading of Allan Eckert’s, The Frontiersman.
  • Do a brief study of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe and read his surrender speech.
  • Another great book is Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee.
  • Research and discuss the topic of forced tribal assimilation.

Maybe some of these thoughts will help prevent a reoccurrence of what we’re going through. And once we get this thing worked out with Native-Americans let’s get started on African-Americans, Latino-Americans, Asian-Americans, Muslim-Americans, LGBT-Americans, female-Americans, and all the other diversities we need to be aware of in this most culturally diverse democracy on earth.

It may sound too difficult but really all it requires is not being willfully ignorant of others coupled with just being nicer.

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