Monday, December 05, 2005

Hate-filled Rhetoric

Got an interesting, if not creatively spelled e-mail today, taking me to task about the section on IllinoisHistory.com concerning Indian massacres in Southern Illinois.

I happened to run across the S. IL. website about Native American History of IL. I was shocked and appaled that you had a section on Indian Massacres. Why don't you list all the GENOCIDAL Massacre of almost all the Native Americans In Il. by the white Invaders ,Murderers and Rapists?!! I suppose if adolph hitler won WW2 there would only be a handful of people today who would know about the Holocaust. I'm going to send this blatant RASCIST website to many many Native American organization and other Human Rights groups. Think about IT!!!


Since the writer's e-mail bounced I'll share my reply.

I don't appreciate being falsely maligned as a racist, especially from someone who has trouble spelling the word.

If you are willing to apologize I'll discuss the matter with you. If not, it's your loss.


I have no doubt that Indians were unfairly attacked at times. Two of the leading Indian-haters in the region in the early 19th Century were murderers Thomas Griffee who lived in what is now Williamson County and the infamous Col. John Moredock of Monroe County.

The trouble with the e-mail writer is that history simply doesn't support the idea of "the GENOCIDAL Massacre of almost all the Native Americans In Il."

The only attack on an Indian village in the region that I've found is Vernon H. Crest's version of the Battle of the Long Ridge between Equality and Harrisburg. Though his version of the story doesn't mention it, this incident from February 1813 came just after the Mound City Massacre that set off the Creek Civil War. It may be the basis for the vague recollection I've come across from locals referring to a "White's Massacre".

Leonard White of the saltworks at Equality led the American forces at the Long Ridge so the two incidents may be one and the same. It should also be noted that I've never found a 19th Century account of this event.

The closest incident of attempted genocide took place in the late 17th Century during the Iroquois Wars when the Iroquois massacred a great number of Illini Indians at the Battle of Kaskaskia near modern-day Peoria in 1680.

The Illinois Confederacy had already lost to the Winnebago and would eventually tick off every other neighboring tribe much to their detriment.

One of the remaining unsolved mysteries in Southern Illinois is what really happened to the Indians. Intrigingly there's a growing amount of evidence that many simply assimilated into the backdrop of the Shawnee Hills, especially the Shawnee.

In the Cache River Valley it appears that Cherokees settled into the area more than three decades before the Trail of Tears. They were joined by members of other tribes over the years including at least two Lakota Sioux youth who fled their tribe's village on the Little Big Horn in 1876 a day after Gen. Custer's last stand. (One of those teens later served as a deputy sheriff in Pulaski County in the 1920s.)

Up near St. Louis to the north in Calhoun County it appears that after the Tamaroa signed a treaty to go west, most simply returned to their homes and still maintained a distinct identity until the early 20th Century. Native speakers could still be found up into the 1970s.

I guess my point is to not jump to conclusions when dealing with history you know little about.

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