16 April 2012

Lottie's Memoirs: Indians

... This is part four in a series. Please see the initial post for explanation.

The Lee Family at Silver Creek, Nebraska

Lottie Me Lee Houston
Mrs. Andrew Houston

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Our mother used to tell of the times when she was a young bride in their new small frame house, when the windows would be darkened and she would look up to see a cluster of Indian faces at the window. They were very curious about all items of housekeeping, and often were in search of food. Usually they were the friendly Pawnees, and Mother never had any bad times with them. When I was a baby, her first, and old Pawnee Indian would often come to the house to see me, and as he became familiar I enjoyed his attention, and Mother allowed him to hold me and play with me. He called me "Happy nice papoose", and came often. He gave her a picture of himself, taken by some photographer in Omaha. It is very faded , but I still have it.

Pawnee Hunting Camp. Image Courtesy: www.nebraskastudies.org

People in general were somewhat afraid of the Indians, but they were a familiar sight in Silver Creek. They were allowed to ride on top of the freight cars without paying fare and without being bothered by the train crews, and they often made trips from Western Nebraska or even father, to Omaha, by train. The Pawnees camped each year on the Platte River bottoms, to gather wild plums and grapes and to make pemmican from the dried fruit and meat. They also came to fish, regularly. We could see their camps at a distance, but we children were not to go near them. There were huge wild-grape vines along the river, and we, too, gathered grapes and plums. We also used the vines for swings when we had picnics our outings on the river.

Gradually all the Indians were put on reservations. Looking back now we can see that we, as settlers, were the inturders. They, the Indians, were the inhabitants of the land. Viewing it from a human rights point of view, a century later, we can see that the settlers were the aggressors and the Indians were the injured. However, at that time the "Settlement of the West" was an American dream and ambition of almost fanatic intensity. It was considered patriotic and Christian to destroy the hunting grounds and the livelihood of the Indians, to push them back with no though of preserving their culture or recognizing their rights.

There was an Indian school started at Genoa, and the Indian youth were sent to school there, but they were put in drab classrooms, taught uninteresting subjects as were required in eastern schools, and given dormitory facilities which by present standards were really unsanitary and below standard, and even for those days were not very acceptable. To think of young children treated so by a conquering enemy is not pleasant, but at the time people thought the Indians should be grateful, and count not see why the young folks preferred to return to their tribe and to shake off the smattering of education they had received.

...to be continued...

[Transcriber's note: You can learn more about the Pawnee Nation at
www.NebraskaStudies.org or www.PawneeNation.org.]

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