Unto These Hills
Some of the cast of "Unto These Hills"
Cherokee doing the Bison Dance
We took our vacation in Cherokee North Carolina this past week. I had plans to go tubing and rafting while we were there but I got hurt on Monday while tubing. The water was higher than normal because of the rain and I got caught in a strong current near the bank. I hit my head on a low hanging tree branch that knocked me into the water. I was trying to hang on to the tube and was dragged over rocks. I had a goose egg on my left shin and a huge bruise on my right arm. The pain in my arm has kept me up nights. Because of the current it took all my strength to make it to shore. Coming up the bank I threw my back out and last but not least I was stung by a wasp or a bee on my big toe which felt like a hot iron touching my skin. Needless to say my activities were limited for the rest of the week.
I did get to see the Indian Village which was better the second second time around. We were there in the 1990's. Our group got to see the play "Unto These Hills" which chronicles the travails of the Cherokee people throughout their long history of interaction with the British and later the Americans. As a student of history and a white man this history has always been troubling to me. I think it would bother anybody who is truly conscientious and has a desire in their own personal lives to live an honorable life and treat others as they would want to be treated. The mistreatment of all people of color by the white or European race is nothing to be proud of. However as a white male Conservative I try to stay away from what I call white guilt when I interpret history. I leave white guilt to the political left. As a person who believes in personal responsibility and the religious concept that we were all born into sin, no man is perfect regardless of race or creed. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God". I will be judged for my actions and my actions only. On that score I believe my record is pretty good.
I treated black people with love and respect in an era that many white people didn't during the years of segregation. I didn't know many Indians growing up so I can only relate to my interaction of myself and black people. I have always heard that my Great Grandmother was either full blooded Cherokee or half. I have never been able to confirm this except to say that she definitely appears to be Cherokee in her picture. My dad and brother Mark reflect this heritage but I inherited all the Anglo features. Later when I joined the military I interacted with all races and religions. I never had a problem there either. Interpreting the long history of the white race and people of color is difficult . Based on my view of things and my study of American history and the warfare between whites and Indians, I know that there were good whites who had honorable intentions. All Indians were not honorable. There were many that were guilty of treachery and many other unpardonable acts. On the other hand a Cherokee for example can easily look at Andrew Jackson and dismiss him as the devil incarnate. A white liberal might take the same view.
For me I have to compartmentalize. Yes Jackson was a racist. It is fair to say that most white people of his generation were racist. That doesn't excuse it but it helps to explain their behavior. When you look at the interaction of whites with the Indians it was the white man's racism and greed that usually was at the root of their mistreatment of the Indians. If there had been no racism the whites would probably have still been able to acquire what they wanted without war. The Indians were always willing to trade or negotiate. What was at the bottom of the friction was a cultural one. Indigenous cultures everywhere did not believe that anyone could truly own the land. The ownership of land was communal. The private ownership of land is a basic tenet of European and American culture. Conflict was inevitable between these two cultures even had there been no racism to darken that conflict. Conflict did not necessarily have to be violent but there would have always been a basic difference of opinion. Personally I believe in the inalienable right to own property. Most people today would probably agree with me, even the Indians.
Andrew Jackson was responsible for acquiring more territory for the United States than any other man except James K. Polk. Jackson, by defeating the Creek at Horseshoe Bend acquired Alabama and Mississippi. By defeating the British at New Orleans he secured the states that would come out of the vast territory of the Louisiana Purchase. When he drove the Spanish out of Florida he secured that state for the United States. This move protected the Southeastern United States from Indian attack encouraged by the Spanish. Jacksonian Democracy, although it was primarily aimed at enfranchising a lower class of white men would eventually benefit all races and both sexes at a future point in American history. In retrospect how many people regardless of race or political viewpoint would want to give back all that territory or go back to the lifestyle of the indigenous culture of the American Indian. Although racism is still alive and well we have made great progress in that area, contrary to the race merchants who try to keep the issue alive.