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H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 01:14 PM Nov 2021

Walk in History

"Hey, I think I found a piece of a pipe ..... and here's another one!"

My sister had sent a package of old photographs, newspaper articles, report cards, and other school paraphernalia she had sorted out after our mother died. Among them was a nine-page report on Native Americans I had wrote in second grade. My children consider it both interesting and a giggle, as it documents my early fascination with social justice.

The elementary principal had earlier spoke to our class about the history of our community, focusing on Mohawk leader Joseph Brant's meetings with General Herkimer, which took place on what was now one of the school district's baseball fields and tennis courts. That evening, I told my family what I had learned. My mother told me about one of our ancestors who was friends with Brant, including Brant's having him adopt two Indian children orphaned by the Revolutionary War.

My two older brothers would show me the sites of Brant's camps. I learned that when Brant went to warn white settlers to leave the area on the eve of the border wars, some of his warriors took the settlers' clothing from clothes lines, and some put on women's bloomers as a joke. I needed to learn more, and began collecting books on Indians, some of which are still in my library.

At that young age, I already knew that some of my siblings and father's friends had black skin. But I didn't think of this as an important distinction. I was aware of some concerns expressed when a third grade teacher had beat one of my brother's friends bloody, but I did not understand it was because she disliked him because he was black. But that community provided me with an education over the years, about relations between red, white, and black peoples.

These relationships were rooted in the pre-war, colonial era. They influenced the route this country would take, right up until my son took me for a walk earlier this month, on one of the sites my brothers showed me long, long ago. It was where black people who had escaped from slavery camped, along side of Brant and his warriors. This was where, through the sparse grass, my son found the two pieces of a pipe bowl.

We discussed how, during the Revolutionary War, Colonel Jacob Klock had sent an urgent message to Governor Clinton (Clinton Papers; Vol 3; pages 402-4), warning about the Indians and escaped slaves at this site. Clinton passed word on to General Washington, and the result is known as the Clinton-Sullivan campaign. Through the years, especially when the longest canoe race in the world takes place (Clinton Canoe Regatta) nearby, I would take all of my children to this field and related sites, to discuss history.

One of the things they found interesting is explained in Gary Nash's 1974 book, "Red, White, and Black: The Early Peoples of America." It has to do with how white culture viewed the two other groups. Black human beings were viewed as domestic animals, to be kept uneducated and separate from whites, in order to get maximum labor from them. They could buy or sell black human beings at auctions, much like the "farm auctions" that take place frequently around here today.

Indians, on the other hand, were generally considered to be wild animals. There was a year-round hunting season that was closely related to the white culture's desire to expand their territory. When the remaining Indians were subdued, there was a compulsion to wipe away their culture's traditions -- as they had the black people brought from Africa -- but with a different goal. Europeans in the northeast found it impossible to enslave the Natives, like Spain had done in Central America. Short hair cuts, "proper" clothing, and the bible were the tools needed to "tame" these wild humans of the woodlands. And unlike with black people, there was a need to educate the Indians, though never really allow them equal status to white men in America.

Now, my children had an advantage: my extended family includes all of what my friend Rubin called "the Tribes of Humankind." So when we discussed history, they had interacted with a wide variety of skin color on relatives and friends. It helped them understand the life experiences of, say Rubin Carter, who they considered an uncle, and Chief Paul Waterman, their third grandfather. It also helped them understand when, in 1998, at that canoe regatta, a gang of seventeen members of a racial hate group assaulted their cousin, a high school scholar/athlete, because they didn't like a black kid getting so much good press. They left him for dead in a dark field, although I'm glad to say he survived.

This education did not inflict the damage that a portion of white Americans -- who identify this as "critical race theory" -- believe it would surely it would. I grew up in a different world than my parents, or my ancestor who was friends with Joseph Brant. My kids have grown up in a different world than I did. They interact with a wide variety of non-white people, and understand that while they share a lot in common, there are different experiences that define the reality of others' lives. In fact, it provides young people the ability to unite for social justice. Perhaps that is really what scares those intent upon proventing "critical race theory" -- or what I call "history" -- in schools. It's sad that they are living in the past, rather than being here, now.

H2O Man

PS: Between us, my son and I found a variety of projectile points, pottery sherds, and two pieces of a broken pendant. A lot of history there.

44 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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Walk in History (Original Post) H2O Man Nov 2021 OP
I always enjoy your posts and always learn something from them. I recently re-watched "TURN" and am SheilaAnn Nov 2021 #1
Thanks! H2O Man Nov 2021 #9
Living in the Past or In their Perceived Past? modrepub Nov 2021 #2
Right. H2O Man Nov 2021 #10
nice post bigtree Nov 2021 #3
Nice! H2O Man Nov 2021 #12
you're right, they did hide in those hills, along with the runaway slaves bigtree Nov 2021 #24
"Local history" is H2O Man Nov 2021 #25
often the stories are the only artifacts left bigtree Nov 2021 #42
History is essential to understanding who we are as a nation ... Martin Eden Nov 2021 #4
Yes. H2O Man Nov 2021 #13
You see history and humanity can walk hand in hand malaise Nov 2021 #5
Thank you! H2O Man Nov 2021 #14
What a great idea malaise Nov 2021 #21
Yes. H2O Man Nov 2021 #26
It's all fake outrage malaise Nov 2021 #27
It is, but it H2O Man Nov 2021 #31
Which is why your approach is so important malaise Nov 2021 #36
One thing that gave H2O Man Nov 2021 #38
As they say - tall oaks from little malaise Nov 2021 #39
This message was self-deleted by its author malaise Nov 2021 #40
This message was self-deleted by its author malaise Nov 2021 #37
This message was self-deleted by its author H2O Man Nov 2021 #32
It's all fake outrage malaise Nov 2021 #28
Great post. IrishAfricanAmerican Nov 2021 #6
I went to college H2O Man Nov 2021 #15
...K&R... spanone Nov 2021 #7
Thank you! H2O Man Nov 2021 #16
Interesting story. Thank you for sharing. oasis Nov 2021 #8
Thanks! H2O Man Nov 2021 #17
A Wonderful story, it deserves to be written down. I hope so. flying_wahini Nov 2021 #11
Thank you! H2O Man Nov 2021 #18
Many years ago, when my children were teenagers, they asked me about what it was like in the 60's spike jones Nov 2021 #22
That's great! H2O Man Nov 2021 #29
I am currently scanning old slide film into the computer from the late 60's to mid-70's. spike jones Nov 2021 #43
I would love to read your autobiography Saoirse9 Nov 2021 #23
The kids are H2O Man Nov 2021 #35
LOL what a sweet story Saoirse9 Nov 2021 #44
As always, thank you for this, and peace Hekate Nov 2021 #19
Thank you! H2O Man Nov 2021 #20
Kicked and recommended. Uncle Joe Nov 2021 #30
Thanks, Uncle Joe! H2O Man Nov 2021 #33
Great story, H2O. Youre a DU treasure. A-Schwarzenegger Nov 2021 #34
Thank you! H2O Man Nov 2021 #41


(9,776 posts)
1. I always enjoy your posts and always learn something from them. I recently re-watched "TURN" and am
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 01:32 PM
Nov 2021

left with more questions now than before I saw it the first time. Nothing about Indians, much too much regarding Benedict Arnold and a great deal to do with spies. Was there really a Lieut. Simcoe and was this production true history or made for tv stuff. I was left more uninformed than ever.

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
9. Thanks!
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 03:36 PM
Nov 2021

I'm not familiar with "TURN." I know that there was a Captain John Simcoe in Canada. Can't say I remember a lot about him, other than that he fought for the British in the Revolutionary War. I think that his career in Canada was what he was better known for.


(3,525 posts)
2. Living in the Past or In their Perceived Past?
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 01:40 PM
Nov 2021

Upon reflection, I think a lot of people have begun to realize the history that they were taught was a perceived version of what actually happened. As a society, I think we are dealing with a similar reaction that most children have when they find out Santa Clause doesn't really exist. Basically, you lied to me (but I already knew you were lying to me).

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
10. Right.
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 03:39 PM
Nov 2021

They remember better "old days" that never existed.

When my younger son was five, I overheard him tell his brother, "The only happy fat man that brings us presents is Dad." Needless to say, the two of them coped with this by searching our home before Christmas, hoping to find presents.


(86,339 posts)
3. nice post
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 01:52 PM
Nov 2021

...my dad's family moved from Black Mountain N.C., near a reservation where he was born, to Reading, Pa..

It was there that he said they dropped any reference to themselves as 'Indian,' despite their mixed heritage. Dad said it was more acceptable at the time (with their darker skin) to be considered 'black,' so none of them carried on with that association (whatever it was) into their future, except Grandma, who's Indian features were more evident as she aged.

It's also entirely possible that Grandad, who was fleeing trouble there, took the family name (not indigineous to N.C.) from a Pennsylvania gravestone, as all records they had were obtained on their word in their new state.

Black Mountain was an interesting place where many races had settled after the finishing of the railroad expansion which drove the workers, Chinese and Indian laborers, and black slaves, to hide and shelter in the refuge of the deep woods. Grandad ran a speakeasy there where my dad described bringing up jugs from the cellar as a young boy (and drinking a bit, too).

An interesting coincidence: My wife's (by all appearances white, but mixed) father was also born on a Black Mountain reservation, a decade or so later. Neither were ever affliated with any tribe or clan.

Dad, sister, and brother, outside their home in Pa.

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
12. Nice!
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 03:46 PM
Nov 2021

I'm sure that you are familiar with the history of the "Gray Eagle" -- now known as Black Mountain. The Cherokee gave refuge to a significant number of people who were runaway slaves. The Shinnecock on the southeastern end of Long Island did, two.

Cleveland "Big Cat" Williams, the heavyweight boxer who fought in the 1959s and '60s, was part black, part Cherokee. In that era, it meant that most "connected" fight promoters didn't want to do business with him. This despite his wars with Sonny Liston.


(86,339 posts)
24. you're right, they did hide in those hills, along with the runaway slaves
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 07:25 PM
Nov 2021

...and those who weren't forced out re-established ancestral communities, or built new ones. 'Grey Eagle, the name of a tiny town ( sometimes called Gray Eagle) incorporated in 1893 before the railroad came and changed to Black Mountain afterward to match the train station's name.

Cherokees and white settlers together there since the Revolutionary war.

I've also seen Cherokee listed among Indian slaveowners in an old U.S. census book I own from 1863. A large percentage of the mixing of Indian and African blood happened under those unfortunate circumstances, as was the case with white slaveowners who took their captives as wives or bred them like cattle.

My mother's grandmother was the wife of her slaveowner, his sixth.

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
25. "Local history" is
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 08:48 PM
Nov 2021

fascinating to me. There are plenty of good and bad characters, and probably plenty more in between. The Cherokee share a rich, though distant, history with the Susquehannock and Iroquois. I think that if you want to really connect students in schools to their communities, it requires a teaching of history. And it's best if that includes "hands on" things for field trips.

I can't think of any kid, for example, that doesn't enjoy looking at artifacts from an archaeological dig. A century ago, the school system in my hometown had annual "get-togethers" with children and adults from Onondaga. The Elders spoke to local students about respect for the earth. And other things from their culture. No one from my town complained.

Having an understanding of and respect for the different experiences among your family, friends, and neighbors is a good thing. It's really being lost among some people in this country.

Martin Eden

(12,957 posts)
4. History is essential to understanding who we are as a nation ...
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 02:34 PM
Nov 2021

... including what we did wrong in the past and what we need to do better in the future to build that "more perfect union" and to more fully realize the highest ideals at the heart of America's greatness.

I can't help but think of the controversy in recent years over the removal of Confederate statues from places of honor in public squares. Those who still cling to the Lost Cause cried this was tantamount to erasing history. What they fail to acknowledge is those statues were erected to assert White supremacy during the Jim Crow era. Such symbols -- like the Confederate stars & bars on state flags -- have no rightful place in positions of honor where citizens walk by who were the objects of racial oppression as the struggle still goes on to bend the long arc of the moral universe towards justice.

The rightful place for those statues is in museums and historical parks where our nation's history can be preserved and presented in all its unvarnished truth. The necessary objective is not recrimination but enlightenment, casting light on our past to better illuminate the path we must walk into a better future.

Today we are facing a surge of efforts to erase our history. This is not coming from those who would move Confederate statues to more appropriate venues, but from those who want to eliminate the teaching of history which sheds light on our past. Critical Race Theory has become a bogeyman and a rallying point for people unwilling to acknowledge the unvarnished truth of American history, ostensibly to shield their children from feeling bad about themselves.

Utter nonsense. Children are resilient, with young minds capable of learning without feelings of guilt. Any emotional baggage they may have about this has been unloaded onto them by their parents, who would erase history rather than be discomfited by it.

We must not let our history be flushed down an Orwellion memory hole. Such is the path to fascism.

H2O Man, thank you so much for sharing the poignant history of your family and community. Oral traditions are wonderful, but the American people (especially children) also deserve and need a systematic and thorough education about who we are, where we've been, and where we're going.


H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
13. Yes.
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 03:55 PM
Nov 2021

I agree 100% about those statues. I'd be fine with recycling them. But a museum is fine, as most have basements. Recently on facebook, I posted a photograph of Chief Waterman and I. We were doing a reburial ceremony of about 120 sets of Onondaga remains that had been kept in shoe boxes in a museum basement, though we are a bit too far north to accept one of those statues to store underground. I was holding my daughter, who was two years old. It was the first time the ceremony was open to non-Indian people, as Paul recognized the benefit of teaching our common history.

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
14. Thank you!
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 03:58 PM
Nov 2021

I'm thinking of submitting a "guest OP" to a couple local newspapers, explaining that children and youth actually do better when they are taught the truth. Might need to attend a few area school board meetings, too.

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
26. Yes.
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 09:13 PM
Nov 2021

It is strange to me that, in the area where I live, I frequently spoke at schools and colleges about Indian issues. No parents complained. In fact, most probably favored little kids learning that Indians lived here long before Columbus discovered America! (grin) More focus on current events with high school students, and Paul and I spoke at many colleges about serious social-political issues. We asked the young people there to become actively involved in supporting the traditional Iroquois leadership inthese cases. We had good audiences, including students who supported our efforts.

The funny thing is that a lot of the local republican Trump supporters would hold that the Iroquois were treated badly in the past. Some of them even are acquainted with some Iroquois people. But they don't seem to get that much of that poor treatment still exists. Or that Onondaga has its own government, and is part of the Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy, which still functions today. Perhaps they would benefit from a post-graduate lesson on a form of government set up to avoid conflict.

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
31. It is, but it
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 09:43 PM
Nov 2021

is important to recognize how those with very little ability for critical thinking are easily brought to real outrage when their puppet strings are pulled. Those who are creating the levels of hate in America today know that they are lying to their public. What is amazing is that they can tell such outrageously stupid lies, and their masses swallow it hook, line, and sinker.


(270,921 posts)
36. Which is why your approach is so important
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 09:52 PM
Nov 2021

Daily I am amazed that people are so gullible and not just in the USA.

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
38. One thing that gave
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 10:03 PM
Nov 2021

me a flicker of hope recently -- maybe I've told you -- was the most conservative and wealthy man in our township stopped me while I was walking my son's dog. He is frustrated with the town and county government. Actually, quite a few people ranging from old hippies to young red necks are upset. We had the first of our two talks, and found plenty of areas we agree on. Small stuff, but it's something we need more of. Much more.

Response to H2O Man (Reply #38)

Response to H2O Man (Reply #31)

Response to malaise (Reply #27)

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
15. I went to college
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 04:01 PM
Nov 2021

in Herkimer, not far from Rome. There's fascinating history in that region, with many of the same characters that played important historical roles here, a few counties south. My driveway was, long ago, part of a turnpike from German Flats to Ithaca.

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
18. Thank you!
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 04:05 PM
Nov 2021

My kids asked me to write down my life story for them for when I'm gone. That's taking me some time!

Three of the four "kids" work with children and youth, one in a good school, two in other positions. They are all very good in their roles of teaching valuable lessons. Too many youngsters are cut off from their history.

spike jones

(1,718 posts)
22. Many years ago, when my children were teenagers, they asked me about what it was like in the 60's
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 06:52 PM
Nov 2021

in California and, because they were doing the DARE program in school, about my experiences with drugs. I started writing little stories and anecdotes about then, and about college 1963, then and continued through the years of raising a family and after, till 2006, To date I have over seven hundred pages and, later my brother and I did the same for our younger years for another hundred. It has been fun and the family has enjoyed having that family record. Even my grandchildren have read it some, now that they are older. My youngest child is 43 years old and oldest grandchild is 22 years old.

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
29. That's great!
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 09:23 PM
Nov 2021

Though I have a bit less than zero technical skills, one of my sons will help me scan pictures to go throughout. My kids are all adults now, and they find some of the stories I tell them about my childhood and youth hilarious. Especially the youthful years. I was the angriest teenager in America, and had some adventures.

Computers have come in handy with old family photos. My son was able to clear up the old tin-types from the family bible when they were in Ireland, just before coming here. I know who most, though not all of them are. But like modern photographs, I wish people had noted who is in their pictures.

spike jones

(1,718 posts)
43. I am currently scanning old slide film into the computer from the late 60's to mid-70's.
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 10:47 PM
Nov 2021

I bought a slide scanner. I have done photography since I was twelve years old,1957. Previously I scanned my photograph prints from the 50’s to late 60’s, and from 1975 to 2006 when I bought a digital camera. I also scanned my wife’s old family pictures and my brother did our old ones. Many of those are of unknown people. Together with the several thousands of digital pictures since 2006, I have about 15,000 photographs. It helps to do this much writing and scanning over the years as you are recovering from three hip operations and a pandemic. I have also kept a loose journal for years.
The stories are for the family. I can’t imagine they would be of general interest. I have presented them to my family as a cautionary tale.


(3,708 posts)
23. I would love to read your autobiography
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 06:58 PM
Nov 2021

You've had a rich cultural life, and so many wonderful mentors. Then you became a mentor to others yourself.

You have loads of wisdom to pass down.

When children aren't taught racism they don't practice it. I'm lucky that my parents learned from the example of my grandparents (Mom's side) and made sure we understood racism when we saw it.

So when can I read the first draft?

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
35. The kids are
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 09:51 PM
Nov 2021

old enough to hear about some of those adventures without risk of them thinking, "Cool! That sounds fun! I must try it!" Good gosh, I'm lucky to still be here!

I remember when Chloe was not quite three, climbing on her uncle's lap at a family gathering. "Uncle Keith, did you know your skin is black? It's so pretty," she said as she rubbed his cheek and kissed him. He assured her that he knew he was black.


(3,708 posts)
44. LOL what a sweet story
Wed Nov 17, 2021, 07:47 PM
Nov 2021

My Grandad had a farmer's tan. Growing up in the northeast as tots we had never seen anyone with a tan. When my sisters exclaimed over his tan he told them to be careful because it would rub off on them. We thought he just wasn't washing well enough.

Those kids of yours are very lucky. Most kids would love to have a Dad as cool as you are. The ones that don't want someone like that in their life are republicans. Fuck 'em.

H2O Man

(74,030 posts)
20. Thank you!
Tue Nov 16, 2021, 04:28 PM
Nov 2021

"Sheila," of course, being the actual name of the Cheyenne. (I'm helping a couple from a nearby town with a child custody case. Her middle name is Cheyenne, and so I always call her "Sheila." )

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