Yes… I know this movie is almost twenty years old at the time of this post, but there is something to be said about a movie that is so powerful that it can be relevant and emotional this long after it’s release. More importantly is the fact that this is a movie that causes one to review their own history. Michael Blake is a master storyteller and, in one of his few cinematic success’, Kevin Costner does wonders with the book… only changing the Nation from Comanche to Souix for the purpose of the story… it never quite explains why, so if you know, then please share.
If you have not read the book, I strongly recommend that you do. It is powerful, fun and heartbreaking. I do not care who you are, you will laugh and cry during parts of it. This book and “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee”, by Dee Brown, are the only books I have ever read that have truly made me feel any shame for the White/European History of the United States… I am sure that there are many more stories out there that I have yet to read, but at this time, those are the ones I have the most first-hand experience with. So if you, my readers, would like to challenge me on my assessment of those books… don’t, that is not why I am writing this. If you have a suggestion on more reading, then please share that with me and the other readers.
I have known several Indians in my life… I am sorry, but for the sake of this article, I am going to refer to all “Native Americans” as Indians. Please understand that I mean it with no ill will or disrespect. Of the ones I have known, I am always amazed at how they maintain an innate sense of pride and purpose. In light of what has happened to their people across the north and south American continents and even in the midst of the abject poverty some of them live in on many of the reservations that were and still are established across the country, they are still a proud people. They are the ultimate survivors when you look at them this way.
Unfortunately there are those that are leaving their culture, more interested in becoming part of the corporate America that seems intent on helping us all forget about where we come from and who we are. Assisting us into becoming a past-less people who are either ashamed of our past, too busy to worry about our past or taught that our past is in some way offensive to others. All of which are wrong stands to take.
My reason for taking interest in the Indians is more or less as a result of my mother, as most of my passions in life seem to have. She read a book, many years ago, called “Hanta Yo”. At the time I was not interested in this book, or the “Carlos Castenada” series that she was trying to get me to read. Then again, I was at that age where I rebelled against almost everything my Mother tried to get me to do. Later in life I picked these books up and read them. Deep inside I knew that my Mother and my tastes were close enough that I would like them and I did. As a quit addition, you can also blame Tom and Delores Laughlin for some of this. If you do not know the names, then you have never seen the “Billy Jack” movies.
I have never understood why we did what we did to the natives of this land. Yes, I understand it from the point of the historical Western Expansion and the Manifest Destiny philosophies. But there were many occasions where we could have lived together with no war and no killing, yet greed got in the way and we did anyway. I will not even start to cover the many treaties and agreements that we made and broke with the various Nations or how we manipulated the Nations that were already at war with one another into fighting harder. The fact that these Tribal Nations made war with one another also went against what I understood, growing up. They never taught that in school when I was young.
I remember hearing the stories about how the Indians were always peaceful and lived with the land. Schools had a tendency, at the time, to paint the Indians as this semi-docile group of backwards people that were completely overwhelmed by the white man’s war-like ways. When in reality, I learned that the various Nations had their own wars, treaties, trade agreements and cultural variations. They were truly several hundred nations… all unique and not all friendly towards one another.
Personally, I do not think we have made up for what we have done to the Indians, but then the questions arises… “How does one make up for near Genocide and striping a culture from it’s homes and history?” There is no way to, it just cannot happen. I think of the Indians whenever I hear Black people in the news talking about “Reparations”. When you look at what they suffered versus what the Indians suffered… there is no comparison. But there is also no way to repair this… only accept that we were very wrong in what we did and move on having learned our lessons and respecting the lives that it cost. Both those that were taken and those that never were as the result of what we did.
In the event that anyone might have read the wrong message in this article, please understand this. I am an American and I am proud of that. But as an American, I know that I can be proud of who and what I am, but not of all the history that lead me and my fellow Americans here. Our history does have several dark spots on it, but I challenge you to name one country that does not. We should respect the lives that were lost getting here as well, those of both “Sides” of the path. We are all human, and in the end, we all answer to the same Architect.