Normally, I would have given the following headline no more that a cursory glance, as my eyes flew over the day’s news:
" The man who kept the Lakota language alive"
The word Lakota caught my eye. This means nothing to most readers of the Guardian...in fact, most people on this planet. It means something to me, because members of the Lakota tribe killed my great grandfather. Sadly, he probably deserved his fate, because he belonged to the US Army’s Seventh Cavalry, which had a reputation for genocide (suppressed by hagiographers of General George Custer).
This unfortunate tribe had the misfortune of dwelling on lands coveted by people with guns and able to influence the men that passed laws. They stood in the way of "progress" and had to be remove/taught a lesson. My great grandfather, unfortunately, got what he deserved. Revenge wrought in his name only helped the plunderers.
A sight not unlike something my great grandfather might have seen.
Given the stage of human development and the technology that surrounds us each day, I find it difficult to believe that my grandfather was born in Indian Territory at about the time the above photo was taken.
I mentioned watching a program on Custer’s Last Folly. Afterwards, I thought about how the US Government treated natives of the land settlers from Europe appropriated. Of course, money and greed drove acquisitions, as it always does. The story is much different than the one I learned in history classes during my formative years, thanks to being educated by the same government. Winners always write the history books.
I could not resist drawing parallels, for example, between the invasion of the Badlands of North Dakota to exploit gold discovery for white men and other US invasions. What was the true reason for invading Iraq...or Afghanistan? What was any foreign invader doing in Afghanistan, a land of isolated tribes who want to mind their own business and get on with their simple lives?
The Indian threat to the white man was only one of being in the way of something he wanted. Although those people had dwelled on the land since time immemorial, white settlers laid claim by right of might.
And, settlers were sent to the Black Hills to populate the region and establish a footprint...and a sense of ownership. How is this different from Israeli settlements on the West Bank? The strong will always take from the weak: that’s human nature. Sadly.
For me anyway....
These are photographs of the the Old West from the 1800's. Life was certainly different. This is not Hollywood's interpretation, casting, or costuming. The only thing missing (fortunately) is are odors. Well worth the time to take a visual trip back in time.
They are particularly interesting for me, because my grandfather was born in the vicinity of many photos, in what was then Indian Territory (now North Dakota). His father and my great grandfather, died at Custer's Last Mistake. His killers may be lurking in one of the photos. I can see ground over which my great grandfather rode his horse and the type of housing my grandfather "enjoyed" as a young child (officer's quarters, not a tent).
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.