You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘starvation’ tag.

My interest in the Native American presence in the nineteenth-century state of Missouri led to the heartbreaking read, The Ioway in Missouri by Greg Olson, the Curator of Exhibits at the Missouri State Archives: heartbreaking because of the spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical dissolution of the Ioway tribe, between 1800 to 1837. 

Central to this dissolution was the Supreme Court’s 1827 adoption of the Doctrine of Discovery, found in international law and first practiced by the Crusaders taking over lands of vanquished Turks, perceived as pagans and unfit. In the fifteenth century, this precedent was published in four Papal bulls. Thus protected, American and European settlers headed west, especially following the1803 Louisiana Purchase. No matter that Native Americans were already there. “They’d have to change, be like us.”

From the mid 1700s, however, the Ioway tribe enjoyed a rich presence in and around what constitutes the state of Missouri. Their rituals, tradition, and practices bound them to the earth, perceived as sacred, and to their ancestors in the afterlife from whom they were influenced. From sunup to sundown, theirs was a predictable world, when not warring with another tribe, usually over hunting rights.   

Greg Olson’s use of primary sources, accompanied by photos and maps, makes those thirty-seven years bleed. Misunderstandings, language differences, the violation of multiple treaties, greed, dishonesty, and impatience justify the most stinking aberrations. In 1837, the government removed the Ioway to the Great Nemaha Reservation in the state of Oklahoma, a barren stretch of land where extreme poverty and alcoholism enervated the Ioway even more.

Yet, The Ioway in Missouri concludes with an inspiring epilogue. The Ioway still survive in Kansas and Nebraska and preserve their traditions.

Searching for words to review this biography, Sarah Winnemucca (2001), written by the political historian Sally Zanjani, was hard, due to my superficial grasp of the Native American plight.

Born around 1844 within the Paiute in western Nevada, she was named Thocmentony, meaning Shell Flower. During her early years, she thrived upon the four-thousand-year mythology, traditions, and customs of this desert tribe, roaming in bands, ever in search of food: its focus led to their peaceful and generous nature.

What gives depth to this narrative is the author’s use of primary materials that activated my imagination. I was privy to the dismemberment of an ancient spiritual culture with the encroachment of Anglo-American settlers, of prospectors searching for gold, and agents from the government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. Bloody skirmishes abound. Even Thocmentony was renamed Sarah because no one could not pronounce her name, a name, however that gave her access to the white world.

Fluent in English, Spanish, and three native dialects, the Paiutes, the U. S. Army, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs sought Sarah’s services as interpreter and as messenger. But her interventions did not curtail continuous bloodshed among the Paiutes and the settlers, a lei-motif of this tragic story. Occasional glimpses of Sarah’s notorious sharp tongue and wit and her love of performance as a circuit speaker in the northeast did afford me breathing space.

This biography, Sarah Winnemucca, has roused my compassion for the Native Americans who used to roam the hills and woodlands and waterways of Missouri where I was born. It’s time I learned about them.

Available on Amazon

%d bloggers like this: