Memories and Counter-Memories of Settler Colonial Violence
Jeffrey Shepherd (Professor, University of Texas at El Paso)
Racial Violence, Settler Colonial Memory Making, and Indigenous Views on the Washita "Battlefield" National Historic Site
As locations of public memory, our national monuments, memorials, and historic sites hold great promise as spaces of reconciliation and healing. Far too often, however, the narratives they foreground privilege settler-colonial visions of the past that justify conquest and Indigenous dispossession from aboriginal homelands. In doing so, these public sites of history perpetuate another form of violence in the present, by silencing the pain and suffering of Indigenous peoples caused by their erasure in dominant national histories.
Part of the Reckoning & Reconciliation on the Great Plains summit.
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[00:00:01.821](light intro music)
[00:00:05.090]So Dr. Shepherd is a professor and chair
[00:00:07.240]of the Department of History
[00:00:08.320]at the University of Texas at El Paso.
[00:00:11.324]In fact, we were just reminiscing with him,
[00:00:13.000]Margaret and I about life down in the borderlands there,
[00:00:16.770]Texas, New Mexico, Mexico Borderlands.
[00:00:19.840]He's the author two books presently working on a manuscript
[00:00:23.970]tentatively titled "Racial Violence, Settler Colonial
[00:00:26.827]"Memory Making, and Indigenous Views
[00:00:29.207]"on the Washita "Battlefield" National Historic Site".
[00:00:33.030]His research interests focus on Indigenous peoples
[00:00:35.760]of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, environmental history,
[00:00:39.560]the U.S. West, public history and historical memory.
[00:00:43.800]So Jeffrey I'll turn it over to you.
[00:00:51.051]I'm gonna try to share the screen here.
[00:00:55.260]So thank you, Tom and Margaret.
[00:00:59.070]I'm not sure if all the presenters are gonna show up.
[00:01:04.381]So I'll try to keep this as close as I can to 15 minutes,
[00:01:06.810]but we might get a little closer to 20 minutes. (chuckles)
[00:01:11.460]So again, this is a great opportunity
[00:01:16.630]to talk about some very, very important issues.
[00:01:20.570]I just wanted to start a little bit it with
[00:01:23.950]the background of this project,
[00:01:27.360]I'm presently working on a book manuscript,
[00:01:30.130]but this started as a contract
[00:01:33.150]with the National Park Service to write about
[00:01:36.380]the creation of the Washita site.
[00:01:39.940]And I did the normal research that you would expect
[00:01:42.990]in the archives and then about 14 or so
[00:01:46.540]oral history interviews.
[00:01:49.330]From the beginning of the project,
[00:01:50.710]it became very clear that there was sort of a fundamental
[00:01:54.000]tension between, tension about how the event
[00:02:00.180]is characterized and it split along somewhat racial lines.
[00:02:07.287]And the question was,
[00:02:08.120]was this a battle or was this a massacre?
[00:02:11.180]I'm not really gonna litigate that question,
[00:02:14.868]I'm gonna essentially say that this is a massacre.
[00:02:18.890]But those different views, sort of, represent these larger
[00:02:23.980]questions that I want to, sort of, discuss here.
[00:02:31.074]And, you know, I'm not gonna read every single thing
[00:02:32.530]that I write, I'm gonna sort of summarize here.
[00:02:36.630]And, you know, the early representations
[00:02:40.010]that began to emerge immediately following the massacre
[00:02:44.320]in 1868 in Western Oklahoma, western Indian Territory
[00:02:50.550]really sort of started with Anglo perceptions,
[00:02:53.480]particularly your military perceptions.
[00:02:56.750]And a lot of these, as these first person accounts
[00:03:01.430]gained traction in newspapers,
[00:03:06.100]as this initial version of the event grew
[00:03:12.140]the Cheyenne and Arapaho faced
[00:03:14.410]just tremendous physical marginalization,
[00:03:17.500]racial violence, forced relocation to the reservation.
[00:03:23.000]And this really marginalized their ability
[00:03:26.060]and limited their ability to gain a voice
[00:03:30.300]in the public archive about how their families
[00:03:34.020]were traumatized by this massacre.
[00:03:37.680]So during the early 20th century,
[00:03:39.340]we get a series of, sort of, tropes that define
[00:03:43.910]the settler-colonial violence and, you know,
[00:03:46.710]drawing upon notions of imperialist nostalgia,
[00:03:49.950]tropes of culture clash, American innocence,
[00:03:58.317]And these narratives continue to dominate views
[00:04:01.440]on the massacre.
[00:04:03.570]But during the late 20th century,
[00:04:04.930]a lot of indigenous rights activism starts to shift
[00:04:10.560]the story, to shift the narrative a little bit more,
[00:04:14.858]and we start to get challenges
[00:04:15.940]to white supremacist narratives of the past.
[00:04:20.520]These narratives about how to characterize
[00:04:25.070]the event in 1868, they're part of a larger series
[00:04:28.850]of quote, "culture wars," I put that in quotes
[00:04:32.430]because I'm very ambivalent about this notion
[00:04:34.750]of culture wars, but you've got really are deep trends
[00:04:39.822]of American racism, white privilege, white supremacy,
[00:04:42.540]and extremism and nationalist histories
[00:04:46.970]of American exceptionalism.
[00:04:50.070]And in particular, in the 21st century, you know,
[00:04:53.920]indigenous rights activism has really foregrounded
[00:04:57.750]sovereignty, decolonization land claims and land back.
[00:05:03.350]So with that said, I'm just, kind of, gonna go quickly over
[00:05:06.630]some of these contested representations.
[00:05:08.810]And you can see from the beginning in 1868, 1869,
[00:05:14.334]and from there on how these two basic narratives
[00:05:18.850]hinge around the event as a battle or a massacre.
[00:05:23.860]And on, you know, on the left,
[00:05:25.650]we've got these first person accounts,
[00:05:28.247]and actually they represent, you know,
[00:05:29.680]white military victimhood.
[00:05:33.151]And this is a common trope in U.S. history,
[00:05:35.100]particularly white men as aggrieved victims
[00:05:39.920]and the idolization of General Custer.
[00:05:46.670]On the right, some of the very few views from Native people,
[00:05:52.840]Moving Behind, who was Cheyenne survived the massacre,
[00:05:58.629]her views on that massacre.
[00:06:01.823]And then Kathryn Bull Coming,
[00:06:03.330]this is a story that was told to her from her grandparents
[00:06:07.020]and essentially her grandparents, you know,
[00:06:09.530]recounting in their words, their fear and trauma
[00:06:15.122]during the massacre.
[00:06:19.561]As newspapers started to reproduce
[00:06:23.730]these first person military accounts,
[00:06:27.338]they reprinted them again, and again, and again.
[00:06:29.980]So local newspapers printed these,
[00:06:33.590]and these are some of the local regional newspapers.
[00:06:37.997]"The New York Times", for instance, picked them up,
[00:06:41.840]and just further ensconced the settler-colonial narratives.
[00:06:46.920]In addition to those newspapers,
[00:06:49.060]we have the creation of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
[00:06:52.700]And you see this happening all across
[00:06:54.270]the U.S. West, territories creating historical societies
[00:06:58.280]in an effort to engage in modernity,
[00:07:01.720]to legitimize their history,
[00:07:03.800]and in some cases to whiten that history,
[00:07:05.950]to make it more acceptable to incoming settler colonists.
[00:07:10.180]Interestingly, the Oklahoma Historical Society,
[00:07:12.650]the OHS was founded in 1893,
[00:07:16.200]a propitious moment in U.S.-Western history.
[00:07:19.640]And then a few decades later,
[00:07:21.020]they established their Chronicles of Oklahoma.
[00:07:24.690]Now this is a journal on a magazine,
[00:07:27.230]and one of the reasons that it's important
[00:07:28.413]is that it's adopted in public schools across the state.
[00:07:33.370]And it really shaped the sort of the meta narrative
[00:07:38.120]of Oklahoma history.
[00:07:40.020]And importantly, they published eyewitness accounts.
[00:07:42.610]So it was the quote, "The true history,"
[00:07:45.829]he first person accounts, and it had a degree
[00:07:48.250]of quote, "authenticity" of white settler violence.
[00:07:52.870]In addition to these historical societies, of course,
[00:07:55.480]we get narratives and monuments on the land.
[00:07:59.210]So trying to further ensconce THE settler-colonial narrative
[00:08:04.440]and markers across space.
[00:08:07.500]In a particular series of events in 1930
[00:08:11.860]during the Depression where, you know,
[00:08:15.100]drawing upon, sort of, this imperialist nostalgia,
[00:08:17.860]this sense of the lost past these organizations want to
[00:08:22.630]memorialize through monuments this battle.
[00:08:28.157]And then as is known across the West
[00:08:31.833]some so absurd endeavors to dam rivers
[00:08:37.288]and turn the West into a playground
[00:08:39.280]combined with memorializing settler-colonial violence.
[00:08:45.310]And then also we get this kind of growing obsession
[00:08:49.690]with Chief Black Kettle, it's somewhat similar
[00:08:52.750]to the West Texas interest in Quanah Parker.
[00:08:58.040]So simultaneously "honoring him", quote,
[00:09:02.805]but also further ensconcing, sort of,
[00:09:05.350]noble savage tropes.
[00:09:09.390]Extremely troubling, in 1930, there was an attempt to bury,
[00:09:16.740]possibly what were the bones of Chief Black Kettle.
[00:09:21.890]The bones had been sitting in the window
[00:09:26.210]of the Cheyenne Star for several decades.
[00:09:29.150]Many people believe
[00:09:30.080]that they were the bones of Black Kettle,
[00:09:31.980]so there was a local attempt to sort of bury those bones.
[00:09:39.120]Similarly disturbing, trying to bring out Chief Magpie,
[00:09:44.160]who was a survivor of the attack to quote,
[00:09:48.667]"give the blessing" of the interning of what could have been
[00:09:53.630]Chief Black Kettle's bones.
[00:09:58.919]And in what would think should be a solemn and sacred
[00:10:01.040]ceremony turned into a tremendous public spectacle
[00:10:04.730]with the high school marching band, speakers,
[00:10:08.100]military salute from the American Legion,
[00:10:10.830]and in this spectacle,
[00:10:13.940]allegedly very few Cheyenne or Arapaho were there.
[00:10:19.760]So what I try to do in the book is I try to,
[00:10:22.890]kind of, balance the settler-colonial memory making
[00:10:26.710]about racial violence in the past,
[00:10:31.076]and juxtapose that with the real in physical and real time,
[00:10:36.680]land loss, survival and trauma.
[00:10:40.530]So while these settler-colonial organizations
[00:10:43.390]were trying to memorialize a particular past,
[00:10:48.900]native people were really struggling physically
[00:10:52.600]with land loss, marginalization
[00:10:54.942]in their particular presence.
[00:10:58.410]And so just two quotes that kind of reflect this;
[00:11:01.250]on the one hand Moses Starr talks about how
[00:11:04.320]after the land runs and after
[00:11:07.860]the quote "Opening of the C&A Reservation",
[00:11:11.870]they tried to take land allotments near each other
[00:11:15.980]to maintain kinship ties, but also along the Washita River,
[00:11:20.370]one for practical purposes, the need for water,
[00:11:23.260]but I would also argue because of the sacred nature
[00:11:26.370]of that space and their ongoing attempts
[00:11:31.280]to deal with this trauma.
[00:11:33.670]On the other hand, Eugene Blackbear
[00:11:35.810]also, sort of, talked about being moved around
[00:11:38.840]constantly by Anglo settlers and the federal government.
[00:11:42.550]Every time they got settled somewhere,
[00:11:45.480]the government and Anglos moved them around.
[00:11:50.130]And then very briefly, you know, in the book,
[00:11:52.080]I try to talk a little bit about, you know,
[00:11:54.610]how communities and Canton, Watonga, Clinton, Hammond,
[00:11:58.740]try to sustain some traditional ways or adapt
[00:12:01.830]in their own manner to the changes around them.
[00:12:05.010]But really after World war II,
[00:12:06.530]people start moving to the cities,
[00:12:09.730]local communities start to suffer,
[00:12:12.530]the Sun Dance declines and is replaced
[00:12:14.650]by intertribal powwows.
[00:12:16.227]But early during the 1960s, we start to see two individuals,
[00:12:20.100]Peace Chief Lawrence Hart,
[00:12:22.490]and another person, Gordon Yellowman,
[00:12:26.510]move out into the forefront and try to stabilize
[00:12:29.930]the Cheyenne and Arapaho economy.
[00:12:31.960]They get a ruling from the Indian and Claims Commission,
[00:12:35.000]they establish a cultural center.
[00:12:36.750]And these are important issues for survival and survivance,
[00:12:41.110]but also that in places like the Cultural Center,
[00:12:44.610]they're able to represent their own views
[00:12:47.110]on their own history.
[00:12:51.840]So again, after World War II,
[00:12:53.760]different entities try to commemorate
[00:12:55.860]the settler-colonial representation of violence.
[00:13:00.230]The Oklahoma Department of Transportation
[00:13:02.580]worked with local groups to establish highway markers,
[00:13:07.290]they open up the Black Kettle Museum.
[00:13:10.611]Again, this interest in physical markers on the land,
[00:13:16.592]one large marker commemorating
[00:13:19.000]the quote "Battle along the Washita."
[00:13:22.250]Again, local Anglo civic organizations reach out
[00:13:25.600]to Secretary of the Interior, Stuart Udall,
[00:13:30.465]and Anglos start talking about a historic landmark,
[00:13:36.869]a unit in the National Park Service.
[00:13:39.570]So there's some progress that is made here in the 1960s.
[00:13:44.160]But, again, it's a one-sided narrative that perpetuates
[00:13:51.450]the culture clash sort of trope.
[00:13:56.950]So here is this large granite monument,
[00:14:00.150]and it's been there for quite some time,
[00:14:01.880]this is a photograph that I took when I went
[00:14:04.450]to the 25th anniversary commemoration
[00:14:09.193]of the creation of the site.
[00:14:11.514]I went last November,
[00:14:12.910]But you see that people put rocks up on top,
[00:14:15.390]and when you walk throughout the site,
[00:14:18.310]there are ribbons and all other sort of evidence
[00:14:24.731]of Cheyenne, Arapaho and other sort of commemoration,
[00:14:27.360]and sort of changing the site to emphasize Indigenous
[00:14:31.930]persistence, but that this is a site of loss and trauma.
[00:14:37.810]One of the turning points leading up to the creation
[00:14:41.110]of the site, but that really, sort of, kind of radicalized,
[00:14:44.620]I guess, Peace Chief Lawrence Hart
[00:14:47.060]was a commemorative reenactment in 1968.
[00:14:51.080]And the gist of this is that Chief Lawrence Hart
[00:14:55.330]and his family participated in a reenactment.
[00:14:58.380]And it was at the site of the massacre
[00:15:02.530]and the teepees were set up.
[00:15:05.020]But unbeknownst to Hart and his family, the reenacters,
[00:15:10.292]the Seventh Cavalry Association came in early firing blanks
[00:15:16.800]and started to knock down the teepees.
[00:15:19.450]And they were doing this intentionally to try to recreate
[00:15:23.340]the surprise that Cheyenne and Arapaho
[00:15:26.260]had during the massacre.
[00:15:28.630]The result was it horrified Hart and his family,
[00:15:32.660]and essentially retraumatized them because his ancestors
[00:15:38.180]had died and been, and suffered.
[00:15:43.900]And then, of course, along the lines with these spectacles,
[00:15:47.020]there was a parade, marching bands, Miss Indian Pageant,
[00:15:50.900]and a prayer.
[00:15:51.733]And you can see how the newspapers
[00:15:53.390]are racializing the event,
[00:15:55.887]"Redskins against White Eyes."
[00:16:00.050]Two photographs from the event.
[00:16:01.630]This is a 1968 photograph,
[00:16:03.780]but it's in the vein of the 19th century.
[00:16:09.720]And then this photograph over here, it's the spectators,
[00:16:12.880]and so you can see the covered wagon.
[00:16:14.980]And then here you can see the marker from 1968.
[00:16:20.750]And so leading up to the creation of the site,
[00:16:23.380]we have Chief Lawrence Hart here,
[00:16:26.390]and this is Gordon Yellowman.
[00:16:28.140]And Mr. Yellowman is also an accomplished artist
[00:16:31.200]in his own right, and he leaves the Education Department
[00:16:35.343]to the Cheyenne and Arapaho.
[00:16:36.420]And I spoke with them, you know, in November
[00:16:39.470]at this commemoration.
[00:16:41.160]So things start to change a little bit
[00:16:43.080]in the '70s, '80s, 90s, tribal governments
[00:16:46.210]gain a little bit more control over their economies.
[00:16:49.440]We have the emergence of
[00:16:50.500]Tribal Historic Preservation Offices,
[00:16:52.960]Cultural Resources Managers, and, of course,
[00:16:56.507]the impact of NAGPRA as fraught and limited
[00:16:59.330]as it was and is.
[00:17:01.940]And then a Battlefield Commissioner Report the 1990s
[00:17:06.290]identified Washita and Honey Springs as important
[00:17:10.040]quote, "Battlefields to be Preserved."
[00:17:14.580]And then we get this very unusual collection of people
[00:17:18.960]that support the battlefield site, again, battlefield.
[00:17:23.560]So a very conservative Congressman Frank Lucas
[00:17:26.730]led the Oklahoma delegation.
[00:17:29.820]Betty Wessner, whose family
[00:17:32.380]bought the land decades beforehand,
[00:17:35.310]she supported the creation of a historical site.
[00:17:39.870]The Oklahoma Historical Society helped with the transfer
[00:17:42.640]of the land.
[00:17:44.863]And one of the pivotal moments to get Congress
[00:17:48.160]to support this was when Chief Lawrence Hart
[00:17:52.912]testified to Congress and compared the bombing,
[00:17:58.040]the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building
[00:18:01.450]in Oklahoma City with the massacre at Washita.
[00:18:06.520]And then, of course, 1996 it's approved
[00:18:10.162]and the ceremonial dedication in 1997.
[00:18:14.010]And so here, I just wanted to kind of show some of
[00:18:18.180]the interview that I had with Gordon Yellowman,
[00:18:21.370]one of the important comments that he made,
[00:18:24.440]that there was a degree of reluctance from some
[00:18:28.750]Cheyenne and Arapaho to talk about the site
[00:18:32.100]supporting or opposing it,
[00:18:34.200]because simply talking about it was traumatic and painful.
[00:18:38.610]And so sometimes Anglos mistook silence for support
[00:18:43.070]or apathy when it wasn't either of those,
[00:18:45.970]it was simply talking about it was tremendously painful.
[00:18:49.830]And then here a small piece of Lawrence Hart's
[00:18:53.730]congressional testimony, where he says under oath
[00:18:59.539]to Congress, that, you know, the pain and suffering
[00:19:03.640]that the people in the United States,
[00:19:05.020]but particularly in Oklahoma, felt about the bombing
[00:19:08.100]is similar to, perhaps, what the Cheyenne and Arapaho felt
[00:19:13.860]during the massacre in 1868.
[00:19:16.810]And his testimony in particular really turned the corner
[00:19:20.724]and approved, got the approval for the site.
[00:19:27.350]And then a couple additional quotes here,
[00:19:29.680]Lucien Twins spoke with the "Daily Oklahoman",
[00:19:34.430]again, calling this a massacre not a battle.
[00:19:38.300]Cheyenne and Arapaho Business Council
[00:19:40.160]who supported the site,
[00:19:41.970]but went on record saying that the word battle is misleading
[00:19:47.180]and should not be utilized.
[00:19:51.136]And they really wanted the NPS to refer to this
[00:19:54.910]as a massacre site.
[00:19:58.200]Interestingly, I interviewed the first superintendent,
[00:20:02.270]Sarah Craighead, and this is very interesting, I mean,
[00:20:05.280]she said that she understood that Cheyenne and Arapaho
[00:20:10.000]were frustrated, they were angry that the NPS
[00:20:13.990]called it a historic site,
[00:20:16.070]but repeatedly people I interviewed in the Park Service
[00:20:19.190]and the OHS said that due to the naming quote,
[00:20:22.717]"naming conventions of the federal government at the time,
[00:20:26.257]"they could only call it a battle site."
[00:20:30.020]And then, of course, Eugene Blackbear and Lucille Youngbull.
[00:20:35.442]Again, not a battle massacre.
[00:20:38.350]So I have some concluding sort of thoughts here, perhaps,
[00:20:41.470]and, again, I'm not gonna read every single one of these,
[00:20:43.920]and we can have some time for discussion,
[00:20:48.960]but, you know, you really need to
[00:20:52.323]be thinking about the ways in which
[00:20:53.390]the past and the present work interrelationally,
[00:20:58.820]that that memory making is a kind of violence
[00:21:03.700]and memory making about past violence contributes
[00:21:06.950]to marginalization in the present.
[00:21:13.336]That when we're looking at Indigenous histories,
[00:21:15.240]we see that they're characterized by marginalization,
[00:21:17.960]land theft, and an array of carceral system
[00:21:24.630]in their present and the ways
[00:21:27.340]in which the past is imprisoned.
[00:21:32.866]The Cheyenne and Arapaho narratives of violence
[00:21:35.700]must be foregrounded, their stories,
[00:21:40.230]and that the NPS really needs to address the ongoing trauma
[00:21:45.080]that Cheyenne and Arapaho families are facing
[00:21:48.740]by really reconceptualizing
[00:21:50.410]the Washita Historic Site as a massacre.
[00:21:53.910]I mean, again, we know Sand Creek is referred to officially
[00:21:58.650]as a massacre, and I've talked with scholars,
[00:22:02.030]Ari Kelman, and others about this,
[00:22:04.980]and I'm trying to investigate why the Washita
[00:22:07.664]did not have a massacre site when the Sand Creek site does.
[00:22:15.750]And, you know, ultimately today, considering
[00:22:21.045]all of the conflicts that we're having over the ways
[00:22:23.610]in which the past is represented in school books,
[00:22:27.360]we really need to be able to tell painful truths
[00:22:30.250]in national public sites to reject nationalist narratives,
[00:22:34.840]that privilege Anglo voices and, you know,
[00:22:38.670]justifications of conquest and manifest destiny.
[00:22:42.940]And so, you know, when I went to this commemoration
[00:22:47.220]in November, there were still these schisms
[00:22:50.900]between the NPS and Cheyenne and Arapaho representatives
[00:22:54.630]about the event in the past.
[00:22:58.802]And, really, the folks that spoke,
[00:23:01.120]the Native folks that spoke at this commemoration
[00:23:04.460]were literally telling the superintendent
[00:23:07.510]of the site that you need to change this.
[00:23:11.680]We don't see this as a battle,
[00:23:15.589]continuing to call it a battle continues
[00:23:18.440]to cause us pain in the present.
[00:23:21.965]And so there still has not been that kind of reconciliation.
[00:23:25.450]And until this site conveys the pain and the suffering
[00:23:30.700]and the sacredness of it,
[00:23:32.410]that wound will continue to be painful.
[00:23:35.040]So thank you very much,
[00:23:36.873]and I'm sorry if I went over the 15 minutes.
[00:23:40.410]Oh, that's fine.
[00:23:41.243]It seems like we have plenty of time now.
[00:23:47.660]So I had to get things rolling,
[00:23:50.010]I had a question that occurred to me.
[00:23:52.834]Right at the beginning on your very first slide,
[00:23:55.890]you had this sort of map of,
[00:23:57.910]I don't know if you could pull it up,
[00:23:59.740]but there was like a map of various massacre sites,
[00:24:03.480]and I was struck by how they sort of lined up.
[00:24:08.620]There's a whole series of them,
[00:24:09.727]and I was wondering if there was any, like, you know,
[00:24:12.020]Julesburg, Beecher Island, you know, Sand Creek.
[00:24:15.130]I was wondering if there's anything particularly geographic
[00:24:18.940]or ecological or historical about why
[00:24:22.730]this whole series would've occurred right along
[00:24:24.950]in that particular line there?
[00:24:29.233]I mean, some of this is tied to
[00:24:33.210]the Civil War campaigns
[00:24:36.340]and then the post Civil War campaigns that were related,
[00:24:43.019]and in which the military used
[00:24:45.220]some of the Civil War strategies of total warfare
[00:24:49.780]against the Native nations there.
[00:24:56.087]And essentially what happens is that after
[00:24:59.320]the Civil War, Sheridan, Sherman,
[00:25:02.900]and then utilizing Custer engage in these,
[00:25:07.260]a series of just tremendous massacres against
[00:25:11.680]Southern Plains' groups during the wintertime,
[00:25:16.184]in particular during the winter time.
[00:25:19.103]And, you know, the Cheyenne and Arapaho
[00:25:21.410]first having, you know, survived and fled,
[00:25:24.620]and Black Kettle himself was injured at Sand Creek.
[00:25:29.310]And so moving into what is called the Indian Territory,
[00:25:34.860]you know, the federal government, the U.S. military
[00:25:38.070]and settler-colonists were really engaged in these campaigns
[00:25:41.830]of extermination, particularly during the winter.
[00:25:46.889]And the Washita campaign was specifically designed
[00:25:50.650]to send a message to quote "holdouts,"
[00:25:53.880]where they would refer to them as holdouts
[00:25:56.010]that the U.S. military would engage in this, sort of,
[00:25:58.930]this total warfare during the winter time.
[00:26:02.610]I mean, that's a rough sort of summary
[00:26:06.567]of some of the things going on.
[00:26:07.640]And again, of course, this shows battle sites, you know,
[00:26:14.964]and that's, of course, a misnomer.
[00:26:18.030]Margaret asked a question about how the commemoration
[00:26:20.380]of Washita compared to what's been going on,
[00:26:23.350]I think more recently at Sand Creek
[00:26:25.700]in terms of commemorating the site?
[00:26:29.330]Right. Well, I mean, I think part of what was going on
[00:26:32.690]in comparison, I've talked with Ari Kelman about this
[00:26:36.790]in his book, "A Misplaced Massacre",
[00:26:39.940]I need to follow up on a few things,
[00:26:43.003]but one of the reasons that the Sand Creek site
[00:26:46.660]is officially referred to as a massacre,
[00:26:49.290]had to do with the official participation of Governor Evans
[00:26:54.340]and the territorial government and the militia,
[00:26:58.070]and that there was a particular kind of complicity
[00:27:01.140]involved with that.
[00:27:03.510]Whereas the Washita event
[00:27:10.060]did not have that kind of official territorial complicity.
[00:27:16.130]One of the other things that apparently was going on
[00:27:18.550]was that with a few years after the Washita site,
[00:27:26.702]the NPS, the Department of Interior started to change
[00:27:31.210]some of its naming conventions that allowed for
[00:27:34.930]the naming of the Sand Creek massacres as a massacre.
[00:27:42.067]So those are a couple of the basic reasons
[00:27:45.850]why there was a slightly different,
[00:27:48.080]why there was a substantially different naming
[00:27:50.870]of the two sites.
[00:27:53.600]All right, Kevin Abourezk asks,
[00:27:55.797]"What can we do as private citizens to undermine
[00:27:59.087]"narratives that persist in describing these as battlefields
[00:28:03.357]"rather than as massacres?"
[00:28:05.680]Well, thank you.
[00:28:06.513]That's a great question.
[00:28:08.190]And there are things that people can do.
[00:28:09.930]I mean, one of the specific things is that if you are at
[00:28:14.550]the Washita site, you can talk with the superintendent
[00:28:20.490]and you can leave notes there.
[00:28:24.070]But there's also a website
[00:28:25.930]that the National Park Service has for the Washita site.
[00:28:32.474]And I'm, you know, I follow that,
[00:28:34.990]and then there's a Facebook page,
[00:28:37.260]and so I follow that.
[00:28:38.270]And I've tried to say a few things on the Facebook site,
[00:28:41.740]but my posts get blocked. (chuckles)
[00:28:45.590]And, but what I do see, are people saying
[00:28:51.944]that this was a tragic case of violence
[00:28:54.300]that the Cheyenne and Arapaho voices need to be heard more,
[00:28:57.930]and that visitors call it a massacre.
[00:29:01.160]There's also probably legislative things that can be done.
[00:29:05.130]But I also know that Deb Haaland and also
[00:29:09.290]the Department of Interior and the Name Change Board,
[00:29:12.950]I blanking what the official name
[00:29:14.700]of the Name Change Board is,
[00:29:16.640]but they're investigating the names of historic sites
[00:29:19.820]all across the U.S. West.
[00:29:21.730]Well, the U.S., but I'm oriented towards the West.
[00:29:25.720]And so there's a particular attention to replacing
[00:29:29.850]the names of sites that include squaw for instance.
[00:29:34.120]And so there is a specific kind of effort,
[00:29:39.260]a commission perhaps to change some of those names.
[00:29:44.110]So, and a kind of related note,
[00:29:45.940]when you had mentioned that memory making is a,
[00:29:48.190]can be a kind of violence.
[00:29:49.520]I was thinking about all the places,
[00:29:51.820]including the street I live on that are named
[00:29:54.450]for perpetrators of the massacre like Custer,
[00:29:58.778]or in my case, Sheridan, you know,
[00:30:01.582]they're kind of treated as it's a normal thing to do,
[00:30:05.050]to name a street, to name a school, to name a county
[00:30:08.960]after these figures who seem to have been
[00:30:10.742]perpetrating genocidal massacre.
[00:30:13.390]I wonder, if there's any,
[00:30:15.610]if you have any suggestions about engaging with that?
[00:30:19.630]Well, again, I think it's, you know,
[00:30:22.370]whether it's confronting,
[00:30:24.390]I hate to talk about school boards, but, you know,
[00:30:27.290]getting history reframed in school boards,
[00:30:30.770]writing letters, protests.
[00:30:32.360]I mean, I think that, you know, sometimes
[00:30:36.210]the legislative process is incredibly slow
[00:30:39.260]and doesn't respond well.
[00:30:40.820]And so I think that, you know,
[00:30:42.350]in some of these cases, people need to have
[00:30:44.620]vigils or protests at these sites and say,
[00:30:48.287]"Look, you know, this is, these sites,
[00:30:51.377]"the names of these sites are unacceptable."
[00:30:56.090]And collaborating with native communities and supporting
[00:31:00.170]tribal governments or native organizations
[00:31:02.910]in their attempts to change names.
[00:31:09.290]Also Stephanie asked.
[00:31:11.269]Is there a guide or set of best practices for modern day
[00:31:13.870]historical entities who wanna mark sites,
[00:31:16.100]rededicate historical markers, and to be sensitive about it?
[00:31:21.780]A guide, I think that there's a,
[00:31:23.190]I mean, there's a number looks that are out there,
[00:31:26.135]but I could give you an example in Texas where I teach,
[00:31:29.800]that's a really interesting example of, sort of,
[00:31:35.690]confronting historical memory monuments and historical
[00:31:40.330]narratives, and that's the. Refusing to Forget Project,
[00:31:47.068]the that's overseen by a number of scholars in Texas,
[00:31:49.260]Monica Munoz Martinez and others.
[00:31:53.370]And they've really done a good job of engaging
[00:31:55.580]the political process, working with the national,
[00:32:01.296]the National Registry to get
[00:32:04.633]markers for massacres of ethnic Mexican communities
[00:32:12.290]along the U.S.-Mexico border.
[00:32:15.820]So that's one sort of example of a larger sort of strategy.
[00:32:20.700]It's a public history strategy, it's a scholarly strategy,
[00:32:25.070]but it's also a political strategy,
[00:32:27.750]and Sonia Hernandez and others, Ben Johnson,
[00:32:31.760]there's a lot of folks that were involved
[00:32:35.391]with this project.
[00:32:36.224]So that's, I don't know that it's necessarily a manual,
[00:32:39.350]but it's a very good example for a strategy,
[00:32:42.450]that Public History Project that has community
[00:32:45.470]involvement and they've had some pretty good success
[00:32:49.490]getting new plaques and new monuments to massacres.
[00:32:57.050]Yeah. Maybe somebody could post, you know,
[00:32:58.600]eventually put together a best practices compilation
[00:33:02.390]and post it somewhere-
[00:33:03.223]And there might be.
[00:33:04.150]I'm just at the moment I'm sort of,
[00:33:06.420]I mean, there's different,
[00:33:07.420]I mean, there's all kinds of public history, you know,
[00:33:09.700]books and the National Council and Public History.
[00:33:14.860]And I teach some classes on this stuff,
[00:33:16.560]but in terms of just like one succinct manual,
[00:33:20.030]maybe we need to write one. (chuckles)
[00:33:22.210]Yeah. There you go, your next project.
[00:33:27.430]Any more questions?
[00:33:30.190]Anybody have, wanna post?
[00:33:37.240]No. Well, we-
[00:33:40.280]I had a question.
[00:33:44.410]Maybe it's obvious,
[00:33:46.360]but how do you think your book might influence the NPS?
[00:33:51.610]Will they just ignore it
[00:33:52.700]like they ignore your Facebook post (chuckles)
[00:33:56.003]or do you think you can persuade them through your book
[00:33:57.950]that this should be called a massacre?
[00:34:03.120]I think one of the, one of my hopes when I,
[00:34:06.310]one of my hopes, my objectives is while there's a, you know,
[00:34:10.320]there's a degree of, sort of, theoretical discussion,
[00:34:16.350]I'm trying to sort of track step-by-step
[00:34:21.510]the sort of split screen of these Anglo attempts
[00:34:25.860]to commemorate it as a massacre and how that benefits them,
[00:34:31.540]but how simultaneously Cheyenne and Arapaho
[00:34:35.830]are being impacted in the past through marginalization.
[00:34:43.530]But this sort of constant effort from Cheyenne and Arapaho
[00:34:49.940]to have their voices heard, to consistently explain
[00:34:56.600]how this was a massacre and how
[00:35:01.390]it has caused this ongoing intergenerational trauma,
[00:35:06.380]and how their,
[00:35:11.130]the continual use by the NPS
[00:35:15.360]of this sort of mutual responsibility, shared blame,
[00:35:21.260]and culture clash model,
[00:35:24.560]just is to simply wrong.
[00:35:28.593]And I want to incorporate more of the Sand Creek model,
[00:35:32.990]but also I'm thinking about some of the global efforts
[00:35:38.020]and, you know, about this Margaret
[00:35:39.750]about truth and reconciliation,
[00:35:43.484]and about the ways in which historical representations
[00:35:47.780]continue to cause ongoing contemporary traumas.
[00:35:54.590]The problem though, is that in this particular case,
[00:35:59.440]this is probably the case in other places,
[00:36:02.300]is that Washita has a very sort of hyperlocal element to it,
[00:36:08.560]and that there are family members of,
[00:36:14.202]the Wessner family.
[00:36:17.778]Now, they don't want this changed (chuckles)
[00:36:23.022]to a massacre and they still kind of view this
[00:36:25.800]as kind of their land (chuckles),
[00:36:27.890]and that they gave their land to the federal government.
[00:36:31.260]And that was a big lift for, you know,
[00:36:35.340]ranchers in Western Oklahoma, you know,
[00:36:38.900]give their land to the federal government.
[00:36:41.240]But there's also a lot of local entities that still have
[00:36:45.790]this sort of Old West frontier sort of history,
[00:36:49.750]and that they view the site as an economic engine.
[00:36:55.687]And so even if the Park Service agreed to change this
[00:37:00.290]to a massacre site, they would have to contend
[00:37:05.495]with kind of local Anglo backlash.
[00:37:07.150]Now, if they had the spine to do that,
[00:37:10.000]then they could do it, and I would imagine after a few years
[00:37:13.520]that initial, you know, white grievance (chuckles)
[00:37:18.230]would potentially die down.
[00:37:21.310]But I think that the site's gotta change what,
[00:37:24.160]the site has to change what its purpose is
[00:37:27.320]that it's gotta be a sacred site.
[00:37:29.420]And it can't be a site dedicated to historical tourism,
[00:37:33.300]that has to be a site to,
[00:37:35.256]has to be a site to commemorate,
[00:37:36.920]of contemplation, of mourning
[00:37:41.980]and hopefully working through, perhaps,
[00:37:45.620]some of that violence.
[00:37:47.392]But the way in which it's conceptualized
[00:37:48.640]has to be kind of shifted.
[00:37:50.672]So, like, all the parks have these founding missions,
[00:37:54.871]what's their fundamental mission, their objectives.
[00:37:57.310]And I saw this with the Guadalupe Mountains National Park,
[00:37:59.990]I wrote a book about that and, you know,
[00:38:03.110]the Park Service mission was not to incorporate
[00:38:07.330]indigenous cultures and histories.
[00:38:10.310]And that was a direct affront to the Mescalero.
[00:38:14.570]And Guadalupe Mountains
[00:38:16.210]is one of the Mescalero sacred sites.
[00:38:18.990]And so Guadalupe Mountains National Park lacks
[00:38:26.240]real attention to indigenous culture and history.
[00:38:30.170]In their founding mission, it was things like
[00:38:33.786]the local, the landscape, the Chihuahuan Desert,
[00:38:37.646]the mountain, the ambient dark skies, astronomy,
[00:38:41.890]and so culture and history were not
[00:38:43.480]part of their founding mission.
[00:38:46.340]So you have to change those founding missions.
[00:38:48.060]And they think that these things are,
[00:38:51.095]that you can't change them, and they are,
[00:38:53.360]you can change these things.
[00:38:56.560]Kevin, ask the question about,
[00:38:59.560]if you could elaborate on why you think
[00:39:01.470]NAGPRA is flawed and limited.
[00:39:06.500]That's a huge question, thank you.
[00:39:09.037]I just sat in on, a few weeks ago there was a very large
[00:39:14.670]webinar on NAGPRA, a kind of a, not exactly 30 years,
[00:39:22.390]but close to that.
[00:39:26.300]Part of the problem is that it lacks enforcement teeth.
[00:39:29.870]It lacks enough enforcement to
[00:39:34.650]force federal agencies to do basic inventories
[00:39:39.727]of their collections.
[00:39:42.950]The staffing is too small
[00:39:47.850]on the federal level.
[00:39:51.020]It puts too much burden on native nations
[00:39:56.120]to prove that there are ancestral ties and claims
[00:40:02.380]to the human remains
[00:40:05.648]and the cultural quote "patrimony or match,"
[00:40:08.030]that the cultural materials.
[00:40:11.130]So it's just a very slow cumbersome process,
[00:40:15.248]it remains adversarial,
[00:40:19.636]and there's not very much incentive for these institutions
[00:40:23.620]to give up their materials.
[00:40:24.790]Anthropologists and archeologists,
[00:40:28.370]they rely on these materials for their professional study,
[00:40:33.680]and there's all kinds of racism embedded in the process.
[00:40:39.795]That said, there are a number of tribal,
[00:40:44.950]historic preservation officers,
[00:40:47.090]cultural resources managers that recognize
[00:40:50.490]that despite the flaws that this is the best system
[00:40:55.560]they have at the moment.
[00:41:04.150]Got to unmute myself.
[00:41:04.983]Another question here about school boards
[00:41:07.200]who are fearful of changing the narrative around
[00:41:11.370]race topics in particular, and in this case, you know,
[00:41:14.660]settler-Native connections there.
[00:41:18.420]How do we begin to create this conversation
[00:41:21.290]in our communities that can influence the school boards?
[00:41:25.150]I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't have mentioned
[00:41:27.360]the school boards, but I mean,
[00:41:30.626]my son, he's nine years old and, you know,
[00:41:33.950]we're in New Mexico, I live in New Mexico,
[00:41:36.600]but I work in El Paso,
[00:41:38.950]so I have a very sort of split reality.
[00:41:42.180]New Mexico has a much more sort of multicultural,
[00:41:50.890]sort of, curriculum goals and objectives.
[00:41:53.750]It's not perfect, there's a lot of problems with it,
[00:41:56.670]but they were under a federal, I'm sorry,
[00:42:01.770]a court mandate based on a court case,
[00:42:05.670]the Yazzie versus Martinez, I think, case in New Mexico,
[00:42:10.780]that required the public education department to update
[00:42:15.860]its curriculum to be more inclusive and diverse.
[00:42:21.596]And our school board is struggling a little bit
[00:42:24.100]with these ideas, but not too much.
[00:42:28.020]On the other hand in Texas where I work and teach at UTEP,
[00:42:33.230]a lot of school teachers, half of our majors
[00:42:36.740]are going into public school teaching,
[00:42:39.660]they're under, essentially, what are gag orders
[00:42:43.080]from the State of Texas to limit what they say.
[00:42:48.640]I mean, part of the thing, there is the strategies
[00:42:51.830]that the conservatives have implemented
[00:42:56.140]in states across the U.S. to essentially connect
[00:43:01.310]local school boards and local school debates
[00:43:05.645]with colossal, huge issues of American nationalism,
[00:43:09.290]nativism, white privilege, et cetera, et cetera,
[00:43:13.830]is that they've localized these national debates
[00:43:18.550]and have highly orchestrated and well funded campaigns
[00:43:25.970]that support people to run for local school boards.
[00:43:31.513]I think many of us will remember, you know,
[00:43:34.080]a few decades ago that there were very boring
[00:43:38.000]school board debates and discussions.
[00:43:41.830]And now they are, they've become ground zero for,
[00:43:47.350]you know, white grievance for inaccurate complaints
[00:43:51.640]about critical race theory.
[00:43:53.400]But that's not what these debates are,
[00:43:56.080]the debates aren't simply about critical race theory,
[00:43:58.630]they're about changing demographics, they're about fears
[00:44:03.590]of predominantly white middle and upper class communities
[00:44:08.120]about changing demographics
[00:44:09.810]and that people will lose their privilege.
[00:44:12.580]So getting on school boards, you know, I mean,
[00:44:17.900]that's one other thing, but, I mean,
[00:44:20.100]every community's got its own set of issues
[00:44:23.000]and its own sort of strengths and weaknesses
[00:44:25.490]that you can latch onto and say,
[00:44:27.517]"These things are important.
[00:44:29.587]"These things are important for racial justice.
[00:44:31.667]"These things are important
[00:44:32.737]"for gender and equity inclusion,
[00:44:36.287]"and, you know, people have to get involved and speak out."
[00:44:43.460]Okay. I think on that note, we might,
[00:44:46.240]this seems like a good time to end off the session here.
[00:44:50.890]Thank you, Jeffrey for hanging in there for the entire
[00:44:54.090]period you weren't prepared to do nearly an hour.
[00:44:58.930]Margaret, do you have any closing words here?
[00:45:03.810]No, we're good to go
[00:45:05.320]and thank you for everybody for attending.
[00:45:07.210]We have a session coming up at 11:30 with Margaret Huettl
[00:45:12.800]and other faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
[00:45:16.870]and students who are talking about what would land back
[00:45:20.320]look like at the University of Nebraska.
[00:45:23.550]So we hope you'll join us for that session as well.
[00:45:28.363](light outro music)
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