Tonight, as I drove home toward dusk, a single star ignited a pinpoint of space high on the horizon. Later, I sat for some time and studied the star. It made a steady and quiet ascension into the arch of the sky as our earth rolled forward along an invisible orbit.

I was lost in thought over a discovery I made earlier of two letters submitted to the Grant Traverse Herald in 1858 regarding the condition of native peoples at Old Mission. He wrote more specifically about the treatments of their burial sites:

“You pass along to examine [the decaying grave markers], until a broken cross lying on the ground arrests your attention, when upon examining the surface of the ground more minutely, you perceive taht you are standing on the grave of a fellow-mortal, and a silent voice speaks to your inmost soul and you feel a kind of involuntary pity as you think of the forlorn condition of the living ones, so pertinentl figured by the deslotate graves of their kindred. I love to linger among these graves, and have sometimes thought that I could almost see the shades of the dusky chieftain coming back from the spirit home in the far south-west to weep over the sad condition of their people. There is theology here, the theology of a race now disappering before the march of the Ge-che-mo-ko-mon* like the dew before the sun.”

And in the second letter he adds:

“Poor Indians! the graves of their fathers are no longer sacred, and when a few more years shall have passed by, the ust that was once animate will be disturbed by the plowshare of the pale face. Already have some graves been invaded by the plow, and bones and utensils exposed to the sacrilegious gaze of the settler. ‘Tis not enough that the Indian is hills and streams he called his own have been taken away from him; not enough that the avaricious Yankee takes his last cent as pay for the liquid poison that is fast completing the sad tragedy of the Indian’s destruction. The graves of his ancestors must be desecrated. The Indian must not only be robbed of his home, but his last rest must be disquieted, and of all the lands he once possessed not even his grave is to be left him; and future generations will talk of the deeds of the Chippewa (Ojibwe) Chief, as they feast on the grain that will have grown upon his grave.”

Wow. I am drawn to the language of Chief Seattle who wrote, in a letter addressed to the American Government:

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

* Ge-che-mo-ko-mon or “big knife” referring to the swords used in battle by whites to kill native people.