<%image(20050503-Vt7a.jpg|147|172|7a)%> It’s been a long day driving alone. Julie is spending some much-needed time with her family up in Vermont and in Maine. That meant a long drive for me through the Green Mountains and down the Hudson Valley back to our home in Pennsylvania. On the way down I couldn’t resist another stop at our future home in Arlington, Vermont on historic 7a. I scoped out the park that is accross from our driveway and found several baseball fields, a swimming hole that can’t be more than 60 or 80 foot square, a pavilion with picnic tables, tennis courts, etc.
My companion for the trip was the average book Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. While I have been fascinated with the insensitivity and outright stupidity of Lewis and Clark toward the indians in some circumstances, the story tends to drag at times with the characteristic repetition of major points throughout the story by Ambrose. In addition, Ambrose loves to tie in sources from previous works, even if they don’t quite fit. Somehow he worked in a quote from Eisenhower!!! I’m just waiting for some kind of comparison with D-Day or the American GI.
Nevertheless, I have been learning so much about the settlement of American and how disease, greed, and violence combined to destroy indian tribes and their way of life. If Ambrose is right, Jefferson actually believed that he could make the Indians into farmers and tradesmen, leaving their intertribal warring behind. Lewis and Clark forced several tribes to make some shakey treaties that were summarily broken in a matter of weeks, if not days. The cold logic and reason that Americans brought to the table took no account of the Indian way of life, not realizing that chiefs must be chosen on the basis of their ability to lead while under fire. That’s not to mention that Europeans and Americans never had a moral leg to stand on anyway regarding war.
While musing upon the expedition of Lewis and Clark, I realized a few things. One is that we need to repent as a nation for what we’ve done to the Native American population. I even think that something as far as a reparation tax on all income that would go toward improving the difficult conditions on many reservations may be in order. A program like Affirmative Action may not go far enough to address the wrongs that we as a nation have committed against the Native Americans.
The other thought was a reminder to never take myself too seriously. Lewis, Clark, and Jefferson really thought they had the Indian problem figured out, planning on making peace, establishing trade routes, and then getting rich quick by taking over the fur trade and farming the land. They never took into account the wise counsel of indian chiefs whose words were almost prophetic in their predictions. I am humbled at the thought of all the bloodshed and mistakes that could have been averted if their advice had been taken seriously.