Column Name: Remembering The Great Chiefs
Byline: Joyce Worley

Subhead: An Introduction

Today is the first day of a new feature on NativeRadio.com. This column will present a series of articles about the Great Native American chiefs, their accomplishments and, alas, their sorrows. By this close-up look at the leaders who gave their all to try to save their peoples, I hope we will gain a better understanding of what happened and why, and how these courageous captains struggled against impossible odds.

There are few surprises to be found here, and almost no joy whatsoever. These are stories of sorrow and grief, of betrayal and ordeal beyond decency. You may ask, "Then why should we preserve these sad memories?"

The answers are clear and unequivocal. We must face their challenges, we must know their fear, we must keep forever alive the memory of our past in order to preserve our future. We must not allow our children to forget our Holocaust.

There is no joy in the past, but we can use it to illuminate our futures. We can never undo what happened, we cannot bring back what was lost. But we can raise our tear-stained faces, and feel the warmth of the sun, and use our knowledge of the past to build a better Native America for ourselves. In this third millennium, the past grows ever more remote and difficult to understand, but it is up to us to teach our children how to live with the betrayals and heartbreaks our grandparents knew, and how to bravely seek joy in this new world.

Native Americans must live with the knowledge of what was done to our elders. And, the children of the settlers must live with the knowledge of what their elders did. These are heavy burdens for both, but not yet ready to be laid aside.

The Great Chiefs were mighty men who faced impossible problems. How they dealt with them may provide lessons for a world that offers no compromises.

 

(Joyce Worley is proud of her Cherokee heritage. A well-known journalist and historian from Missouri, Joyce now resides in Nevada.)