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.


  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.

    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.