Thursday, July 8, 2010

Native Nobility and Savagery

Over 200 years ago a Seneca Indian prophet, named "Handsome Lake", made a dire prediction. He told his people:

"There will come a time when the good water that we use to cook our food, cook our medicines, and clean our bodies will not be fit to drink....and the waters will turn oily and burn....the cool waters that we use to refresh ourselves will warm and heat up...our misuse of this water will turn it against us and people will suffer and die..."

In 1855 Chief Seattle of the Duwamish tribe wrote a letter to President Franklin Pierce. The letter was in response to a government request to buy Indian land.

Chief Seattle wrote:

"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls also the children of the Earth."

Sitting Bull:

"See brothers, spring is here. The Earth has taken the embrace of the sun and soon we shall see the children of that love. All seeds are awake and all animals. From this great power, we too have our lives. And therefore we concede to our fellow creatures even our animal fellows, even to every living thing, the same right as ourselves, to live on this Earth."

I am reminding myself of these profound and powerful words alleged to have come from the translators of Sitting Bull, Chief Seattle and Handsome Lake.

I do so as I read a disturbing book called: Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and fall of the Comanche. It is descriptive in its savagery of what both sides committed upon each other in the southwest from the 1600’s to the mid 1800’s.

It is also an accurate account of conflicting cultures as the east moved west and the Spanish south moved north and as the Republic of Texas abandoned morality and civility in order to survive on lands commanded by the Comanche.

I am hopeful that when I finish the book my mind will return to the nobility of the native cultures rather than images of its savagery.

I’ll let you know.

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