The Sacrament of the Land: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 35

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.

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Buffalo Lick Marker by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Buffalo Lick Marker by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series. Click on the image for a larger view.

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.

Creek Kaolin by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Creek Kaolin by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series. Click on the image for a larger view.

 

The land also still holds the beauty, perhaps the most dramatically gorgeous place being Temperance Bell.

Temperance Bell Trees by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Temperance Bell Trees by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series. Click on the image for a larger view.

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.

Dried Flower Heads at Temperance Bell by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Dried Flower Heads at Temperance Bell by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series. Click on the image for a larger view.

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.

by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Temperance Bell Possible Perception 6058 by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series. Click on the image for a larger view.

Appropriation….

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.

Desecration by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Desecration by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series. Click on the image for a larger view.

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.

In addition:

• 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.

Dogwood in Spring by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Dogwood in Spring by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series. Click on the image for a larger view.

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.”

Alabama Flower 519 by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Alabama Flower 519 by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series. Click on the image for a larger view.

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.

Puc-Puggy Possible Perception by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Puc-Puggy Possible Perception 6059 by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series. Click on the image for a larger view.

 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.

Autumn Pine by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Autumn Pine by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series. Click on the image for a larger view.

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.

Winter Crept Myrtle by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Winter Crept Myrtle by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series. Click on the image for a larger view.

 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.

Summer Forest by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Summer Forest by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series. Click on the image for a larger view.

*Opening Stanza from “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare.

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2 Responses to The Sacrament of the Land: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 35

  1. Very moving and disturbing interview. Many of the points you raised I was either not aware of, or only minimally so.I believe we are beginning to connect the dots–although only since the white privileged have been affected–ie fracking, Tar Sands, Harper, etc. As long as it’s been south of the border, or affecting only disenfranchised groups including indigenous, people of color, the poor, migrants, etc. no-one has been willing to discuss or reveal the problem–buried in denial. Thank you so much for the work you have been doing.
    I have been engaged in primarily immigrant (migrants and farmworkers in particular) and Latin American issues for many years now and have only in the last 2 years become aware of just how horrendous the white man’s attack on indigenous people has been or the effect it has had. Some folks at one of the Joanna Macy workshops I attended introduced me to restorative justice, in particular a Canadian book by Rupert Ross, “Returning to the Teachings: Exploring Aboriginal Justice”. He gives (what I think) is a very stirring, historical account of what happened in Canada and how it affected aboriginal nations–very similar to what happened in the US. The recent connection to mining through IdleNo More and the Pachamama Alliance, and of course the Occupy movement, I believe will further explore both the historical and the present effects of greed on “all our relations” and hopefully provide a space for healing and restitution in some form. May all beings be blessed with connection and healing through teachers like yourself who raise awareness and refuse to give up.

    • Beth Thompson says:

      Thank you Gloria for your thoughtful comments, and taking the time for my blog and Swaneagle’s interview. I appreciate it very much.

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