Memorial Day — An American Indian Tribute

bannerGood Morning or Afternoon or Evening and Happy Tuesday!

Hope you’ll bear with me today as I re-post this blog from two weeks ago.  It’s all about Memorial Day and an American Indian Tribute to it.  Because at the time, it didn’t get much response, and because the holiday was just celebrated yesterday, I thought I’d “do it again.”

I will be giving away a free e-book of WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH to some lucky blogger.  All you have to do to enter the drawing is to leave a comment.  So come on in and tell me your thoughts on this blog today.

crow-fair-2007-017 Memorial Day is one of my favorite holidays — if only because it reminds me of all those who gave their lives that we might live in freedom and prosper.  Because of this, I thought I’d take you on a tour through early Native America, and those who gave this country some precious gifts.


abenaki-indians What are some of those gifts?  We are all pretty well aware of the contributions from Native America in terms of food. There was corn and squash, pumpkins, potatoes, tobacco, maple syrup and hundreds of herbs.  In fact the first Europeans who arrived here would not have made it had it not been for the Native Americans helping them — bringing them food and showing them how to plant the various foods for this part of the world.

But what about some other gifts?  According to John Smith’s writings, the American wilderness was not a wilderness at all, as we have been led to believe.  Forests were purposely kept trimmed, using fire and other means to keep the grass short and weeds at a minimum, creating park-like conditions — he writes of being able to ride through the Forests easily and without worry because they were kept neat.  There were villages that kept crops cultivated close to their villages.  Children and women were responsible for the crops and there were scarecrows and as well as other means to scare away animals from the fields.  Men hunted for meat, thus the necessity to keep the forests easy to traverse.  Brings to mind to me the fact that the “wilderness” was really not a wilderness after all — at least not when the American Indians were in charge of those forests.

sacagaweaBut the gift I’m thinking about now, due to Memorial Day, is the gift of a particular kind of mind-set.  What was that mind-set?  I forget when I first noticed it, maybe 20 years ago.  I was talking to and getting to know several people from Germany, England and other European countries.  I noticed then that their idea of freedom was quite different from mine.  They thought nothing of another telling them what to do, what to think, what to wear, how you should run your life, etc.  More times than I care to count, they would bow to the “wiser” authority without so much as a comment.  Whereas I objected and would argue with someone who thought they had a “right” to tell me what to do.  At the time, I didn’t know what it was — all I knew was that my ideas of freedom and the Europeans were amazingly different.

So let’s have a look at this.  I think the mind-set that I’m talking about is this: That all men are loved equally in the eyes of the Creator.  That all men are independent and are entitled to think as they see fit and argue their viewpoints with others if they feel so inclined because we are, after all, made in the image of our Creator.  I think that our Founding Fathers were right when they argued that one is not ruled or subject to another man’s whim, and that leaders of a people are responsible not to themselves or a “special few,” but to those people.  And how about this mind-set that was found to be flourishing in Native America?  What was it?  That women have the right to reverse anything the men agree upon if they feel it adversely affects the tribe.  Interesting that in most American Indian tribes (not all, but most) it is the women who held the balance of power.

images15Dr. William B. Newell, an anthropologist, as well as an historian writes: “Indian political theories as embraced in the League of the Iroquois are important and stand out in marked contrast to the European theory of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ which flourished in Europe at the time of the discovery of America.  The individual rights of man were recognized in America long before the Europeans awakened to this political philosophy.  Ideas of freedom, liberty, and equality existed and were engraved in the hearts of the Iroquois when Europeans were boiled or roasted alive for daring to speak against the state or church.”

adam-beach.jpgAlso, this author writes:  “One of the outstanding differences between the European and the American Indian was the fact that in America the the American Indian was permitted freedom of thought while in Europe an individual’s thinking was done for him by autocratic ad dogmatic leaders….”Among the Iroquois, dictators were unknown.  No man could tell another what he must do.  Every man and every woman was allowed freedom of expression.  Every person was allowed to decide for himself what he should do…’We counsel together’ was a famous phrase of the Iroquois.”

mohawkAnother writer, Felix S. Cohen, says this:  “American Democracy, freedom, and tolerance are more American than European and have deep aboriginal roots in our land.”

And another writer, even yet, writes this:  “Under the influence of modern theories of race and climate, it has been fashionable to trace the roots of American freedom to the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of dark German forests, most of whom were serfs.  These historians forget that there were free men in America before the first white settlers arrived with their slaves and indentured servants.  There is more truth in a popular account of America widely circulated in Great Britain in 1776: ‘The daring passion of the American is liberty and that in its fullest extent; nor is it the original natives only to whom this passion is confined, our colonists sent thither seem to have imbibed the same principles.  Truly the passion for liberty as practiced by the Iroquois was a contagious thing.”

quanahAnd so ends a mystery that I’ve carried for several years.  The  urge to be free, to think our own thoughts, to go our own way is embedded deep in our roots, I think.  It’s in the air that we breathe.  It’s as much a part of this land as the giant cottonwoods and gentle weeping willows.  It’s a wish from our ancestors — a wish given to us by Haiwatha and the person they call the Peacemaker  so long ago that people to this day argue over when it really took place.  All I know is that they set into motion a wish that all men would be free, that all men would come to be friends, and that the land they called Turtle Island (North America) would lead the way to freedom and a land free of war…forever.

Okay, so now that we’ve talked about this a little, let me ask you this?  Can you feel it?  Can you feel that wish that is still alive to this very day? 250px-Joseph_Brant_by_Gilbert_Stuart,_1786 I think that our Veterans felt it.  I think that those who gave their lives for their country understood how very precious freedom is and how much it is our heritage.  I think it’s still alive and well to this very day.  And perhaps this is what makes a man great — to set into motion an idea that leads others to envision a way of life that is free from tyranny, where another is free to say what he thinks, to believe what he thinks and to live his life as he sees fit, so long as he realizes that others also have this right.

Well, that’s all for today. So tell me, what do you think?  Did you know this?  Or is it coming from out of the blue?  Let me know your thoughts.

AngelAndTheWarrior-The-CoverAlso, please note that THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR is on sale here: in either e-book format or Tradepaper.  Pick up your copy today.


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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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29 thoughts on “Memorial Day — An American Indian Tribute”

  1. Happy Memorial Day….. hope all is well with you. Are there other genres you would have an interest in writing?

    • Hi Michelle!

      That’s an interesting question and the answer is most definitely yes. I love contemporary romances — but if I were to pick another genre, it would probably be non-fiction. Perhaps something concerning food or nutrition. : )

  2. Memorial Day is truly an American tribute to those who served and gave their all and its meaning needs to be imprinted on generations to come.

  3. Yes.. I still feel it. Freedom is a precious thing and I’m thankful for those who fought for mine and others around the world..
    I enjoyed reading today’s post.. Your book cover is great!
    dkstevensne AToutlookDoTCoM

    • Hi Deanna!

      Yes, freedom is a precious thing — something we are losing more and more of as the nanny state seeks to control us all…unfortunately…

  4. This was an eye-opener to me when you presented it before and I noticed that Lori Benton also mentioned it when she guest blogged here on Friday. I find this concept so fascinating because I am one who had the European roots of American liberty drummed into me back in school.

    And although the official reason for Memorial Day is a remembrance for those who died in wars–I much more like the idea of a remembrance for those who gave their lives to their country and to freedom. That encorporates more than just wars.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Hi Kathryn!

      What a beautiful thing to say and beautifully put. I agree with you. Interestingly, in Europe, the Divine Right of Kings was well in practice — and in fact, our roots in freedom on that side of the world probably stems back to Greece, don’t you think?

      Interesting how history can be…not historical…

  5. Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who sacrificed their life in service to our country. It could be because of war, conflict, relief work in another country, etc. I will continue to pray for all who accept the responsibility of defending our country knowing that it may require defending unto death. They are true heroes.

  6. I like how you contrasted the American idea of freedom with that of some European countries. I have to cogitate more on this 🙂

    • Hi Kimberly,

      It really is something I observed and had to come to terms with — I could never understand it, really, until I started to study the American Indian and in particular, the Iroquois. Then, it all came into place for me. : )

  7. I do feel freedom of a kind but it is not the same freedom our father’s and grandfather’s fought for. We have to be very careful of our freedoms not to offend anyone by where we live. What we do or what we say if we don’t want to chance being hurt or killed.
    Too many people here within our United States are threatening the freedoms our father’s fought for. Too many people are trying to change our great United States into a replica of the counties they “escaped” from. And we being great American do nothing since we do not want to offend anyone anduse be politically correct.
    I love my great country. I am honored that so many people have come to our great nation an merged their cultures with our. That they show respect for our people and our land.
    I just wish we could refuse those who don’t. Send back those who cause trouble. Refuse entry to those who disrespect our great land.
    Thank you for the great contest.

  8. I agree about Freedom we should all have the right to speak and have the rights and to respect each other. My great grandmother is 3/4 Cherokee and was in tune with nature and taught me about the great outdoors as soon as I could walk and I cherish all my memories of Ma and Pa Brown. Freedom is something we will be fighting for in many generations to come. I just hope one day our children can have the peace that was once shared before the Native American were taken away there freedom.

    • Hi Carla!

      Wow, you said that very well, and I so agree with you — especially that we will be fighting for freedoms in years and generations to come.

      Truth be told, we are at war, I believe. Even now — there are those who are fighting for freedoms — in courts, in personal lives, etc. But I do see for myself that we are being attacked on many different fronts at present — fronts our ancestors never had to face, I think. In terms of water, food, air, and other necessities for life, we are fighting for purity and our right to eat what we think we should and not be spoon fed by the “government” or special interests. Sigh…

    • Yes, it does. So well said. And with that responsibility also means to take care of oneself and not expect someone else’s labor to take care of one’s own needs. That’s how I see it.

  9. Hi Kay, my grandfather sought freedom through immigration…or else I would have been raised in Communist Russia. I am not sure what freedoms “others” are trying to take from us? I don’t agree with today’s culture of taking offense at anything one doesn’t like and being all politically correct, but as I see it, I am still amazingly free.

    Our first nations were free of the European concept of land ownership being the thing that made you “free.” I hate it that I live in an area where home ownership is an almost impossible goal for many people due to high costs. That isn’t right.

    As always, your post was thought-provoking and educational. Thanks, my friend! xox

    • Hi Tanya!

      Thanks for your well thought out observations and for telling me a little bit about yourself. So your family is a little more recently arrived than mine. Of course I do have American Indian heritage, but there’s also German, English, Dutch and Irish — and all of those came here long, long ago. I think the German influence might have come into this area during the Revolutionary war — I know our roots go way back. And the American Indian heritage is Choctaw and I believe they landed in Illinois (where I grew up) from “escaping” the Trail of Tears and going up the Mississippi, where they landed in Illinois.

      Well, even the “politically correct” thing is a detriment to our freedom of expression — but probably most of all the freedom to choose is being eroded — from vaccines to health care to food to land, etc. Our courts are no longer courts for the people,. The right to choose what goes into our bodies (food, vaccines, medicine, etc) is being challenged — with forced vaccinations, harrassment of those who choose an all raw diet, etc. Those are some of the freedoms going away — or are under attack — that I know about and am concerned about.

      Love your observations, my friend.

  10. Count me in Kay! Been so busy this past weekend with my youngest daughter’s wedding that I didn’t realize it was your week to post. Love the post as always. Thanks!

  11. I know this is a very late posting but I’ve been busy in my gardens and not taking time to read my favorite blogs.
    Have you ever heard of “The Albany Plan of Union”? We learned about it in high school history and if I remember it correctly Ben Franklin was the major author. It was written several years before the Declaration of Independence. It was a plan to unite the colonies based on the Iroquois Confederation. Your theory of American freedom being based on native culture rather than European goes along with our forefathers’ efforts to separate the colonies from British rule.

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