The last of the so-called Indian Wars ended with the surrender of Chief Joseph of the Wallowa Band of Nez Perce as he proclaimed, “I will fight no more forever.” The story of aggression did not end there, however. Life for the Native Americans became harsher as what liberties that had were either not acknowledged or eroded. A Paiute prophet by the name of Wovaka had blended the ancient Native traditional beliefs with the teachings of The Bible to found The Ghost Dance. Whereas among African-American slave traditions, the teachings of The Bible were interpreted to contextualize the modern-day slave’s plight with those of the people of Moses under the harsh bondage of Pharaoh. Pax Romana was something that resonated with the indigenous tribes. The Ghost Dance was a messianic vision of the resurrected dead returning for Judgment Day where atonement for wrongs would right the world. Just as Christians observe the Advent of the birth of Messiah, so too the hybrid religion was amped up with the season’s message. But love, hope and justice in one culture was translated as a threat in the other. And as often happens, atrocity happens when people are given over to fear when faced with what they do not understand.
Morningstar invited me down to the studio this afternoon to discuss the ironies of this time of year. The influences, conscious and more often unwittingly, picked up by one person or culture are difficult to sift through. After contact, everyone is changed. Morningstar claims Choctaw, but also German heritage. I’ve got a mostly Scots-Irish bloodline, but also Cherokee and Shawnee among others. This is our bittersweet lineage to sort through as it is America’s. So in your rush to return gifts and score post-holiday bargains, please take the time to remember those who live without the privileges we take so much for granted. December 29th, 1890. A moment of silence for the great tribal leader and respected man of peace, Chief Spotted Elk (also known in some renditions as Big Foot).