Byler Indigenous Column

Political correctness has dampened another holiday. Yep! Columbus Day is being downgraded by folks claiming to speak for those whose ancestors were here when Christopher Columbus waded ashore on a Caribbean island.

Celebrating Columbus Day is now deemed politically incorrect because of the way the explorer and the Catholic padres who accompanied him treated the local folks.

Muslims had closed Marco Polo’s road to China when they conquered Constantinople in 1453. That’s why Columbus was looking for another way to get there. Columbus left Palos, Spain in 1492 and headed west.

Knowing the earth was round, he figured he’d wade ashore in China, but he underestimated the size of the planet. It took only 10 weeks to reach some islands, which Columbus thought were off the cost of India.

After wading ashore, he named the island he’d landed on San Salvador and he called the natives he met on the beach Indians. Since then, all humans in the Western Hemisphere whose lineage predates Columbus’s arrival have been called Indians.  

So instead of celebrating “Columbus Day,” it’s politically fashionable that we celebrate “Indigenous Peoples Day,” who, according to historians, were themselves enslaving, eating and sacrificing other indigenous people they’d conquered.

It doesn’t appear to be mostly Indians insisting they be called indigenous people. Nearly all tribes have names for themselves that translate simply as the “people.”

Here in Collin County, the “people” were mostly Kickapoo Kiowa. They were farmers, not nomadic hunters. Smallpox wiped out the entire band. Spotted Tail, their chief, was the last Kickapoo standing.

Chief Spotted Tail is buried in Buckner cemetery. Buckner at one time was the county seat of Collin County, and it was the place where all the local settlers huddled for mutual protection when news of a settlers massacre on the banks of Rowlett Creek was carried throughout the countryside.

All that’s left of old Buckner is the cemetery. It’s inside the Third Monday Trade Days site on Highway 380 in McKinney.

The most fearsome “people” in Texas were the warriors of the Llano Estacado, the Comanche who raided settlements in search of slaves and children who could be indoctrinated into the tribe.

The most famous of these indoctrinated children was a 9-year-old girl. Cynthia Ann Parker along with her brother John were kidnapped by Comanche raiders in 1836.

Cynthia was rescued against her will in 1860. Her son, Quanah, was at one time one of the most fearsome Comanche in Texas. But later he would come to be held in awe with towns and railroads named after him. Few know the story of Quanah’s uncle, John Parker. 

Six years after he was kidnapped, John Parker was ransomed from the Comanche. But young John couldn’t adjust to the settler’s life and went back to his former captors where he lived the life of a Comanche warrior for many years.

During a raid deep into Mexico, John caught a deadly malady and was left to die on the trail back to Texas. A captured Mexican girl was left to care for him, and she nursed him back to health. John tried to return the girl to her family, but she refused to leave him and they were married. John lived the rest of his life as a Mexican.

After the last chief of the Comanche, Quanah Parker submitted to the reservation at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Texans have had few disagreeable encounters with Indians. Shutting down the casino on the Alabama Coushatta reservation was the last conflict involving Texas and indigenous people.

But now a new conflict has surfaced between a Dallas-based company and Indians a thousand miles away.

The company trying to build the pipeline in North Dakota is Energy Transfer Equity, listed at No. 8 on the list of Top 10 Fortune 500 companies in Texas. The company is headquartered in Dallas.

The North Dakota pipeline is being laid entirely on private property and doesn’t cross the Standing Rock Sioux reservation land at any point. It is being laid parallel to an existing pipeline so not to have to do another environmental impact study.

It’s little noted that environmental activists are trying to shut down the pipeline and are using the “disturbance of ancient burial grounds” outside the reservation as a ploy.

Tax-exempt corporation Earthjustice has filed lawsuits in federal court in an effort to stop the pipeline from being laid. Earthjustice was formed as the legal arm of the Sierra Club.

The surest way to foster political correctness is to portray poor folks as victims of big business. That appears to be what’s happening in North Dakota.    

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