Monday, January 17, 2011

The Last Indian Outrage

As Jan and I were driving down the Shenandoah Valley Pike (Virginia Route 11), we stopped at this Virginia historical marker.

Historical marker, 2 miles south of Woodstock, Virginia
I remembered seeing it in the guidebook I left back in our Strasburg motel room. But...

Snowplow Revisionism


The marker we found in 2010 was not the one pictured in Alvin Dohme's 1972 book Shenandoah: The Valley Story:

 
Photo from page 48 of The Valley Story

 The last recorded Indian "outrage" took place just south of Woodstock in 1766. After that the Valley was finally free of the red menace, and remained so ever since. -- Dohme p. 47.

A little web-searching led me to James W. Loewen's book, Lies Across America, which contains an essay entitled "Snowplow Revisionism." Loewen recounts how the 1927 "Last Indian Outrage" marker was struck by a snowplow (or perhaps a mowing machine) in 1994. It was replaced with the more explanatory "Last Indian Conflict" marker.  He argues that the new marker is not just more "politically correct" but, by providing some context for the story and taking a more neutral point of view, it is really more truthful. Though he objects to words like "settlers" in the newer marker, Loewen says, "[d]espite these remaining problems with the text, the revision makes a strong case for errant snowplows (or mowing machines)". On the other hand, I think the continued existence of markers (and guidebooks) containing language more suited to the times in which they were erected and to the people who erected them teaches us a valuable lesson about our past and the impermanence of our certainties.  Loewen suggests in another essay that perhaps historic markers should be two-sided to accommodate differing points of view.

4 comments:

  1. The history of the intercourse between Native Americans and the British/European settlers is truly tragic. It didn't help that they took sides in the European conflict between France and England.

    The Trail of Tears is the second greatest travesty in American history, second only to that of slavery. The Cherokee were a civilized tribe with a written language. Many were Christian converts. They were force marched from North Carolina to Oklahoma. Uncounted thousands died on the way.

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    1. I went to school with a couple of Sheetz's and Taylor's and a Painter, all common names in the area around Woodstock even today. When going to school in Norfolk, I met another Painter. I dated her a while and it turns out she was from the side of the Painter family that descended from some that had been kidnapped and enslaved by the Indians in the Valley. So was distantly related to those I went to high school with in Woodstock.

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  2. I took a major in Geoscience and a minor in History. My family has lived in the Valley since the 1740's and I recall seeing the first sign most of my life, in fact it was there the last time I recall. Its nice to see that the State of Virginia has so much surplus tax funds that they can enforce political correctness on everything and rewrite history. I now live in Texas, where the White vs Indian warfare ran into the late 1800's and is still fresh. A co worker recalls his grandfather's farm near Austin Tx, on the boundary of Comancheria, that included a kill box just inside the door of the bunker like farm house. The home steaders could shoot down from the second floor and sides of the enclosed foyer, when the Indians kicked in the front door and were confronted with another. Indians in Texas were still raping, kidnapping and killing into the late 1870's even after they had been moved to the reservation in Oklahoma and were receiving food and weapons from the Feds. The Feds would reimburse settlers for lost materials or livestock, but not for tortured, raped or killed or kidnapped relatives. I lost a very early relative in Va to the Indians. He collected a local militia to pursue marauding Indians, left the column to check on a nearby farm and ran into the raiding party. To counter all the revisionist pap, one has to put themselves in the place of the people living back then. Imagine going off on a trip to drive hogs to market and returning a few days later and finding your home burned to the ground, your wife raped and murdered, and your children kidnapped. I do not think you would be to benevolent or non violent towards the people who did it. Both my kids have native American in them, and my grandsons have Comanche and Cherokee by way of my time in Oklahoma. The conflict was not so much a matter or race as conflicting cultures. It was a different day and time, and trying to rewrite it to meet today's warm and fuzzy and nauseating version of things is a travesty and is disrespects the memory of those who lived it. Turns their tribulations into a mere incident of road rage..

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