Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Indians’

‘American Trinity’ – Devastating perspectives about how the West was won

American Trinity: Jefferson, Custer, and the Spirit of the West, by Larry Len Peterson, Sweetgrass Books (August 1, 2017), 728 pages.

How did we “win” the west?

Our legends, movies, and novels present derring-do accounts of triumphs over a wondrous, yet dangerous environment; perseverance against inhospitable weather; heroic families and individuals undergoing multiple hardships in a search for the promised land; and surviving battles with rustlers, gunslingers and Indians.

Our high school history books presented Manifest Destiny as the the holy grail of America’s consciousness facilitated by soldiers, missionaries, and heroes who–sanctioned by reason, wisdom, and the Almighty–kicked the snakes out of Eden and made it accessible to pioneers, family farms, and continental commerce.

The focus of this well-researched, scholarly and accessible book comes from Peterson’s statement in the preface: “I have been haunted by the question: who were we and who are we as Americans and a nation? I believe a nation is defined by the people who create its history, and they are remembered by the authors who write their biographies. Reflecting on that era and all its symbolic meaning, I’ve wrestled with explanations to make sense of why the Indian’s way of life was destroyed and what authority justified it.”

The short answers to “what authority justified it,” which are presented in his broad-in-scope book that carries readers deep into the past for information, are religion, disease, the principles of the Enlightenment, European colonization, Social Darwinism, and military force.

American Trinity was named Best Nonfiction Book of 2017 by True West magazine.

From the Publisher: “American Trinity is for everyone who loves the American West and wants to learn more about the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is a sprawling story with a scholarly approach in method but accessible in manner. In this innovative examination, Dr. Larry Len Peterson explores the origins, development, and consequences of hatred and racism from the time modern humans left Africa 100,000 years ago to the forced placement of Indian children on off-reservation schools far from home in the late 1800s. Along the way, dozens of notable individuals and cultures are profiled. Many historical events turned on the lives of legendary Americans like the “Father of the West” Thomas Jefferson, and the “Son of the West” George Armstrong Custer – two strange companions who shared an unshakable sense of their own skills – as their interpretation of truths motivated them in the winning of the West.”

From reviewer Stuart Rosebook, “Truewest Magazine”: “Readers will quickly discover that the strength of Peterson’s American Trinity’s is in the depth of his research and personal introspection throughout his 725-page book. As Peterson states in his Preface & Acknowledgments: “The American Trinity is older and bigger than the American West. It is the story of the grand sweep of human experiences and their eventual influence on white racist attitudes toward Native Americans. History is important. When there is no knowledge of the past, there cannot be a vision of the future.”

Peterson, in the words of his editor, writes Jim Cornelius in “Frontier Partisans,” set out to “challenge views without demanding that you change yours.” He is not grinding an ideological ax – but he is facing up to some difficult history. A man of deep faith, Peterson wrestles with the role religion played in justifying conquest and the stripping of culture away from native peoples. A doctor and a man of science, he grapples with the use of ‘scientific racism’ to rationalize oppression.”

We think we know the west from watching “Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke” and “How the West Was Won.” The reality of the west and why we were drawn there as a young nation is much deeper and wider than TV serials and movies suggest. That reality not only prompts us to ask our ancestors “what were you thinking?” but prompts us to reassess what we’re thinking now.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

Human Trafficking Awareness Month

nativehopeAlthough human trafficking “is a global issue, it is also prevalent very close to home. Native American women and children make up 40% of sex trafficking victims in the state of South Dakota alone. According to federal data, Native women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as women of other races. They are also subject to high rates of intimate-partner violence and other forms of assault. These factors, along with poverty, substance abuse, and foster care, can make them vulnerable to exploitation. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, reiterates the ‘threat of human trafficking to Native communities and sex trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives,” describing the ‘first citizens of the United States as some of the most vulnerable.’” – Native Hope

Read more at Native Hope

According to their website, 88% of the crimes committed against native women are committed by non-Indians. This is a long-standing and intolerable problem and, frankly, the kind of statistic we believe we’re more likely to hear from a third-world nation. Of course, many Indian reservations rank below many third world nations when it comes to health care, employment, sanitation and other services most of us take for granted, and quality of life. Nonetheless, the facts surprise me.

Most of us cannot do anything about this problem by ourselves. Yet, through working with others, we can create meaningful change and improve the lives of countless women.

You can help by clicking on the highlighted link above, learning more, and considering a donation.

And, as the site says, “If you believe someone you know may be a victim or is in a vulnerable position, read our article on signs to watch for. If you are a victim and need help, please call the hotline at the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.”

See also: National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center  and Wiconi Wawokiya – a Lifeway to a Better Future Without Violence in Our Community.

–Malcolm

Briefly Noted: ‘The Storyteller’s Bracelet’ by Smoky Zeidel

Thomas-Jacob Publishing released a new edition of Smoky Zeidel’s The Storyteller’s Bracelet today, bringing the novel back into print after a twenty-two month absence. The book is available in e-book and Kindle editions. You can watch the novel’s trailer here.

From the Publisher

STBcover“It is the late 1800s, and the U.S. Government has mandated native tribes send their youth to Indian schools where they are stripped of their native heritage by the people they think of as The Others. Otter and Sun Song are deeply in love, but when they are sent East to school, Otter, renamed Gideon, tries to adapt, where Sun Song does not, enduring brutal attacks from the school headmaster because of her refusal to so much as speak. Gideon, thinking Sun Song has spurned him, turns for comfort to Wendy Thatcher, the daughter of a wealthy school patron, beginning a forbidden affair of the heart.

“But the Spirits have different plans for Gideon and Sun Song. They speak to Gideon through his magical storyteller’s bracelet, showing him both his past and his future. You are both child and mother of The Original People, Sun Song is told. When it is right, you will be safe once more. Will Gideon become Otter once again and return to Sun Song and his tribal roots, or attempt to remain with Wendy, with whom he can have no future?”

Smoky’s Description of the Cover’s Symbolism

“I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the meaning behind the symbols on the new edition of The Storyteller’s Bracelet. The wavy lines at the bottom represent water, which plays a life-changing role for my male protagonist, Otter/Gideon. The stairway through the clouds represents the gateway to the 5th World in Hopi mythology. The arrows point to the four cardinal directions and their colors represent the direction people of color scattered at creation. (These colors can vary from one tradition to another; these are the colors the Hopi use.) Finally, the rattlesnake is a symbol of new life, of transformation. Rattlesnake sheds her skin and begins life anew.”

You May Also Like

Smoky also released a companion short story on Kindle called Why the Hummingbird is So Small, “the enchanting story of Sun Song, a storyteller for her tribe, as she visits Fuss, her hummingbird friend, on the day before she is to leave for Indian School in the East.” You can visit Smoky’s website here.

–Malcolm