Perspective goes to both the victor and the vanquished
“History is written by the victors,” said Winston Churchill. Sad but true. Growing up playing cowboys and indians, watching TV and movie westerns, and being taught about the tragedy of Custer’s Last Stand, gave me a perspective that has taken me decades to balance and learn about the perspective of the other side…the vanquished native American.
Today’s experience at the Crazy Horse monument was interesting on many fronts: it’s a grander, larger and more magnificent monument than Mt. Rushmore but is many, many decades away from completion. The native people I spoke with today clearly have the perspective that their leaders were as equally great as the men who founded and enhanced our nation.
In the bookstore at the monument were several books about yesterday’s post regarding the massacre at Wounded Knee. All the titles were ones like, “The Massacre at Wounded Knee. Stories from native survivors” or “Wounded Knee: History from our Perspective.” I picked them up and skimmed them all. It was much different than what I’d been taught as a kid and has provided me with a profound realization that “the battle” as it’s been characterized truly was uncalled for and was genocide.
One other thing happened today that was pretty profound and added to my pondering about things that had occurred not all that long ago. It was my son and I driving through Custer State Park and detouring down “the Wildlife Loop”. We saw wild turkey’s, antelope, mountain goats and bison.
The bison! We were driving down the loop (which was right out of Dances with Wolves) when we came over a rise and there — on each side of the road and *on* the road — were 150 or so bison. Huge ones like the guy at the left as well as scraggly looking oldsters, females and what looked like yearlings. I shut off the engine, put the car in neutral, and we sloooowly glided to a stop right in the middle of the herd.
We sat there with the windows rolled down, took pictures, listened and looked. What magnificent creatures. Again, this experience was tinged by the sadness of the slaughter of tens of millions of these animals that once roamed the plains and these Black Hills freely. Now only a few hundred thousand remain.
Two cars and a couple on a loud Harley came over the rise back in the distance and stopped. My son asked a few minutes later, “Dad…are the bison passing gas?” Chuckling I said, “Nope. They’re snorting and I think they’re warning each other.” Sure enough, the snorting grew louder and you could see the herd start to become visibly agitated as they milled about. The cars and motorcycle grew closer (I started my engine and slowly moved forward) and the herd began to shift and move off the road until we’d all passed by.
Curiously, the victors over the bison barely mention the 60 million number (of bison that once roamed North America) and the reasons behind this mass killing. Though I’m a fan of the old West and a bit of a history buff, I learned this approximation of the number of bison when I was about 35 years old — nothing in school was said. Of course, bison can’t write books or carve mountain monuments so their perspective isn’t available.
About Steve Borsch
Connecting the Dots Podcast
Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.