Reflections about the Importance of Knowing Our History

Years ago, when I was forced to confront the egregious representation of Indigenous People in the public school my daughter had attended, I read an interesting book by David Wrone and Russell Nelson, Jr. (1982). “Who’s the savage?” The school district decided to sue me, along with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as a co-defendant, to prevent the use of “The Pupil Nondiscrimination Statute” to end the demeaning name and cartoonish images they used to promote their high school.


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I spoke with Dr. Wrone, who, along with a distinguished list of other scholars, agreed to be an expert witness in the case. They were never called to testify. I was not allowed by the judge to testify, either. Only the courageous pro bono attorney from ACLU who agreed to represent me was allowed to speak on my behalf as I sat silently beside her. The school district won the case, but lost the larger battle in a later ruling by the State Attorney General. Although I could not use the statute to end the school district’s use of racist caricatures, others could use the statute to challenge local school districts in the future, and many did. (My first post on this blog describes the process in more detail.)

I was reminded of this experience when I watched the following video that features a friend, Carl Gawboy, an Ojibwa scholar and artist.

What’s killing Minnesota’s moose?

YouTube suggested two more.

Why the US Army tried to exterminate the bison


How the US stole thousands of Native American children


I leave you with a question that, tragically, is still relevant today. “Who’s the savage?” Who will benefit by erasing history about the true costs of invasive colonialism across the globe?

Work Cited

David R. Wrone & Russell S. Norton, Jr. (Eds.). Who’s the Savage? Malabar, FL: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company.

31 thoughts on “Reflections about the Importance of Knowing Our History

    1. Yes, Ros, the plight of the moose clearly shows the impacts of the climate crisis, as well as the long range consequence of colonial conquests and attempts to destroy Indigenous cultures that knew how to live in harmony with the environment. Let’s hope we learn the lessons before it’s too late.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. You are an amazing courageous, compassionate, and passionate woman. Standing for what is right seems to always be a challenge for women, almost regardless of the circumstances. I am honored to know you, my friend. 💜

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful, lovely comments, Carrie. I am honored to know you as well, a deeply compassionate woman who continues to live a life dedicated to being kind and seeking wisdom and peace. These are gifts that are especially difficult to carry and give voice to, yet even more precious in these times. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Marie. It was an incredibly difficult challenge that turned out to be a life-changing experience requiring the development of new skills and insights. It also opened up connections and possibilities I would not have imagined otherwise.


    1. Thank you so much for your comments, Janet. It’s so interesting to know that little is known about Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) people. They are still one of the largest Indigenous tribes in the US and Canada although they are spread out in a score of small reservations in the US and I believe from past information, more than 100 Canada. For all of our sakes, like you, I hope we do learn to take better care of the environment. Sending my best wishes to you! 💜

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a responsibility we share, Skywalker, isn’t it? Each in our own ways, we have both continued to do what we can to raise awareness and promote understanding of and respect for different cultures and people. Sending my gratitude and best wishes to you, dear friend. 💜


  2. Thank you for sharing!!… over the centuries mankind has been able to create a image of being civilized, but with today’s technology coupled with life’s challenges, reality has come forward with the truth.. hopefully with that same technology and help with folks like yourself, the younger generation will work together to make this world a better place… “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” ( Maria Robinson )… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, yes, Ray, that was the message sometimes shouted on my answering machine during those times, often laced with profanity. And is was the message in hundreds of letters to the editor in local newspapers. And I wonder how many people have been honored by the high school band marching in front of their home playing patriotic music? I don’t think they were honoring me for practicing freedom of speech, though. But the things that don’t kill us often make us stronger. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful comments and humor, dear friend. Sending my best wishes to you. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Carol,

    Thanks for sending me your reflections on these and other important issues. Accurate history like yours is deluged by the fake kind.

    I haven’t been blogging the important stuff since early 2020 when I wrote this a note that our PM, Justin Trudeau, was using “Buckshot Legislation” (my term for a deluge of disempowering items scattered throughout many bills) enacted in sneaky bits & pieces by his Conservative Party predecessor, Stephen Harper, to destroy First Nations rights. This post contains a link to my big “Buckshot Legislation” post from way back in early 2013.

    In August 2014 I posted my large piece on MH-17 MH17 and Ukraine – A Continuing Study that grew like topsy from a small post I started on America’s great Robert Parry’s claim that American propaganda was falsely blaming Russians for the the shooting down of Ukraine flight MH17 on July 17, 2014. You may be familiar with Robert Parry, RIP, an American news hero of mine. I spent 4 years off and on researching and writing on this.

    In April 2018 I decided to spend less time writing on politics, which had kept me monkishly and sometimes funkishly upstairs at my desk. I have tuned out the world even more during the past COVIDemic: a complicated, many-faceted, sneaky “disease” that makes citizens distracted and weaker in so many ways. When I tell you that I took 2 hours putting this email together you may understand that it’s my lack of efficiency that kills my effectiveness as a blogger.

    Keep up the great work that you do, and stay in touch.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bob, it is so delightful to hear from you! It’s been a long time and I apologize for missing so many of your more recent posts.

      I was teaching two hybrid classes (50% in person, and 50% online) when COVID hit just after the semester began in the spring of 2020. Immediately, we had to redesign courses to be totally online and learn how to use Zoom. Imagine teaching a course like research to undergraduate students who fear it and aren’t interested! It became almost impossible for me to keep up with blogging friends. It’s remained challenging. Once we all figured out how to teach online, the college where I teach decided to change the online platform! Figuring out technology is not one of my strengths…

      It’s the beginning of a new semester and unlike my colleagues, I decided to keep using Zoom instead of meeting face to face on alternating hybrid weeks. COVID is still out of control here. My students will be designing and conducting remote research projects, my attempt to do what I can to keep them safe in these crazy, divisive, and dangerous times.

      But I did visit your blog just now and was reminded how much I appreciate the thoughtful work you do and your lovely photos of birds and nature. (I especially love the photo of the squirrel sitting in the tree you posted in April of 2020.) And the work you did highlighting First Nations’ issues in 2013 during the Harper years, and later under Trudeau, was both phenomenal and frightening. Many people in the states believe that Canada has treated indigenous people more kindly than the US. I know it’s not that much different although Canadian scholars seem to be more willing to and capable of thinking critically about key issues. Perhaps it’s the different educational systems?

      I hope we stay in touch. It was such a gift to hear from you! One last question – Do you still post things on your YouTube site? I would like to check it out when I can if you still post your music. In the meantime, I send my best wishes, dear friend. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I was heartbroken when I saw this headline, Bob. There is no excuse for this senseless tragedy. I am so disappointed with the so-called “leaders” in this country. They not only appear to be heartless, but I also wonder if they have any intelligence or common decency at all!

      Still, I am grateful for small things. I picked an abundance of little cherry tomatoes this morning that are now simmering into sauce. Most of my students posted thoughtful, early responses to discussion questions this morning, and my grandson let me know that he earned an award for an assignment he submitted in his English class at the local community college. And I have the privilege of reading your lovely posts and seeing the exquisite photos of family, nature, and stars that you share.

      Of course none of that can stop the pain we feel because we care when others are harmed and killed by forces beyond our control. It can’t stop us from knowing things could be different if only … But I don’t know how to help us all get there. All I can do is acknowledge the tears that fall as I write this response and promise myself I’ll try to do better, to do what I can where I am. I know from you are doing the same.

      Sending my best wishes to you and your lovely family, dear friend. 💜


      1. Thank you for your response! I sometimes wonder where I fit into the injustice of colonization or what our government still perpetrates among people they say they want to liberate or democratize. Is that much different from bringing religion to ‘savages’ but did nothing but decimate a civilization that existed for 10 thousand years. Where is my allegiance, after all, my life has benefited from conquering other souls? We only have a short time here. I’ve been shot at once and had knives pulled on me plenty but never had the occasion to do the same to anyone. Maybe the best we can do, as little as it seems, is be decent.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Ah, you are much more than decent, my friend. You are someone who can help people see history and nature in new ways with the beautiful photos and stories you share on your blog and with the next generations. Someone who is willing to listen deeply and help others preserve cultures and ways to understand and care for the earth and bridge differences. Someone with a kind and loving heart who is angered by injustice yet finds ways to live a simple, decent life as a father, grandfather, community member, and citizen regardless of the hard work that demands. And someone who is honest and trustworthy, and has a wonderful sense of humor as well. I am honored to have you as a friend. 💜

          Liked by 1 person

  4. The answer to the question of who is wild is always clear to me. Those who hold power are always savages. Although the word savage actually means more instinctive tendencies, over time it has turned into an attack and humiliation word because those who hold power put pressure on the others. In this transformation, of course, there are propaganda activities or tools (like even the caricatures) of those who hold power and situations behind which they feed.

    It’s basically like this, a segregation activity for the human species. In other words, those who forced an Orca whale to live in an indoor pool for decades and then caused it to commit suicide (by banging its head on the walls of the pool) can call it a killer whale; they are human species again. This is something that the human species does because it holds power. In that case, what happened the kids who’ve been coming to watch that orca whale for years? How will they behave when they grow up? And if these children do not receive a good education in the hands of a good educator, then this behavior (watching orca whales for fun in indoor pools) will be a legacy that will be passed on to their children when they grow up.

    The example you mentioned is very striking. This is a very good example of segregation human from human. And thanks to your good education and warrior side, this event will cause many children to reject future discriminatory, inherited behaviors. You are very valuable, I believe your students also know this.;)

    By the way dear Carol, there is something I have never understood. It’s about the words “native” and “indigenous”. These words have emerged with the definition of western colonialists. And this is how it passed into the world literature. In other words, these words did not exist on earth before the western colonists invented this word. What I don’t understand is why people defined by these words don’t reject these words? No need to use anything else instead. I mean, like a German says, I’m German, why doesn’t a Navajo say, I’m Navajo and I don’t accept any other adjective words? If so, wouldn’t their very existence be better defined? As a sign of rejecting discrimination by putting forward their true identity. This would probably be the best way to say, “I don’t accept your definition, so I’m not playing by your rules.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for such thoughtful comments, Migo. Your story about Orca was heartbreaking. It is frightening to consider how such youth will behave in later life!. You have also asked crucial questions and raised such important issues. I’m not sure how to respond. I have read hundreds of books on these subjects but still feel unqualified to provide definitive answers. I will share a bit of overly generalized background information and a couple stories about my own experiences to highlight some of the challenges in present times.

      While I would prefer to use the Canadian designation “First Nations,” that description is not widely used or understood in the US. And technically, tribal groupings were not “nations” in the formalized structural European sense. The original inhabitants of the US and Canada were more like distinct peoples united by shared languages, cosmologies, and cultures, often differing significantly from their geographic neighbors. When the colonizers first landed on the shores of lands they named the “Americas,” many hundreds or thousands of different languages were spoken. Wikipedia, although often not viewed as a scholarly information source, provides a helpful overview ( and maps that show the complexity of language groupings and distributions.

      European explorers and conquistadores were unable to see the diversity, though. They merely saw savages (noble or barbaric), unchristian heathens, and sub-humans they could exploit, enslave, and gain control of land and resources. The original peoples were lumped into one category by the explorers, “Indios.” One explanation for this designation is that Columbus and his men thought they had landed in India. Indios is the masculine form of “Indians” in the Spanish language. Less common is the assertion that the phrase used for Indigenous people was actually “en Dios,” “in God,” in recognition of the innocence and generosity of the peoples who first greeted Europeans.

      The French and English competed with each other to gain native lands in what is now the northern portion of the American continent and found it expedient to recognize each distinct original group as a sovereign independent nation, negotiating treaties with each. It’s a practice the US continued for a while until the US Congress finally clamed “plenary power” ( over tribes. Later, tribes were defined as “domestic dependent nations” by the US Supreme Court. Tribes were lumped together in one size fits all federal legislation overseen by the Bureau of Indian Affairs within the Department of the Interior, concerned with land and resources (not people).

      Throughout its history, the US continued to use “divide and conquer” approaches to exercise control, both across and within different tribes. The means colonizers used to assimilate and homogenize the original peoples eventually led to a recognition among tribal people that the only way to survive was to unify across tribal groups. One of the most powerful was the American Indian Movement ( Later, tribal people in the US wanted to emphasize the fact that they were the first peoples and began to use “Native Americans” instead of American Indians.

      The laws that form the context for tribes are complex. US states were later granted civil and criminal jurisdiction over tribes within their boundaries. I had a chance to see the consequences for tribes when I worked for a state government and later, as a deputy director for an intertribal agency within that state. As one lowly staff person in state government, I had little power to change things although I did what I could. As a deputy director representing all 11 tribes in the state, I was able to do a little more.

      I took with me the realizations I had when I challenged the use of demeaning names and logo symbols by public schools.

      “… I attempted to reason with the school board at perhaps the best attended meeting in their history. There were at least 100 people in attendance, many of whom were in their 50s, 60s, or older. It struck me as sad that so many elders defined their sense of identity with a high school name and logo. (I had also gone to a school with a winning football team tradition, yet decades after graduation, my identity as a human being had nothing to do with the name or logo of the team – the “dragons.” I already had a tribe to which I belonged.)” ( )

      When I walk on this earth, here, where my ancestors lived for millennia before colonists arrived, some of whom are also among my ancestors, I feel a deep sense of connection and belonging. I also feel responsibility to care for the land, water, and air and all of the relations I share it with – trees, plants, animals, and even insects. Sometimes the earth speaks to me, sometimes the tress whisper wisdom, and sometimes in times of uncertainty, I feel the ancestors’ presence. I have come to believe that a sense of deep roots and belonging matter. It grounds one in a power that cannot come from status, titles, or things. People with shallow roots need to cling to illusions that won’t help them weather storms in life. I suspect they fear those of us who “belong” and will continue to do whatever they can to assure our eventual disappearance so they can finally proclaim this land as only theirs. I am sure you already know this.

      I apologize for a long-winded reply! But I felt it was important to try to address such important questions. Sending my gratitude and best wishes, dear Migo and WD. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

      1. First I need to thank you! This is not a long-winded reply for me. Your reply is a wealth of information and questioning that I know comes from a reliable human, especially on one of the subjects of my interest. So your reply was kind of a feast for me, haha! Miigwetch, dear earthling Carol! (I said so cool miigwetch by the way.:))

        It was very interesting to see how many “First Nations” ( i will use it like you from now on) languages, as you call it, are in the wikipedia address you added. Detailed information is not much available on the internet as far as I understood. For example, in Central America, I think if I define the density as the world knows, it is possible to generalize about the ancient Inca civilization and similar languages, but as you go up the continent, it is possible to make a different generalization. It seems unlikely that each would be so different from each other in their areas around. After all, weren’t many tribes related to each other before coming white men? Didn’t this lead to the interrelationship of languages, that is, to take a fix form of at least some general words, although they are pronounced differently? But when I’ve read it, I got the impression that their languages are all very far from each other on wikipedia. Ultimately, in my opinion, the First Nations built the great civilizations. And for this, they must have developed this, apart from their traditions and life disciplines, especially with the exchange between their languages. Perhaps the lack of resources here is because First Nations languages were developed verbally, not written. Written sources, a literature and culture developed in writing, may have regarded it as a symbol of civilization, was very much adopted by the Europeans of the period, that is, they did not see verbal literature as a culture. Of course, none of them knew Hittites, who had the first written texts, and lived 4 thousand years ago did not humiliate any nation who did not use writing in their lands, where they ruled for 800 years. Maybe, civilization started with Hittites and died after them, who knows? 😉

        Anyway, I may be wrong, so maybe First Nations had a lot of written texts, but these texts disappeared during the colonial period, of course I don’t know about it. But languages that develop orally have a much more fluid, much more lively side. It is much more dynamic for me, because it expresses things that can be explained with tens of words in writing much faster and more dynamically.

        The origin of the word “Indios” is also, (based on your explanations) actually, it is the beginning of a process that resulted in the greed of some explorers who were in their own big mistake. These men did not know where they arrived, as they did not know, they made a definition for them in their wrong own way again. All shirt misbutton up to down! And the history of many nations was written with greed and blood of all their wrongs. Because they held the power. Here, perhaps, is why I am thinking at this point, “why First Nations have been accepting these general definitions like indigenous?”. For example, followings had come to mind when I’ve read your post.

        Vodka is generally the business of Slavs you know, especially Russians, wine Italians and French, beer Germans, Turks Raki, Greeks Ouzo and etc, but for example what about the Sioux or Cheyennes drink? Although I gave examples of alcohol drinks here,:) the answer I want does not need to be related with alcohol. So in short, I dont know what they drink in specific, or I don’t know what good food, which First Nation made. I do not know their songs. I have only listened just few Lakota words as lyrics in Nightwish Creek Mary’s Blood song. And it was good. I wonder if First Nations felt the need to introduce themselves in general, because they generally felt compelled to act? So in general, they are people who respect nature and life and have adopted shamanic culture; world knows them like that. If one or two of them had somehow come to the fore among them, for example with a different cultural instrument, then would there be a disconnect in their right cause? In other words, was this done consciously in the political sense, and its other features remained in the background?

        Now, when I look at the links in your comment, this comes to mind. As far as I understand, there is still a struggle against ridiculous laws. And I also observed the process very well in the title “Tribal sovereignty in the United States”. Although I did not experience the process because I did not live there, it is clear from an outside perspective that the situation has passed through a great struggle for decades. So maybe that’s why they need to act together in general. But in the end, it seems like there is still a long way to go. The biggest impact at this point is the struggles of you and people like you, and their potential to be examples that give hope and strength to those in the future. I have also found very informational the American Indian Movement web pages. I will read more details later on it. I could only read “An excerpt from an interview with Earl Livermore about the Indians of All Tribes (IOAT) occupation of Alcatraz, 1970.” Also, I have to say about the logos. These humans are thieves! When stealing and using animals that are powerful for them and that come into existence with First Nations (that is, defined by their values), they do this with great shiftiness. It’s called theft, nothing else.

        When you told me about your connection with nature, my old thoughts came to mind. Before, I very much wanted to live either with a First Nations tribe or among the shamans of Central Asia. Shamanism is the only faith I can accept as a religion on this planet, if only I had faith. You said, “I suspect they fear those of us who “belong” and will continue to do whatever they can to assure our eventual disappearance so they can finally proclaim this land as only theirs.” Of course they are afraid. Why should they not be afraid, because the benefits are huge. However, those who hold power at the moment are after much bigger things on the planet. Because they are in the first phase of what they are going to build instead of capitalism, I guess first phase will take about ten years, and at this stage an ordinary First Nations or a US citizen is worth the same. Because everyone against one percent will be clear sharply on the same side. Even though half of those ninety-nine percent have yet to realize it. But they will soon. So maybe First Nations should make good use of this environment while Sauron has turned his eyes to the other way.;)

        And as last, the name of the Orca Whale who commited suicide was Hugo who slammed his head into the wall of the tank until his died in at the Miami Seaquarium in Florida in 1980. Another one is Kiska in MarineLand Canada, she tried the same recently(about one week ago) like Hugo did. After Kiska news I learnt what happened to Hugo. Kiska also has been filmed while in her action. I do not recommend to watch scenes. I have put their names in here beacuse they deserve to respect and mention. They are the creatures more civil than many human on this planet!

        Thank you, dear earthling friend, for the care- kindness in your explanations, and patience for reading until this line, miigwetch! (D*mn, I have said so cool again, haha!)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Dear Migo, you have raised so many important points, Thank you so much for caring, or should I say miigwetch (sometimes spelled miigwech in an ever-evolving oral language). I wish I could reply to each important point you raised, but I have so much work I need to do for the classes I’m teaching and many outside chores to do to get ready for fall freezes and winter. But a while ago, I did post a five-part series of articles you may find interesting. Here’s a link to the first part: The post does address some the questions and issues you raised just now, although you may find it boring.

          I know I won’t be able to watch the video of Kiska. Just thinking about what Hugo and Kiska went through brings tears to my eyes. But your thoughtful comments and delight with a new way to say thank you touches my heart with gratitude. Thank you, dear friend. I hope you have time to check out the link – it’s a long, academic read but I think you may find some things that are interesting. Sending my best wishes to you and WD, dear friend. 💜

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I will definitelly read your posts, dear earthling friend! And I am sure they will be help for many questions on my mind. Miigwetch to your all efforts! (you guess anymore how much I cool said again, haha!) And WD says hi to you too!:) We wish you healthy and good days on your new school year!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Such an interesting conversation.
    One thing I hear over and over that really gets steam coming out of my ears is when people say, “Go back to where you came from,” and a favorite one is, “Go back to Africa.”
    It doesn’t seem possible that they’re not aware that THEY’RE ones who are the interlopers. I can’t tell if it’s lack of education or willful denial. And also–“go back to Africa”? Black Americans are no longer African and are far removed from Africa. It’s like telling an Irish person to go back to Ireland or a German American to go back to Germany when their families haven’t been back for hundreds of years. Also–“go back” as if they came willingly, on their own, la la la, just traveling to America to start a new life! Telling a population whose ancestors were kidnapped and enslaved to go back!
    Black Americans and First Nation populations have so much in common; I wish they had teamed up more in the past and forged a solid, unbreakable wall together. But I guess circumstances were not the best to engender that outcome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Stacey. It would be interesting to know why people feel the need to make such foolish comments to others – “just go back to …” (wherever). Many of the Euro-American students I have taught in university diversity classes defined their ancestry as “Heinz 57,” meaning a blend of too many different different origins to list or make sense of. Their descriptions of their cultural roots were often characterized as family Thanksgiving or July 4th celebrations. Perhaps the sense of belonging to a culture and place based on family gatherings is a bit more substantive than deriving one’s sense of belonging from the name of a high school football team when one is in his or her 70s. The thought makes me sad.

      Your other question about unity among people on the margins is also important. Divide and conquer tactics have always been used. An early example comes to mind. The descendants of poor whites who arrived as indentured servants were elevated by the plantation owners to be overseers of the black slaves, a way to buffer them from the potential alliance of a numerically larger force who shared oppressive conditions. Before the Civil War, some southern tribes actually had slaves (e.g., the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole _ After the Civil War, some freed former slaves joined the cavalry and fought in the “Indian Wars” in the Southwest and Great Plains of the US ( Both groups were merely trying to survive in a nation that exploited them for different reasons, yet there are still legacies of animosity and distrust.

      There is also a profound difference based on their origins. Native Americans are not considered as minority individuals per se in the US. They are members of distinct tribes from specific locations that signed treaties as sovereign governments (with France, Great Britain, and later the US). There is a whole body of federal legislation and judicial rulings that deal with tribes. Defending their sovereignty over the reaming lands they hold in common, and regaining some of the rights that have been stripped away continue to be major concerns for many tribal governments. Many tribal leaders have been reluctant to even take up causes that affect urban Native Americans as individuals. I do agree, though, that people who are on the margins need to unite.

      In my work for a state government, and later with a tribal council, I tried to forge those connections anyway. I had to deal with strong resistance from some state officials, some tribal leaders and some members of urban Indian and Black communities. There is a lot of education and healing that needs to be done before that can happen and people on the margins are kept busy with continuing assaults on their lives and wellbeing.

      I know this is a long-winded response to you thought-provoking questions. I hope I have been able to explain complex issues in a clear, helpful, non-judgmental way.


  6. Thank you so much for sharing this post, the videos, and for your advocacy and action. It’s heartbreaking and outrageous to witness the brutality against Native Americans, indigenous peoples, and animals. I cannot understand the cruelty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s such a gift to hear from MJ! Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I can’t understand the cruelty, either.

      I hope you are doing well and would love to hear what you are doing now.

      Sending gratitude for your kindness along with my best wishes. 💜


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