They Were Here First

Schools across the nation are recognizing the importance of honoring the Indigenous Peoples of America over the arrival of the European explorer.

After all, the holiday that falls in mid October seeks to remember the early beginnings of human civility in the New World. And, despite a host of conflicting view points, the native people did establish significant and orderly societies containing the family institution and hierarchies of leadership based on wisdom and stewardship in the natural world.

While the shape and methods of these tribal societies differ from those of newcomers from Europe, they can be recognized as historically significant to how the birth of the United States blossomed to maturity.

Indigenous Peoples Day opens our eyes to the fact that not everything in America’s history is rosy or filled with honor. No country can claim pristine ancestry. As in other nations, those of power and privilege imposed numerous patterns of oppression and brutality upon the native people as part of an insatiable quest for the best land and its precious resources.

The tribal peoples of yesterday sacrificed more than any of us here today can ever imagine. As a result, Americans enjoy a life far richer than most on the planet. Industry and the so-called economic progress of the 19th Century owes its wealth to most often what came out of the ground our native brothers and sisters dwelt upon.

When you read about the Trail of Tears in which the Cherokee were forced to move West, know that it was for gold and other precious metals that could be mined from the Cherokee lands. The Gold Rush in California ravaged countless Native people’s lives for personal and company profit. Rifle-wielding passengers aboard steam-powered railroads winding across the Great Plains quickly hastened the demise of the buffalo, a staple food source to the Native family.

Broken treaties, forced migrations, diseases from Europe, and bloody wars steadily annihilated the Indigenous People, considered to be but another obstacle to prosperity. This is part of our history and deserves to be remembered for how this nation came to enjoy centuries of economic power around the world. Rather than denying America’s dark past, might we find honor in exulting the legends of our Native sons and daughters?

My Llano Kid book series seeks to celebrate the Cherokee for their wisdom, patience and resourcefulness amid unfair standards of discrimination in the 1870s. The stories offer the reader adventure and inspiration no matter one’s background. Western tales hail to portray the spirit and struggle for one’s freedom in the great outdoors. This will always look different through the eyes of others, including those of the Indigenous Peoples.