I just returned from a vacation to Missouri where I visited the Gateway Arch and Westward Expansion Museum. As usual the Museum left me with mixed feelings and emotions. On one hand I admire the spirit and grit of the westward moving Americans and on the other I feel discomfort at my admiration. I am one quarter Shawnee but I am not one those mid-life Whites who suddenly “discover” their great-great-great grandmother was a (insert Tribe of choice) “Princess” and suddenly they become a Native American by buying a dream catcher and redecorating their residence. I do not and have not ever thought of myself as an Indian, but I used to believe that something about seeing the conquest of the West awakened my Shawnee blood. Now I believe it’s just knowing that it was wrong the way Indians were and are treated.
What is in the past is in the past and we can’t change it. Nor should we try to view that distant time through our 21st century eyes. Our values are not the same as those earlier time Americans nor the Indians that resisted them. We cannot realistically give the Indian Nations their lands back, as much I would like to see it happen. What we can do is make sure that Indians get the monies, assistance, and rights they deserve. I challenge you to offer financial assistance and perform volunteer work to help. I do and you will be surprised at how much a small amount of your time and money can do.