Some Pawnee Come Home

by A. Jay Adler on March 20, 2009
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Prior to 1907 there existed in the United States an area referred to as the Indian Territory, an area, ultimately reduced to the Oklahoma territory, to which various Indian Tribes were removed from their native grounds in order to make way for white settlement. These relocations became famously dramatic through the Trail of Tears that resulted from the Indian Removal Act of 1830 under President Andrew Jackson. The Cherokee, the Choctaw, and the Chickasaw Indians were among the tribes removed to the Oklahoma territory who reside there to this day.

The Pawnee were relocated to Oklahoma from another territory, that of what is now the state of Nebraska. Now, Kevin Abourezk of the Lincoln Journal Star (and blogging as Redclout) reports about a spiritual and symbolic return of the Pawnee to their native territory made possible in part by an extraordinary act of conscience and restitution by the Nebraska writer Roger Welsch.

AJA


3 comments

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Roger Welsch March 22, 2009 at 5:25 am

We are now dealing with others who simply hadn’t thought of returning properties to the rightful owners… a landslide of sorts. Our intent was not to muscle others into such a decision which can be very difficult. This is all we own…our home and land. I have loved this ragged sandpile for 34 years and consider it a sacred trust. But it has never been as profoundly meaningful to us as it is now that it is sovereign Pawnee land again and nearly a thousand Pawnee elders again rest in Pawnee soil. We highly recommend this course of action for others. Roger and Linda Welsch

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A. Jay Adler March 21, 2009 at 10:23 am

We’re very pleased to hear from Roger and Linda Welsch. Any non-Indian who explores Native issues quickly learns how touchy those issues are – sensitive to the touch. Wounds most Americans little recognize as having been inflicted are still open and raw. I agree with all that the Welsches say. I called the transfer of the land “restitution,” not a gift. That is fundamental, to be sure. As for “conscience,” mine is clear too. But I try to argue in “Aboriginal Sin” (http://www.myvirtualpaper.com/doc/Demo/reachteach/2008103101/16.html) that nations and peoples require collective consciences, and it is that to which I meant to refer in my post. However, the authors of so – unfortunately – extraordinary an act get to conceive of it and feel about it in whatever way they wish. Clearly, the Pawnee have received and return the spirit of it.

P.S., to Roger from Julia Dean (the photographer part of this team and a fellow Nebraskan, out of Broken Bow): It’s been twenty-five years or more since I wrote a piece about you for the Omaha World Herald Sunday Magazine. It’s so nice to hear from you.

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Roger Welsch March 21, 2009 at 9:20 am

Thank you for the kind words but I would like to note that we are touchy about the words we are using to describe this process. The land is not a gift…we are returning it. It is not an act of conscience…my conscience is clear…nor of pity…if anything, I envy Pawnee history and culture. Nor is it even justice. 60 acres and our home don’t amount to much justice in the balance of what was done to the Pawnee. Linda and I have wrestled with what we have done…and we can’t explain it. It was simply something that needed to be done and was as natural as our river, the Loup (named after the Wolf Pawnee), flowing downstream. I know…it doesn’t make any sense. But that is Coyote’s Way. Roger and Linda Welsch

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