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Saturday, December 23, 2017

When Lying Becomes History: Was the Noble Savage Really Noble?

Will the real Chief Seattle
please stand up.
I recently read an article in Chronicles, my favorite magazine of cultural commentary, that got me thinking about the idea of the "noble savage." Roger McGrath penned an article titled The Indians Who Never Were about Chief Seattle and the myth surrounding him. The chief supposedly delivered an inspiring speech in 1854 questioning government purchase of Indian lands during negotiations of a treaty. Here's a bit of what he supposedly said:
How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries memories of the red man. The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man . . .
And then there's the lie as McGrath describes it:
“I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie left by the white man who shot them from a passing train.” In 1854, however, there was no railroad crossing the Great Plains, nor would there be until 1868, when the Union Pacific reached Wyoming, two years after the chief had died. Moreover, Chief Seattle never left the Puget Sound area and could never have seen a buffalo, rotting or otherwise.
But then the speech may, in fact, be a total myth. According to McGrath its first "public mention" was in 1887 and the "witness" Henry Smith, a doctor with a poetic spirit, claimed to take notes of the speech. But since Chief Seattle only spoke the language of the Duwamish and Suquamish Indians, it's unlikely the doctor would have understood one word. Not only that, the treaty in question (the Treaty of Point Elliott) had nothing to do with Indian land sales. And the so-called speech was revised and improved on by other authors, one of whom, Ted Perry, freely admitted fictionalizing it for an environmental documentary. And yet the myth of Chief Seattle persists as a "wise Indian chief pleading for the sanctity of Mother Earth."

The truth is less idyllic as McGrath points out:
Chief Seattle earned his reputation not for hugging trees but for leading raids and returning with plunder aplenty and dozens of slaves. In 1847 he led an attack on the Chimakum tribe in their village in the northeastern corner of the Olympic peninsula. Seattle’s warriors took the Chimakum by surprise, slaughtering nearly all the men—upward of 200—as well as some women and children, and taking the surviving women and children as slaves. A few Chimakum were not in the village at the time, and a few escaped during the attack, but the Chimakum ceased to exist as a people. An anthropologist could find only three living Chimakum in 1890.
And yet this man has a statue in Seattle at Tilikum Place, a statue that is an unlikely target for the current iconoclasts savaging history.

Which brings me to our modern representation of the past. How much of our so-called history these
days is myth? And how much "replacement" history is happening?

In a visit to Charlottesville about ten years ago we listened to a docent at Michie Tavern describe Sybil Ludington, the "female Paul Revere" who warned Americans in Connecticut that the Brits were coming. She did what Revere did only twice as much and twice as well.

The ultimate goal of Antifa and their liberal
enablers is racist hatred against all whites.
The black hoods of Antifa are the new KKK.
Now I have no problem recognizing Ludington, but I do have a problem with dissing Paul Revere in the process. We got no information about his ride. Ludington was the politically correct replacement. No doubt her statues will be decorated in bunting rather than defaced with graffitti or destroyed altogether. Although, since she was white the reprieve for feminist political correctness will no doubt be only temporary. The war on all whites is the ultimate goal.

I think McGrath's article is a cautionary tale to all lovers of truth. Don't simply accept what you are told by others. Do your research. Fact check. If something smells fishy, check it out. If you learned it in college where most professors are liberals with an agenda, check it out even if it sounds reasonable. Read primary sources and pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom.

And if you want to give a truth lover in your family a great gift, I suggest a subscription to Chronicles. I consider it a treasure trove of common sense in a world gone mad. Even when I don't agree with a writer, perhaps especially when I don't agree, I'm challenged to think and support my opinions with facts.

"Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth."

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