Monday, December 5, 2011

Boundless, Primal Freedom

Jared Waldo Daniels
The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was at once a monumental accomplishment, an unparalleled feat of construction, the dream of manifest destiny realized, and a death knell for a proud people. Within a decade, the vast herds of buffalo that had covered the plains like a luxurious quilt for centuries were reduced to tattered remnants and piles of bones, and North America’s Native People were ruthlessly pursued and annihilated.  Those who survived the ruthless campaign were herded onto reservations, where their once proud nations were required to abandon their heritage or vanish along with it.  Despite the best efforts of the few who interceded passionately on behalf of the Indians, treaty after treaty was torn asunder by the wave of settlers rolling toward the west.
   Doctor Jared Waldo Daniels, who began providing medical services to our troops and the Indians in 1855, and served as Inspector of Indian Agencies during the 1870s, shared the following observation regarding the Sioux War and Minnesota Massacre of 1862 & 63, “It is only natural that everyone be curious as to the cause of the uprisings of a people who have always striven to live in peace and harmony with their more civilized neighbors.  To state a fact that is as old as the history of our country’s Indian relations, and the great cause of all our trouble with them, is to say, very clearly in my estimation, violated treaty obligations on the part of our government.”  
   The Dawes Act of 1887 stepped up efforts to purge the Indians of their nomadic tendencies and wean them once and for all, from the boundless, primal freedoms that were their heritage, demanding they embrace instead the pale, pasteurized version offered by the whites.  Understandably disinclined to make this swap, many Indians joined together in a movement known as the ghost dance.  In December of 1890, this movement, and all armed resistance by the Indians, culminated with the unconscionable bloodbath at Wounded Knee. The Indian people now rendered benign, the flood of immigrants continued usurping the west. People called it progress.  Our society teaches us to value progress at any cost.  Sometimes the cost of progress exceeds its worth. “Obie’s Quest”
Chief Red Cloud

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