Native Writes: It's not a matter of black and white


I am constantly amazed at the attempts of well-meaning persons to revise history.

If something offends Jack or Jill, it must be done away with.

If it exists strongly enough to offend even one person, it needs to be studied, not swept under the nation’s rug.

I agree confederate leaders were technically traitors, fighting against persons supporting the United States government, but isn’t removing statues of them also against the norm?

They could be teaching tools, but the American Civil War puts a bad taste in the mouths of even the most enlightened, so removal of the monuments ought to make everything better, right?

A very uncomfortable fact about my own history came to me as I was searching for my great-grandfather’s roots, trying to find something about his parents, who were found dead in the remains of their covered wagon, with their three young children still living, to be “taken in” by other families.

At age 10, he appeared on the census as an “indentured servant” of the people who took him in. My own grandfather, his son, was long dead when I discovered this so I couldn’t ask. Very little of his history came to the family dinner table, where past, present and future were discussed each day.

I do know he went on to fight for the Union, ended up imprisoned at Andersonville and was released with a big group of other men who suffered from beatings, starvation and illness from their imprisonment.

He was probably born in West Virginia, but there is no documentation. He did move to another state to join the army because he wanted to oppose slavery.

I have photos of him as a young man with his small family, two sons and a daughter, along with pictures of his later years, spent at the Soldiers and Sailors Home, now the Colorado State Veterans Community Living Center at Homelake. He’s buried there, but there is no other record. It apparently wasn’t preserved.

At least I have one tintype and a few cracking black and white prints.

I can trace his wife’s paternal side back to the Plymouth Rock, but it basically ends with one of three brothers going to live in a Native Tribe along the Atlantic coast. Aunt Nora, my paternal grandfather’s sister, did some research based on her parents’ recollections, but there is no documented proof.

When I could, I related this to my sons, one of whom carried the ball a bit farther, again to come up against a dead end.

Our history is elusive. I don’t like that it’s missing, but I’m not demanding removal of the statue of a Civil War/Spanish American war soldier in the cemetery. If anyone tries, I will vehemently oppose it. I know what it’s like to have inaccessible history.

My mother’s mother came straight off the reservation at Oklahoma, a place her ancestors were herded along the Trail of Tears. I found her mother and great-grandmother in the Dawes Inventory.

The mess in Virginia many of us watched on television was caused by people who, I believe, don’t have a clue about their family’s past and an exaggerated view of our nation’s history.

Sit down, folks, and discuss why you believe inequality is acceptable and how you truly feel about Robert E. Lee.

It’s not just a matter of black and white.

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