William Bartram was a witness to the Augusta Treaty of 1773 with the Creek People. Our faithful recorder documented this and his journey to Buffalo Lick with the surveyors following the Treaty.
Lost in the Sands of Time…
The actual location of Buffalo Lick is lost in the sands of time. Out of 4 possible locations for Buffalo Lick, I visited 2, and a third was lost behind a recent growth of young pines. Yet the land holds the memory, in a creek near the 3rd location I discovered creek kaolin; white, sweet clay that buffalo, deer, and cows like to lick.
The land also still holds the beauty, perhaps the most dramatically gorgeous place being Temperance Bell.
The Burning of Greensboro…
In Lexington, GA, at the artist cooperative, I found a little booklet about the burning of Greensboro when it was just a frontier town. This bears out William Bartram’s report that the Creek people were not very happy with the treaty signed with the colonists ceding away land the size of Delaware. For Greensboro is very near the Buffalo Lick area, which was the boundary of the land ceded in 1776. Sometime after that, when Greensboro had just been settled as a frontier town, the Creeks returned and burned it to the ground.
Treaty after Treaty, signed, then broken…
While the Creeks may have been the victors in that battle, the Native American people as a whole have lost out. The colonization of North America has had a lasting impact on the well-being of the First People, and not for the better. Colonist attitudes were racist and greedy for land. Treaty after treaty was signed and then broken, while the Native American people viewed and continue to view each treaty as a sacred contract.
Once the treaty signing stopped, the Native American tribes were made into Nations, legal entities that could then do business with other governments and corporations. This continued the appropriation of resources rightly belonging to the Native American peoples.
The Loss of the Land: Impact!
The loss of control of their land has impacted the Native American people in a myriad of ways, none of them good. According to a report by James Anaya (http://unsr.jamesanaya.org/docs/countries/2012-report-usa-a-hrc-21-47-add1_en.pdf), the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples for the United Nations, there are a number of frightening statistics about the Native American population in the U.S. today. His notes on Justice Department Statistics include:
• The poverty rate among Native Americans is double the national average
• 500% more Native Americans die from tuberculosis than the national average.
• 514% more die from alcoholism
• 177% more die from diabetes
• 140% more from unintentional injuries
• 92% more die from homicide
• and 92% more die from suicide than the national average.
• The overall level of education is much lower among Native American Peoples.
• Violent crime exceeds that of any other racial group at double the national average.
• Native American Women are twice as likely as all other women to be victims of violence.
• One in three Native American Women will be raped during her lifetime.
• 80% of the rapes are by non-indigenous men, who are not subject to indigenous prosecution due to their non-indigenous status.
To survive, women leave, abandoning their culture….
In order to survive, many women leave their communities. As one woman said, in James Anaya’s report, “when I left, I didn’t just leave my family. I left my culture behind…I ran away from my traditions, from my songs, my dances, my heritage.”
What would William do?
What would William think of all this? I think that the faithful recorder of the people and tribes that he met, the close observer, moved by the Chactaw song he asked to be translated, would be saddened, especially at the loss of culture and the suffering that continues today. I think that Puc-Puggy, or Flower-Hunter, as the Native Americans called him, would be especially saddened by the way that the powers of corporations and government are using the land, the very land that the Native American people hold sacred to them, against the people.
Truth and Reconciliation without Vilification
James Anaya, in a talk at the University of Georgia, called for healing through Truth and Reconciliation without Vilification. In other words, a national conversation about the actual realities of the indigenous peoples of the United States, and the historical antecedents, needs to happen, involving the media, school teachers, people at all levels of government and society.
Return control of the Land
That and returning control of the land where it is reasonable to the Native American People, would begin the process of healing this nearly invisible issue. In particular, he asked that the President officially extend an apology to the Native American People, by taking the steps outlined in an Apology passed by Congress in 2010.
An Interview from the Frontlines of Relocation
Following is an interview with Swaneagle, who has worked recently on the very issue of relocation and loss of control of the land. She gives her perspective on the Apology from Congress. In the interview it becomes very clear that the Native American people hold the land sacred in a way that even Americans with an affinity for nature cannot quite fathom. In addition, it becomes clear that in taking the people’s resources, we are poisoning the land from out beneath them, and using the poisoned land as a tool for their destruction. In essence, using the very thing they hold most sacred to destroy them.