Broken Treaties

National Historic Trail

History records countless instances of broken treaties and forced relocation of Native Americans as the result of westward expansion. My novel of the Southern Plains Indian Wars, Palo Duro, begins with the negotiations at Medicine Lodge Creek whereat the U.S. government altered the terms of the Little Arkansas Treaty signed just two years prior.

Under the provisions of the new treaties (there would be three in all) the Kiowa, the Apache and the Comanche were required to give up more than 60,000 square miles of their land in the Texas Panhandle in exchange for a reservation in Indian Territory, and the parts of Kansas and Indian Territory previously set aside for the Southern Cheyenne and the Arapahoe were also cut in half. 

Earlier in the 1830s the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Creek, and Cherokee (known collectively as the Five Civilized Tribes) had also been forced from their ancestral lands in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida, and relocated west of the Mississippi to Indian Territory. Thousands died along the way, and the journey became known as the Trail of Tears.

Although the sovereignty of the Indian nations would be affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Worcester vs. Georgia (1832), the demand for more land by white settlers led to the “Indian Removal Act” of 1830. The Act required the U.S. government to negotiate with the tribes in good faith. However the spirit of the law was frequently ignored, and by the 1840s thousands of Native Americans had been driven off their land in the Southeastern United States and force marched to present-day Oklahoma. The Choctaw became the first nation to be forcibly expelled. This tribe was followed by the Creeks. The last to go were the Cherokee.

By 1838 only about 2,000 of the estimated 16,000 Cherokee had “voluntarily” left their homeland. The U.S. Army under General Winfield Scott was authorized to expedite the removal of the holdouts. It is estimated that somewhere between 5,000-8,000  perished from disease and starvation as they made their way westward.

The promises of an unmolested new home for those that survived also failed to materialize. Indian Territory shrank as more and more white settlers encroached on these lands, and when Oklahoma became a state in 1907 the guarantee of this new homeland was gone for good.

Over a hundred years later, on August 23rd 2019, the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation announced that the tribe would appoint its first delegate to the House of Representatives. The prospect of a sitting congressional representative is historic. While the tribe’s delegate will lack a chamber vote, for the very first time a Cherokee will sit on House committees (e.g., Appropriations, Ways and Means, etc.) which will provide the Cherokee Nation with direct access to members of Congress who do possess voting power.

What remains uncertain is whether the United States government will honor long standing treaty rights. The provision authorizing representation is contained in the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. Only now has the Cherokee Nation obtained sufficient economic and political clout to move forward, but it remains to be seen whether the treaty will be contested. Treaties negotiated with sovereign nations do not expire, but if history is any indication, those applying to Native Americans can certainly be ignored.

The last chapter in the Southern Plains Indians’ struggle ended much as the first chapter began – in broken promises.

Hopefully the Cherokee Nation and its new delegate to the House of Representatives will write not just a new chapter in Native American history, but one that expresses hope for their future.

Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day Blog

2019 marks the 125th anniversary of Labor Day as a national holiday. Although Oregon was the first state to recognize it as an official public holiday in 1887, it didn’t become a federal holiday until 1894.

Dedicated to the social and economic achievements of the American worker, two men have been credited with proposing the observance – Matthew Maguire, the Secretary of the Central Labor Union (CLU) of New York, and Peter J. McGuire, Vice President of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in Columbus, Ohio. Both organizations would later merge to become the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States.

The manner of observance has changed over the years. The initial proposal did specify that the first Monday in September be set aside for the celebration, and recommended that it begin with a street parade to show the public “the strength and espirit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.” The parade was to be followed by a festival “for the recreation and amusement of workers and their families.”

Today, mass displays and parades have given way to emphasis on individual leisure time. The holiday marks the “unofficial end of summer.” School and sports activities begin at this time. Labor Day Weekend is the first three-day holiday of the school calendar year, and the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) typically plays their first games throughout the three-day weekend. In the world of fashion, Labor Day has long been considered the last acceptable day to wear white, beaches and barbecues are synonymous with the holiday, and shoppers flock to department stores or shop online for items (especially back-to-school supplies, clothing, and shoes for school age children) at discounted prices.

What we tend to forget or take for granted, however, are the advances in workers’ rights… eight hour workdays, two-day weekends, paid holidays, minimum wages, the elimination of child labor, and the duty of the state to regulate labor conditions.

None of these advances would have been possible without the efforts of those who organized and championed better working conditions beginning in the latter part of the 19th century and continuing into the present time.

Who Are Your Heroes?

 

Fallen Heroes

A confluence of events has caused me to reflect on this question. The first is the posting on social media by a very dear friend of photos of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, policemen, and firefighters who have died in the performance of their duties. The second was a speech given this past Monday at the weekly luncheon at Aggie Park in San Antonio by the Fifth Army North Commander, LTG Jeffrey S. Buchanan, where he addressed this very question. Third is the upcoming gathering of Texas A&M University alumni to honor those Aggies who have died this past year. And last, though I don’t have an exact release date, is the publication of my most recent book, Tarnished Brass, and my inclusion of a section entitled “In Memoriam.”

The social media postings honor individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country. Their photos are poignant reminders that service to country, whether in the Armed Forces, Law Enforcement, or as Firefighters often comes at a very high cost. These men and women are the very embodiment of heroism. Their conduct reflects great courage, superior character and integrity in a noble cause greater than self, and it cost them their lives.

In his own way General Buchanan echoed these sentiments by relating the story of a subordinate officer who served with the general in various assignments throughout his career including multiple deployments in Iraq where he was severely injured by an IED, and in Afghanistan where he lost his life. The general wears a wrist band in his memory.

The Muster tradition, an annual gathering of fellow Texas Aggies that dates back to 1883, has evolved over the years from just celebrating college memories to honoring those Aggies no longer able to attend the ceremony due to their passing. Normally held on April 21st in remembrance of Texas Independence and San Jacinto Day, this year’s event at the San Antonio A&M Club will take place April 22nd. April 21st is Easter Sunday.

National recognition of Muster hearkens back to April 21, 1942 and the Second World War when a roll call of the twenty-seven Aggies serving in the Philippines on the small island of Corregidor was held. All would either be killed or captured by Japanese forces, but their solidarity in the face of overwhelming odds heartened the nation’s will to persevere.

On April 21, 1946 the memory of those twenty-seven Aggies was honored in a ceremony on Corregador at the Malinta Tunnel, and the tradition of remembrance has continued ever since. Aggies gather together wherever they are in the world, read aloud the names of the departed, and answer on their behalf… “Here.”

It is the solemnity of making that declaration that leads to me to my final thought before my book comes out. Tarnished Brass is a work of fiction but the war and many of the characters included in the novella are real. At the end I pay tribute to two of those individuals:

Lieutenant Colonel, James M. Basile, U.S. Air Force, served as the Deputy Commander, U.S. MilGroup, San Salvador during the years covered in the book. More importantly, he was my friend who I both admired and loved as a brother-in-arms. He was killed in a helicopter crash July 16, 1987 at age 43.

I also had the honor of serving under General John R. Galvin, who was the Commander, USSOUTHCOM during the three years that I was assigned to the J3. He passed away after a distinguished career September 25, 2015 at age 86.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency within our society to equate heroes with sports figures, celebrities, wealth and power. When asked, the average person will name their favorite football, baseball or basketball player as their hero. Those not into sports might name a famous pop icon, television or movie star. However, though fame and fortune may keep these individuals in the public spotlight, their notoriety does not constitute heroism and their designation as heroes does a disservice to those who have given their all in service to others.

Keep this in mind the next time you’re asked the question, “Who Are Your Heroes?”

 

 

 

 

History and Legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers

In honor of Black History Month I thought it appropriate to revisit the history and legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers (see my post, Top Soldier, November 24, 2017.)

These all-black units were formed in the aftermath of the Civil War and served at posts stretching from the Texas frontier to the Dakota territories performing duties that included improving the nation’s infrastructure (the building of forts, roads, and telegraph lines), acting as rangers within our national parks, and participating in the Indian Wars.

Their record of outstanding military service begins in 1866 when six regiments (two cavalry and four infantry) were mobilized in concert with the peacetime restructuring of the Army. Eventually the four infantry regiments would be consolidated into the 24th and 25th Infantry, while the two cavalry regiments would be designated as the 9th and 10th Cavalry. All would adopt the name Buffalo Soldiers.

Native Americans originated the name. Its derivation has been attributed to their comparison of the soldiers’ hair to the hide of a buffalo, but it also reflects their admiration for their courage in battle.

The Indian Wars ended in the 1890’s with the capitulation of the Apache, however, the Buffalo Soldiers also fought in the Spanish-American War and in the Philippines. During World War I their duties were limited to patrolling the border with Mexico, and they did not see any action during World War II.

Military segregation came to an end in 1948 and the last all-black units were disbanded in the 1950’s. Today associations such as the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers Association proudly carry on that heritage by dedicating themselves to the preservation of the Buffalo Soldiers’ history through educational programs and historical reenactments that inform the general public about their extraordinary record of accomplishments.

During their existence the Buffalo Soldiers have the distinction of having the lowest desertion and Court Martial rates in the Army. Many were recipients of the Medal of Honor. The nation’s highest award was bestowed upon eight members of the 9th Cavalry, four members of the 10th Cavalry, and six members of the 24th Infantry for acts of heroism from 1865-1899 during the Indian campaigns. Additionally, five members of the 10th Cavalry received the honor for their actions during the Spanish-American War.

I dedicated chapters of my book on westward expansion, Palo Duro, to their legacy. They are only now receiving the recognition that they so justly deserve.

 

Happy New Year!

2019 will be a busy and exciting literary year for me.

9ab95-lonestarbookblogtours2bsmIt begins with my continuing association with Lone Star Literary Life and the periodic use of this forum to assist them in promoting Texas authors and their work. Currently featured on the Lone Star Blog Tour is the YA Action-Adventure book Einstein’s Compass by Grace Blair and Laren Bright. Targeted at readers age 12-18, it imaginatively takes a look at a young Albert Einstein, time travel and spiritual exploration to explain how he arrived at his groundbreaking theory of relativity. Look for an excerpt from the book January 7th.

Also arriving the early part of 2019 is my own book release! Tarnished Brass looks at America’s involvement in El Salvador throughout its civil war (1980-1992) and the aftermath of that bloody conflict. Twenty-six years later gang violence has replaced and even surpassed the brutality of both the Salvadoran military and the guerrilla factions during their prolonged struggle.

Loosely based on my own experiences in country, the story is told through the perspectives of a U.S. Army officer, a guerrilla leader, and a refugee turned gang member. By giving voice to all three, the novella looks not only at history but at the current crises. Today, El Salvador has one of the highest per-capita murder rates in the world, and the influence of MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) has spread beyond its borders to many cities in the United States.

Page Publishing LogoI do not have a release date yet, but I’m working closely with Page Publishing on both page and cover design and will post publication information to my blog as soon as it is available.

I wish everyone of my readers a very Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Presidential Libraries

 

Recently the nation watched as our 41st President, George H.W. Bush, was laid to rest in College Station, Texas on the campus of Texas A&M University. As a graduate and former cadet I was especially proud to see the student body and citizens turn out along the route and witness the Corps of Cadets render honors as the hearse carrying the flag-draped coffin passed by.

The news coverage had me wondering which of our Presidents also located their libraries on college campuses. Surprisingly, there were only three; Lyndon B. Johnson (The University of Texas in Austin, Texas), Gerald R. Ford (The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan), and George W. Bush (Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas). *While the Gerald R. Ford library is located in Ann Arbor, the museum is a separate facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

These four are among the fourteen Presidential Libraries federally maintained and administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The facilities not only provide a broader understanding of the Office of the Presidency but information specific to the individuals who aspired to and achieved the highest office in America. They house their memos, letters, policy decisions and ceremonial/personal artifacts.

This formal Presidential Library System didn’t exist until 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt articulated his belief that the historical records and artifacts associated with his presidency were a part of our national heritage and needed to be preserved for future generations of Americans. Prior to that time these items might have been sold, lost, deliberately destroyed, or subject to ruin because of poor storage conditions by other libraries or private collectors.

FDR was the first to raise private funding for the construction of a library and museum and ask the National Archives to be responsible for its administration upon completion. In 1950 President Truman followed suit, and in 1955 Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act establishing privately funded and federally maintained libraries.

Because the facilities are built with private funding each President is allowed to choose the location. Additionally, up until President Reagan’s administration, access to and inclusion of personal property was at the discretion of the former President. Since then any records created or received in conjunction with constitutional, statutory, or ceremonial duties are considered property of the United States government.

For further information on all fourteen Presidential Libraries I recommend visiting the official website at:     https://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries

Finally, this post comes just before the holidays so I want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas!