Friday, February 22, 2013

My piece in The American Spectator about bison, national monuments, and Montana

This morning, The American Spectator published a web article with my musings on last fall's sale of the Etchart Ranch to an environmentalist group, a subject I wrote about here at Montana Headlines at the time it first happened.

The good editors were interested in the subject matter, but we were in the middle of a heated election season at the time that was using up all available oxygen.

Now that the voting is over and President Obama is firmly entrenched for another 4 years, there is more room for other subjects. When asked recently about the piece, I offered my opinion that this particular topic is a timeless one, and the editors apparently agreed. My opinions are, as the piece makes clear, colored by my own experiences -- I don't pretend to be an unbiased observer by any means.

Anyway, the reader can be the judge -- here's the link. Enjoy!


Ed Kemmick said...

All very interesting, but in these two sentences:

"Is anywhere completely safe, though? At one time, those of us who grew up ranching on the rough ridges and vast openness of the high plains thought we would be very safe."

I would substitute the word "living" for "ranching" and put it in the mouth of an Indian, who was not merely induced to leave his land by the machinations of the government and conservationists, but actually driven from the land, or outright killed.

I know, I know, two wrongs don't make a right and the past is past and we have to deal with the here and now ... but still, the almost mystical image of the noble rancher, proud steward of the land, now being displaced by a cruel government, doesn't wring from me the same pity I feel for the people removed to make way for the ranchers.

I would rather face Barack Obama than Philip Sheridan.

Brad Anderson said...

I've not been able to locate it in my library, but I remember reading something from Wendell Berry (I think) about a conversation he was having with an Indian. The Indian told him that they became "redskins" when the powerful had decided it was time for them to go. He told Berry that farmers and ranchers are now the "redskins." There was no malice or "payback is hell" in his comment, it was just a clear-eyed assessment of reality.

As someone who read my "pyramid scheme" post, you know that I have deep feelings about the treatment of the American Indian by the U.S. government.

I lived in Oklahoma for many years, and one of the perennial controversies was over the fact that the Confederate flag hung in front of the state Capitol building along with all of the other flags that had flown over Oklahoma during the history of that state.

The reason it hung there is that back when Oklahoma was the "Indian Territory" (where all of those Indian nations formerly from parts east had been shipped on the Trail of Tears), Oklahoma joined the Confederacy.

There was a lot of discussion over how those Indians could have sided with the evil Confederacy (the last Confederate general to surrender was an Indian from Oklahoma). Yes, there were many wealthy Indians who brought their slaves with them to Oklahoma when they had their land confiscated back east, but slavery wasn't particular widespread in the Indian Territory. The most succinct explanation I ever heard was, "what reason did Indians ever have to like the U.S. government?"

I also feel sorry for the plains Indians who were driven from the land or wiped out by the Sioux in the 1700s, just as I feel bad for the Sioux who were killed and herded onto reservations in the 1800s. Somebody taking someone else's land from them is the history of mankind (look at the familiar history of Great Britain), and it is always the stuff of tragedy.

But to put it in its starkest terms, at a certain point you have to stand with your own "tribe," which was really all I was doing with this article. I have no delusions about how it is all going to end, but you still have to stand.