My Feelings About Religion

I struggled with religion and my faith for more than 40 years. If religion is a collection of people who see their belief as the only true way, how would it be possible for a common understanding? If, on the other hand, religion was really a personal belief to be practiced in private without concern for what others believed, there would be no reason for interfaith wars. Religious freedom would be a reality. Where would one go to find acceptance of that idea? I found my answer in Thomas Jefferson. He and other thinkers like Joseph Priestley and Thomas Paine, of the late 18th century, believed that Jesus’ original teachings had been grossly distorted for the benefit of the church. Jefferson was so convinced that he wrote The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (also known as the Jefferson Bible). Of course, I bought a copy from the Smithsonian and have read it cover-to-cover several times. One quote from Matthew 6: 5-8, strikes home, “…and when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in their synagogues or on the street corners that they may be seen by man. They have their reward. When you pray, enter into a closet, shut the door and pray to thy Father in secret for thy Father seeth in secret and shall reward thee openly.” Jesus himself saw no value in the church!

There is no question, according to Jefferson, Priestly, et al, that the clergy has purposely mystified religion to dominate and control the masses. In its infancy, the U.S. was heavily dominated by religion yet Jefferson was able to author and get passed the Religious Freedom Act in VA. (the basis for our separation of church and state). During the election of 1800, John Adams accused him of being anti-religion and even an atheist. Jefferson countered by saying he was extremely religious but just didn’t believe in the distortions. Although an ardent believer in Jesus, he did not believe in the holy trinity, virgin birth, or original sin. Those that subscribed to that philosophy came to be called “Deists,” a label I have adopted myself. Recently, seriously questioning the rantings of the religious right pertaining to socialism, I began a project (still in the formative stages) which I call “The Socialists teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.” Ignoring all the interpretations of what he supposedly said, I searched for what he actually said as quoted in the Gospels. The results are eye-opening and make one question what those Evangelist’s are reading…It ain’t the bible.

When I struggle with a concept for as long as I did with religion, I began to believe I was alone in my perceptions. Rightly or wrongly, I wanted a label for my beliefs yet none of the common ones fit. Atheist didn’t work because I do believe in God (cosmic creator). Jesus, I believe existed, but not as a deity, just a man (a great philosopher). Therefore I could not accept the holy trinity or the virgin birth. Christianity concocted original sin so it would have a reason to create a Messiah to deliver us from sin. Finally, I questioned, if there is a God (which I believed) then why does he/she not intervene against plight and plunder? Oddly enough, I never allowed those concerns to interfere with my academic pursuits of history, particularly American History, until the day I discovered Jefferson’s writings. There, 200+ years ago was a cadre of learned men who believed near what I do, and they explained the lack of divine interference by defining Deism: the belief that God exists and created the world, but takes no part in its function. My problem with that philosophy is, if he takes no part in the function, why pray? Also, under that system, would there be an afterlife? Always questions, but I am much more comfortable with where I am theologically today than ever before.

Exploring the Myths to find The Realities of The Removal Act of 1830

Yesterday, the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association had its first meeting to commemorate the 180th Anniversary of the removal of the Cherokee from Georgia. About 35 people listened to Mayor Pro-tem, Marie Willsey of Roswell, deliver a proclamation to the  Association. Afterward, Walter Knapp, Vice President of the Georgia Chapter presented “Exploring The Myths to Find The Realities of the Removal Act of 1830.”

Above is the “official press release” of the event. It was my pleasure to give the opening presentation to what will be a series of presentations relating to the Removal over the rest of our meetings this year. What continually amazes me is how few Georgians even know about the Removal Act and its devasting impact on The Cherokee and other eastern tribes. During my talk, I commented on three reasons it ought to be taught, along with all Native History, in our schools.

  1. It is arguably the most significant event in Georgia history, and maybe even the U.S. history.
  2. It is the largest forced mass  migration in our history
  3. It is the greatest source for teachers to find evidence of government conflict and Constitutional crises for class discussions with middle-year and high school students.

My presentation focused on the first three articles of the Constitution (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial), its different interpretations, and the effects of The Marshall Trilogy and other judicial decisions had on the removal. I also introduced the link below which shows the 1.5 Billion Acres of Indian land gobbled by the United States in just 100 years.

I closed the presentation with a quote from the Honorable Troy Wayne Poteet, Chief Justice of the Cherokee Supreme Court. “No one here today was around at the time. None of you is responsible, nor are you to blame. But that does not excuse you from knowing what happened.”

The quote is a reflection of the sentiment of every one of the leaders of the 573 Federally recognized tribes, as their primary wish is that their history, the real history of our country, be taught in school.

Hopefully, it helped eliminate many of the misconceptions surrounding the removal and spark some interest in teaching Native History in our schools.

A Short Story For Your Enjoyment

The Perfectly Planned Ride

There is an adage that says “nothing defeats a perfect plan quicker than not following it.” Knowing what and how to do something, but failing to do it often leads to disaster, and sometimes, death. Jim Marx, an expert horseman, and trainer, knows how to plan for a short trail ride in the north Georgia Mountains.

“It’s a beautiful October morning here in Dahlonega,” announced the radio playing in the barn. “We expect a cold front to move through later this afternoon or evening, but right now it’s a sunny sixty-three degrees with winds out of the northwest at fifteen miles per hour. Rain chance is only twenty percent now, but increasing to sixty percent with the possibility of thunderstorms as the front approaches. Go out and enjoy the day!”

“Well big guy,” said Jim to Renegade, a gray quarter horse gelding he was grooming, “looks like we’re going to have a great day to demonstrate your newly learned trail skills. Let me finish pulling our equipment together, then we’ll load you in the trailer, and drive over to River Run trailhead to meet Lisa.”

Jim crossed the barn from Renegade’s stall to the tack room and pulled a canvas saddle bag from its hook. Methodically, he checked the inventory on both sides. One side is for the horse, and the other is for the rider. Everything was neatly packed, including first-aid kits, water purification pack, a Leatherman’s tool, even a hoof-boot in case Renegade should throw a shoe. Satisfied, he closed it up and walked it to the tack area in his trailer. Next, Jim examined the black endurance saddle to make sure all the rigging worked, and nothing was in need of repair before carrying it to join the saddlebags. Finally, as a precaution for the weather forecast, he packed his yellow slicker. It was time to load the horse and go.

Renegade, an eight-year-old former racing quarter horse, belonged to a client who wanted to use him for trail riding. Shortly after buying him, she realized her skill level wasn’t sufficient to retrain a hyper ex-racer and brought him to Marx three weeks ago. The desensitizing process went well, and Jim was anxious to put him to work on a real mountain trail, complete with water crossings.

As he pulled into the horse trailer parking area at the trailhead, the dashboard lit up indicating an incoming call. The caller ID read “Lisa Winter.” Lisa, a large animal veterinarian of some repute, has a client base that covers most of Lumpkin County.  

“Good afternoon,” he answered by pushing the call button on the steering wheel. “We’re just parking. Are you on the way?”

“That’s what I’m calling about,” came the soft voice in response. “I have an emergency at the Baker farm, and I won’t be able to ride with you today. I am so sorry. I know how anxious you are about getting Renegade on the trail.”

“Well, that sucks,” responded Jim, “but I guess that’s to be expected when my favorite riding partner is the best vet in the county.”

“Can we do it tomorrow, or maybe this weekend?”

“Weather will be a problem tomorrow with this front coming through tonight, and the trails will be too crowded over the weekend to give him the work he needs.”

“Jim, please tell me you’re not planning to go alone!”

“Shouldn’t take more than an hour, ninety minutes at most. I don’t think I can get into any serious trouble in that short time.”

“You’re taking a green horse onto a mountain trail where he’s never been, by yourself, and you don’t think you can get into any serious trouble? That’s asking for it. Please go home and let’s do this another day.”

“We’re here, Lisa. Renegade has done everything I’ve asked him to do for the past week. We’ll take things nice and slow, and I think we’ll be fine. I’ll call you after I have him back in the trailer. Shouldn’t be more than two hours. Keep your phone handy.”

“Apparently, the decision has been made, and there’s no sense arguing the point, right?”

“It’ll be okay. I’ll buy you dinner tonight and tell you all about it. Now go take care of your emergency.”

“Make a note that Lisa is unhappy about this, but I know you are an expert rider and know what you’re doing, so I am going to hang up and wait anxiously for your call. Love you.”

“Love you, too.” He disconnected the call and stepped out of the truck.

Renegade backed smoothly from the four-horse, gooseneck trailer, and Marx tied him alongside, near the tack storage area. Years of experience guided Jim’s hands and eyes over the horse’s body checking for any soreness or abrasions that might have occurred during the short drive. None were detected, and he stepped back to take in the full measure of the animal in front of him. He stood five-feet-four-inches tall at his withers, what horse people call sixteen hands, and was a muscular eleven hundred pounds.

“Well, boy, it looks like it will be just the two of us this afternoon. Let’s get started.” Jim deftly placed a saddle pad and the thirty-pound endurance saddle on Renegade’s back and cinched it loosely. Next, he attached the saddlebags, and then neatly folded and tied his yellow slicker behind the saddle. From an ice chest in the truck, Marx grabbed two bottles of water, placed them into a holder attached to the saddle pommel. Almost ready, he removed a bridle with a snaffle bit from the saddle, slipped it over Renegade’s rope halter, and connected the reins to the bit.

“Shit,” he cursed as he locked the truck and trailer. “I forgot my damn helmet.” Riding horses had been a part of his life for nearly forty years, including a five-year stint on the professional rodeo circuit, and he only relented to wearing a helmet when riding with Lisa. He’d fallen or been bucked off numerous times, and other than many bruises and aches was never seriously hurt.  Besides, to him, the helmet was uncomfortable. A cowboy hat or a baseball cap like the newly purchased Atlanta Braves one he was wearing was far more to his liking.

Untying the lead line from the trailer, he threw it around Renegade’s neck, secured it with a cavalry knot, and prepared to mount. Making sure the horse stood perfectly still, Jim placed his left toe into the left stirrup and grabbing a handful of Renegade’s mane, took two bounce steps and lifted himself into the saddle. He sat there momentarily for two reasons. First, to reinforce the horse’s training that he wasn’t supposed to move until given the cue to do so, and second because Marx frankly enjoyed the sensation of sitting on a good horse. Satisfied, he took up the reins, applied slight leg pressure, and Renegade moved forward.

Aside from Jim’s rig, the horse trailer parking area was empty. “Looks like we’ve got the place to ourselves, big guy,” he said to Renegade as they passed onto the National Parks Service trailhead. Autumn colors seemed splashed on the trees as they proceeded along a winding path leading into the forest. Fifteen minutes into the ride Jim’s cell phone buzzed. Usually, he wouldn’t answer it, but the caller ID indicated it was Lisa.

“How’s everything at the Baker farm?” he asked after pushing the talk button.

“Mare’s colicing badly. I just gave her a shot of acepromazine, and I’m waiting for it to take effect before I insert the nasogastric tube. Since I have a few minutes, I thought I should check in to be sure you’re alright.”

“We’re fine. We have the place to ourselves. In fact, I haven’t even seen a ranger so far. I think we will get quite a bit done in an hour or so.”

“I just got a severe weather update on my phone. How about wrapping it up and going home?”

“I can see clouds beginning to build, but they still look far away. I have two obstacles I want Renegade to see; then we’ll call it a success and go home. Shouldn’t be much longer.”

“What do you need him to do?”

“A water crossing, of course, but there is also a wooden bridge I’d like to see him negotiate. The spot I’m thinking about is about fifteen or twenty minutes away from here where we can do both. As I said, we should be on our way home within an hour. We might get a little wet, but we’ll be fine.”

“I’m unhappy, but I know I can’t change your mind. Be careful, and call me as soon as you are back in your truck. If I can’t answer, leave a message.”

“Yes, mother. Now leave me alone so I can get back to work.”

Thinking about what Lisa said, Marx checked the sky and saw the puffy white clouds present when they entered the woods beginning to turn darker and more threatening. Shortening the reins in his hands, he applied a bit more leg pressure and brought the quarter horse up to a collected lope. At the new speed, they should get to the creek crossing in less than ten minutes.

Suddenly, the gelding veered sharply to his left as his prey animal instinct activated. Expertly, Jim calmed the horse and got him back on course while a young doe raced across their path.

Although much can be done to desensitize horses in a round pen or arena, nothing compares to actual trail work where they can experience Mother Nature to her fullest. A horse only recognizes two relationships, that of the herd, and that of predator versus prey. Once a trainer like Jim establishes himself as the alpha, he begins eliminating some of the many fears a horse has as a prey animal. The trail is a final exam of how well the horse did to confront those demons.

People who don’t ride may think the horse does all the work, but Marx already felt the perspiration accumulating on his cotton shirt as they continued toward the stream. Cotton, as opposed to synthetic material, holds the moisture instead of wicking it away. A good thing in the summer because it helps you stay cool. Right now, though, keeping cool wasn’t going to be a problem.

Casper Creek is a signature feature of the River Run Trail because of its many cascading falls, and the spot Jim had chosen for today’s exercise was a section about ten yards wide with a moderate current running east. Another fifteen yards upstream was a wooden bridge perfect for a dry crossing. Renegade had seen water before. He had walked into a placid pond on the ranch property and even crossed a man-made water obstacle in the arena, but he had never seen or attempted to traverse moving water.

They approached cautiously, and Jim did not attempt to spur or force him in any way as Renegade contemplated the threat possibilities. He put his head down for a closer look and smelled every rock and plant, then slowly, placed his nose into the creek and drank. Then, one foot following the other, Renegade splashed into the stream. Water moving around his fetlocks caused him to fidget momentarily, but then he settled down and crossed to the north side bank.

“Good boy,” said Jim as he petted and praised Renegade. “Now let’s try going back the other way.”

Again, Renegade approached from the new angle with slight trepidation, but then plowed right in. Instead of crossing, Jim turned him upstream and walked him to the bridge, let him examine that from the water, then turned back and stepped out at their original entry point.

Excellent!” thought Marx, again petting and complementing Renegade, as they walked towards the south side of the bridge.

The sky was rapidly turning dark, and Jim could feel the temperature falling as the sweat-drenched shirt caused him to shiver slightly. “Let’s get you across this bridge, and then we can head for home.”

Again, the process was almost painfully slow as Renegade picked and poked his way on to the wooden structure. In the distance, Marx could hear the low rumble of thunder. Slowly, nearly plank-by-plank, Renegade worked his way toward the northern bank. Within two or three steps from land, they were pelted with large, heavy raindrops. By the time they reached the opposite bank, they were engulfed by monsoon conditions.

Rain, driven by strong wind was beating hard against them, and Jim decided that it would be easier for Renegade to go back to the south side by crossing the stream rather than the bridge. At the trot, they covered the fifteen yards downstream to the area of their first crossing, and as Jim reached around to remove his slicker from the saddle strings, Renegade stepped into the water. This time, though, the creek had swelled and moved considerably faster than before. The big horse balked and reared agitatedly as fast water swept half way up his cannon bones. Jim struggled to get Renegade settled while still holding his yellow slicker in his right hand.

Finally, he had the frightened horse under enough control so they could move to the south side of the creek. Holding the reins with only the little finger of his left hand, Jim swung the slicker open. At that precise moment, lightning struck close by with an accompanying crash of thunder. The combination was more than Renegade could handle. He reared violently and leaped from the water sending Marx, head first, into the rapidly running stream.

First to hit was his head against a large rock knocking him unconscious. Fortunately, the cold water brought him back to consciousness before he drowned. Struggling against the rapids, he felt intense pain in his right shoulder and neck. He winced in agony and found it difficult and painful to breathe. A broken collarbone and cracked ribs, he assumed, made it difficult to drag himself from the water. At this point, he knew only two things: He was in excruciating pain, and he was exceedingly cold. What he didn’t know, was where he was. Trying hard, Jim couldn’t figure out where he was or why he was there. He was alone. And he was cold.

Propping himself against a tree near the water’s edge, he surveyed the area to try to get his bearings. Around him were multiple hoof prints, but no trace of a horse. Downstream, wedged against a log in the water, he could see what looked like his yellow slicker. With hands shaking, he checked his pockets for his cell phone. Nothing! His head pounded as he tried to think. Reaching up to the area that hurt most, he felt the warm flow of blood. His head was bleeding profusely, his shoulder and ribs ached terribly, and he was freezing.

Lisa had done all she could for the colicing horse and told the owner she would need to transport the ailing animal to the University of Georgia Veterinary School, in Athens. She helped load the horse into a trailer, cleaned herself off at a sink in the barn, and raced through the rain to her truck. It dawned on her that Jim hadn’t called. She picked up her phone and checked messages. Nothing. Looking at the call log, she noticed it had been over two hours since they last talked.

That’s not like Jim,” she thought. “If he says he’s going to call, he calls. Even if it’s to say he’ll call back later.” Concerned, she dialed his number. Voicemail. “Shit,” she yelled. She was forty-five minutes to an hour from the trail, and it was pouring rain. Putting her truck in gear, she sped out to the highway and raced toward River Run. As she drove, she called the National Park Service.

“Hello, this is the National Park Service, Ranger Martin speaking. How can I help you?”

“Yes, my name is Lisa Winter, and I think we have an emergency.”

“Think?” replied Martin. “What kind of an emergency?”

A friend of mine is riding alone on the River Run Trail, and I haven’t heard from him in two hours. I tried calling his cell, but got no answer.”

“Any idea of which trail he was using?”

“I’m not exactly sure, but someplace where the trail crosses the stream and has a wooden bridge nearby. His name is Jim Marx, and his truck and trailer should be parked in the horse trailer area. Maybe you could get a better idea from there.”

“Okay, we’ll start a search from there, but I hope you’re wrong because the weather is terrible right now.”

“I know. I’m on my way to the park and should be there in half hour or less. Please call me at this number when you find anything.”

“Will do,” responded the ranger, and ended the call. Looking at the trail map on the wall, Ranger Martin concluded there were three places matching Lisa’s description. Grabbing a walkie-talkie, he pulled on his slicker and ran to his truck. While driving, Martin announced the situation on his radio. By the time he reached the horse trailer parking lot, two other rangers, operating all-terrain vehicles, were already there.  Ranger Tom Carpenter was examining Jim’s rig.

“It’s locked and empty,”  he advised, as Martin arrived.

Ranger Harold Miller, was standing near the trailhead checking possible directions to search, “He could have gone in any of three directions from here,” said Miller. “But the most likely, according to your information…Holy shit!”

Miller’s conversation was suddenly interrupted as a gray, riderless horse burst from the trail and raced to Jim’s trailer. The three rangers slowly approached the nervous animal while speaking softly.

“Easy, big boy,” said Carpenter as he carefully reached for the lead rope tied by a cavalry knot around its neck. Untying it and re-tying it to the trailer, the three men carefully examined the horse. From a pommel bag at the front of the saddle, Martin found a cell phone. It was not locked, and a missed call alert flashed on the screen. The call log indicated it was Lisa Winter. He pushed the call button.

“Damn it, why haven’t you called me?” she screamed into the phone.

“Miss Winter, this is Ranger Ed Martin. We spoke earlier.”

“Oh my God,” she cried. “Is he alright?”

“We haven’t found him yet, but we have found his horse and his cell phone. You said you were en route, how long before you get here?”

“Less than ten minutes.”

“I’m with two other rangers, and they are beginning to backtrack the horse’s trail. I will wait for you, and we will follow them as soon as you get here.” Martin ended the call. “Even in this rain, backtracking that horse shouldn’t be a problem. Tom, you ride with Harold, and when Miss Winter gets here, we’ll use your Gator to follow. Let’s get moving, he’s been out there at least two hours, and he’s probably hurt.” Carpenter and Miller climbed into the two passenger ATV and raced on to the trail.

Seven minutes later, Lisa’s truck skidded to a stop in front of Martin. “Any word yet?” she asked as she jumped from the cab.

“No, but they just started looking. Hop onto the Gator, and we’ll catch up.”

“Wait a second,” she said, looking at Renegade. “Let me get him in the trailer.” That accomplished, she climbed into the ATV. “Let’s go!”

High-intensity beam flashlights made it easier to see into the thick underbrush along the trail, but the going was still slow. “Stop, I’ve got something,” shouted Carpenter as his beam steadied on an object across the stream. The water level had subsided considerably in the last hour, and the two rangers raced across ankle deep water to the opposite bank where a yellow slicker had draped a fallen log.

“Ed, this is Tom,” came the voice over Martin’s radio.

“Go ahead, Tom. I’ve got Miss Winter, and we’re on our way.”

“We found a slicker caught on a log in the creek.”

“Yellow?” blurted Lisa. “That could be Jim’s.”

“Miss Winter says if it’s yellow, it could be her friend’s,” reported Martin.

“It has initials ‘JLM’ written on the inside,” said Tom.”

“That’s him,” cried Lisa. “James Louis Marx.”

Martin and Lisa caught up with the rangers, as Tom and Harold were returning to their ATV. Tom handed the raincoat to Lisa, and she confirmed it was Jim’s.

“Okay,” ordered Martin, “You two take your Gator to the other side, and we’ll stay on this side. Proceed upstream and keep a sharp eye out. If you see anything, give a holler.” Carpenter and Miller climbed into their vehicle and crossed the stream. From the two sides, the search began again.

“We got a new looking baseball cap on the north bank,” came Harold’s voice over the radio.

“Atlanta Braves?” asked Lisa as she grabbed the walkie-talkie before Ed could get it.


“That’s his too; I’ll bet on it,” she replied.

Suddenly, Ed slammed on the brakes. “Stay here,” he ordered. Picking up the radio, he spoke. “Get up here, quick and bring the Med Kit.”

Lisa stepped from the Gator as Ed was halfway to the stream. “Stay there,” he yelled, seeing her exit the ATV. Lights from the second vehicle appeared across the water, and the two rangers raced across the gently flowing creek to Ed’s side. In the beam of their flashlights was James Louis Marx still leaning against the tree where he had dragged himself. Behind them came a high-pitched scream as Lisa raced passed them to Jim’s side.

“No!” she yelled, tears already flowing. “No, please, no!”

“Miss Winter, I asked you to stay back,” said Ed, to no avail. “We’ll get an ambulance here right away.”

“Don’t bother,” she replied in disgust, wiping the tears. “Call the coroner. He’s dead. I may be a vet, but I’m still a doctor, and I know death when I see it.”

Two weeks later, the coroner’s death certificate lay on Lisa’s desk. Despite the fact she knew Jim was dead, she was reluctant to pick it up. Deep inside, she felt that as long as there was no official report, he might still be alive. She stared at the envelope, picking it up and tossing it back on the desk several times before yielding to the desire to know what happened.

James Louis Marx, Caucasian male age 43, suffered severe head trauma to the right cranium,  possibly causing the victim to experience a concussive reaction. He also had a broken right collarbone and three fractured ribs. The victim had hypothermia, and the cause of death was exposure and loss of body heat.

She tossed the document back onto her desk, wiped some tears from her eyes and cursed.

“This is so stupid! So arrogant! Damn you, Jim, why? Why couldn’t you wait, one day two days, a damn week? What difference would it have made? Other than the fact you wouldn’t be dead! You had to go alone. You didn’t even bother to check in with the Park Rangers.” She stood and walked around her desk holding her head.

“You knew the weather forecast, yet you weren’t prepared by even having a jacket with you. Sure, you had a slicker, but what good did that do? Yes, you had first aid equipment, but it was in your saddlebag!” Frustrated, she continued pacing the office floor.

“AND NO HELMET!” she screamed as she slammed her fist on the desk. “You probably would have survived everything else, but no helmet cost you your life. Yes, you died from exposure, but the helmet would have prevented the concussion, your spatial disorientation, and your ability to think clearly. You would have still been in a lot of pain, but you probably would have been able to walk out, or get help. That’s just plain STUPID! I am so angry I can hardly contain myself. If you weren’t already dead, I would damn sure kill you for being so damn dumb!”


Cherokee Trail of Tears 180th Anniversary

If there’s one piece of Native American HIstory every resident of the Southeast should know and understand, it’s the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This year marks the 180th anniversary of that tragic event when 16,000 Cherokee were forced from there homes, held in concentration camps for five months, and then driven 800 miles west to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Well, now is your chance. The Georgia Trail of Tears Association will be meeting at the Roswell Library, 115 Norcross St., at 10:30 A.M., March 10th. I will be the guest speaker, and my topic will be “Exploring the Myths to Discover The Realities of The Removal.” There is no cost, and it is open to the public. If you can manage it, I’d love to see you there.

The Book That Wouldn’t Be Published

As a Native American Historian, I wanted to write about events of the nineteenth century from a different perspective by showing original citizens as I think they were. Yet, I wasn’t bold enough to create a Native American protagonist. Instead, I compromised by creating a white man who interacts with Natives, and, in the process, they develop mutual respect.

Two actual events are depicted in the story. First is the Nueces River Massacre which deals with the German immigrant population in Texas who refuse to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy and the consequences of that decision. The other is the first battle of Adobe Walls, where troops under the command of Kit Carson fight combined forces of Kiowa and Commanche.

Other actual skirmishes are referred to but not discussed in great detail. Fights like the 1859 Antelope Hills massacre pitting Texas Rangers and Tonkawa warriors against a defenseless Commanche village. The Sand Creek Massacre in the Colorado Territory between Colorado Militia under the command of John Chivington against Black Kettles Cheyenne is also mentioned. Everything makes sense so far, so how did A Ranger’s Revenge become the book that wouldn’t be published?

The first inkling of a potential problem occurred four chapters into the writing. I didn’t like it! The story takes place over two years, and I thought it would work to compress it into one year by using the technique of flashbacks. I had done this in a previous book, and it seemed fine, but here, it was far too difficult. The result was a re-write. The original first chapters are still present, except now they begin as chapter fourteen. That’s right, I started over and wrote over half the book anew.

After completing the writing, I farmed out the editing to a professional editor and began the search for a publisher. After numerous submissions of synopsis and first three chapters, I received a contract. My publisher knew I was completing the final chapters of editing and had no issues. Instead of sending the final two chapters to the editor, I sent the whole manuscript as an attachment to an email.

Hours after sending, I got a response from her that said there was no attachment. I checked my “sent” file, and she was right, no attachment. In fact, the entire manuscript had vanished from my hard drive. With the help of a former programmer from IBM, my computer was scrutinized with no result. A Ranger’s Revenge was gone. All I had left was a completely unedited hard copy. The publisher agreed to continue with their own editing team if I would pay to have it transcribed into a Word document.

That should have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t. Not by a lot. Somewhere along the line during the beginning or the editing process, the publisher got into a squabble with another author about how much time it was taking to publish his book, and, for what ever reason, he got me confused with that other writer. I received a terse email saying “You want it published, here it is.” The original, unedited manuscript, complete with ugly cover, was suddenly available for sale through Amazon.

Through legal wrangling, I got the publication stopped, and the undelivered books sent to me. What I could not do, however, was void my contract. For the next three years, Ranger was dead. Since I was prohibited from writing anything using the same characters or actions, my plans for sequels vanished along with my interest in writing.

As the years passed, I became more involved with Native history and culture, and with inspiration from the likes of Tony Hillerman (The Lt. Leaphorn Series), I decided to create a Native Protagonist, Rick Davis, and Through The Eyes of an Assassin was born. Its completion roughly coincided with the end of my contract, and I got the now defunct publishing company to finally send me a resumption of rights letter.

After extensive rewriting and editing, the book that wouldn’t be published is today available worldwide. I hope it’s one you can enjoy.

Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of UNDRIP!

UNDRIP? What is UNDRIP, and why should we be celebrating it? It’s the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The UN debated over twenty years before coming up with this comprehensive statement regarding the rights of indigenous people. The declaration was finally passed in April of 2007, with only four member nations voting against it. Those Countries were Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States of America. The Bush administration saw little benefit in supporting the rights of indigenous and oppressed people.

In forty-six articles, the declaration emphasized indigenous peoples rights to live with dignity and maintain their own institutions, cultures, and traditions. The articles address both individual and collective rights for cultural identity, education, health, employment, languages, and more.

Article one says indigenous people have the right to the full enjoyment of all human rights and freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal declaration of Human Rights, and international law. Many articles deal with protecting and promoting indigenous culture and allowing the people to participate in all the decisions that will affect their lives. Importantly, it confirms their right to self-determination and their rights of land, territories, and resources.

At the end of this post, I will provide a link to the actual declaration so you can read it for yourself. As you do, you will see why the greatest colonizers in the world chose to vote against it. For instance, article eight prohibits individuals from being subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture. At the same time, it prevents any form of forced population transfer or forced assimilation or integration. Since 1830, the United States has implemented at least three removal acts against Native People, and in 1950, attempted forced assimilation through Termination.

Prohibitions spelled out in the forty-six articles are a restatement of the step-by-step actions of the United States government in the elimination of all these right to our Native tribes. The United Nations simply had to categorize, and codify our treatment of our indigenous residents, and the declaration almost wrote itself.

Finally, on December 15, 2010, President Barack Obama reversed the Bush administration’s 2007 no vote and formally endorsed the declaration. The United States was the last of the original four opposing countries to endorse. In his statement, President Obama said, “The aspirations it affirms, including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native people, are ones we must always seek to fulfill. That’s the standard I expect my administration to be held to.”

Technically, the declaration is not legally binding, but it does represent the development of international legal norms. It is still a significant means of eliminating the rights violations against more than 370 million indigenous people worldwide. What do you think?

Click the link below to read the declaration in its entirety.



Ah, Spring is in the air. Flowers are blooming, and the pollen count is outrageous. Schools are winding down, and across the country, summer camps are warming up. As camps gear up, so do the plans to “Indianize” camp participants. Dress like Indians, dance like Indians, do ceremonies like Indians and even give Indian names. All under the guise of “better understanding and respecting Native culture.” Sadly, it doesn’t work.

Respect for their culture cannot occur by creating plastic or paper headdresses or mimicking  Indian sounds or songs while hopping, Indian-like, around a bonfire. And it is never appropriate to hand out Native names. In short, it is okay to study a culture, but not okay to usurp it. White men have been pretending to be Indian at least since the Boston Tea Party, and it has never worked out well.

Native customs and beliefs are not trivial or frivolous. They are the deep-seated connection between the people who practice them and their spiritual understanding. The practitioners of these ceremonies are not ancients, long dead and forgotten, they are real and alive today, and their lives are relevant.

Rather than make fake headdresses, talk about the fact that many tribes did not wear feathers at all. That in most tribes that did wear them, they were only worn by men. You might even teach how feathers were earned. What birds were most sacred and desired, and what was the significance of cuts, colors, or add-ons.

For other ceremonies, you might want to discuss the meaning and importance of the drum. Did it sound like the Atlanta Braves war drum, or was the beat more subtle and spiritual?  Instead of making up pretend dances, learn the significance of real dances like the Jingle Dance, or the Shawl Dance, or the men’s and women’s Fancy Dances. All tribes danced at ceremonies and events, and there were reasons for every ceremony. How many ceremonies did a tribe celebrate each year? What was the significance of each one? The “Green Corn Ceremony” was celebrated by all the southeastern tribes. What was its significance and what did it accomplish?

Lastly, forget naming ceremonies. It’s okay to learn about the naming process, but it’s highly disrespectful to assign Indian names. You and your campers probably are not Indian. If any are, they already have their Indian name and don’t need you to make fun of how it came to be.

You can, and I encourage you to, learn and teach as much Native culture as you are able, but it is not possible to become an Indian, so don’t try. Don’t even pretend. It is just plain disrespectful. Remember, respect is the ability to recognize someone’s excellence or worth and to show consideration for that person or culture. What do you think?

Freedmen vs. The Cherokee Nation (Sovereignty or Racial Discrimination?)

In March of 2007, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma held a special election that amended its Constitution regarding citizenship in the Nation. That action disenrolled black citizens, called Freedmen, who had been members since 1866. Was this the decision of a sovereign nation rightfully declaring who can be a citizen or an act of racial discrimination? The answer will be decided in federal court in the next few weeks, but let’s look at some of the critical issues leading up to the disenrollment.

Who are “Freedmen,” and what is, or was their connection to the tribe? The answer to that question lurks in the early 19th century when southern tribes struggled between continuing their historical culture or assimilating white Christian life. The five largest southern tribes, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Cherokee, and Seminole, commonly known as “The Five Civilized Tribes,” began adopting an Anglo lifestyle. Along with farming and animal husbandry, they also adopted the European version of slavery. In fact, even though few held as many slaves as their white neighbors, the percentage of Cherokees owning slaves was greater (about 7.5% vs. 5%).

By 1830, the Cherokee, through intermarriage, education, Christian conversion, farming, ranching, and slaveholding, could barely be told apart from their American counterparts. That, of course, wasn’t good enough. They were still “heathen Indians,” and were removed west to Indian Country, Oklahoma. The event will forever be known as the “Trail of Tears.” It was a brutal hardship resulting in heavy loss of life, but they didn’t suffer the tragedy alone. With them on that desperate journey were their slaves.

During the Civil War, the Cherokee, like the other “Civilized Tribes,” eventually fought for the Confederacy. The loss resulted in the Treaty of 1866 which required the abolition of slavery and incorporation of slaves as citizens into the tribe. A copy of the wording is shown here:

The Cherokee Nation having, voluntarily, in February, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, by an act of the national council, forever abolished slavery, hereby covenant and agree that never hereafter shall either slavery or involuntary servitude exist in their nation otherwise than in the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, in accordance with laws applicable to all the members of said tribe alike. They further agree that all freedmen who have been liberated by voluntary act of their former owners or by law, as well as all free colored persons who were in the country at the commencement of the rebellion, and are now residents therein, or who may return within six months, and their descendants, shall have all the rights of native Cherokees: Provided, That owners of slaves so emancipated in the Cherokee Nation shall never receive any compensation or pay for the slaves so emancipated. – Article 9 of The Treaty Of 1866.

Immediately following the signing of the treaty, the Cherokee National Committee amended its Constitution and declared citizenship for all former slaves and their dependents residing in the Nation. The wording of the amendment is shown here:

All native-born Cherokees, all Indians, and whites legally members of the Nation by adoption, and all freedmen who have been liberated by voluntary act of their former owners or by law, as well as free colored persons who were in the country at the commencement of the rebellion, and are now residents therein, or who may return within six months from the 19th day of July, 1866, and their descendants, who reside within the limits of the Cherokee Nation, shall be taken and deemed to be, citizens of the Cherokee Nation. – 1866 Amendments to Article 3, Section 5 of the 1836 Cherokee Nation Constitution.

At this point, it seems clear; Freedmen are officially adopted into the tribe. Fast forward now to 1898, when white America again showed it knew best what was good for Indians and passed the Dawes Act, also known as The General Allotment Act. The purpose was to speed assimilation of Indians into white society by taking communal land and dividing among tribal members (of course, surplus land was to be sold to non-Indians). To complete the process, a list of citizens had to be attained. From 1898 to 1914, Cherokees were required to account themselves, and registrars would categorize them as one of three classes. Those “of blood,” those who had “intermarried,” and “Freedmen.”

In the thirty-two years span from the end of the war, many former slaves did in fact, intermarry with Cherokee by blood, and their offspring would, therefore, have qualified in the “of blood” group. Unfortunately, large numbers were either erroneously or purposely listed as “Freedman” by the white registrars. Hence, when the National Council voted to amend its Constitution to define citizenship as only those who could show direct lineage to “By Blood” citizens of the Dawes Roll, everything changed.

The court must decide whether the tribe has a right, as a sovereign nation, to determine who it allows as its members, or if the Treaty of 1866, regardless of the classifications of the Dawes Act, prevails. Cherokee Nation Attorney General, Todd Humbree, who is arguing the case, said “After eleven long years of litigation, the Cherokee Nation is looking forward to having a judge decide the longstanding issue of what rights, if any, the freedmen descendants are granted under the Treaty of 1866. The Cherokee Nation believes strongly in treaty rights and believes the correct interpretation of the treaty would allow the Cherokee people to determine who is a Cherokee citizen.” What do you think?

From Whence Cometh The Famed Indian Paint Horse?

I was lucky enough to be born at a time when the classic westerns era of literature and movies was in full swing. Not a Saturday went by when theaters across the country weren’t showing the likes of Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and, of course, The Lone Ranger. Eventually, the western moved from the big screen to the new, little screen, the television set. Even then, the one truism continued…The cowboy hero always rode a solid colored horse. In fact, I can only think of two stars of the western genre who rode paints; Little Joe Cartwright of Bonanza, and the Cisco Kid. Indians primarily rode Paints.

What does any of this have to do with Native American Culture? Because, mostly, it’s true. Indians did prefer pintos, and they were, for the most part, the only ones who did. That brings up two interesting questions. Why? And where did they get them? The answer to the first question is easy. They liked them and preferred them to solid color horses. The second question is much harder. Frank Gilbert Roe, the author of The Indian and the Horse, University of Oklahoma Press, 1955, devotes three chapters to the issue of coloration of horses introduced to the Americas by the Spanish in the early 16th century.

Of the sixteen horses brought to Mexico by Cortes in 1519, only one was a pinto, and he was not one lost by the expedition. In fact, according to Roe, Spaniards cared little for horses colored in such a way. Of all the horses brought into the “New World,” by the Spanish, the one with Cortes is the only recorded Pinto. At the time of the Spanish invasion of the Americas, the Spaniards were considered the finest breeders of horses in Europe. Their horses were a cross between the fast and powerful horses of the Iberian Peninsula and the Arab/African stock ridden by their Moorish conquerors. Moors and Arabs, by the way, also held paints in contempt.

So, if the animals brought to the Americas were a product of hundreds of years of de-selecting Paints, how did they come to flourish on the plains of North America? In all honesty, no one knows. To expand the mystery, try to explain why paint horses abound in North America, but not in South America. Again, According to Mr. Roe, they came from the same basic stock, but no paint horses appeared on the Pampas.

Some geneticists say that the phenomenon is a result of a mutation from the inbreeding of the wild horse herds, but that spawns two other questions: Why North and not South America? And aren’t all pure breeds a product of inbreeding?  If inbreeding mutations resulted in pintos, they would have blossomed in every breed.

Finally, how were the Nez Perce able to further hone their stock to produce the Appaloosa pattern? A feat that even as accomplished a horse society as the Comanche were not able to reproduce when they captured Appaloosas during raids.

How did Indians, who first were introduced to horses in the early to mid-18th century develop the skill to produce pinto horses in such a short time? The Comanche were known to have thousands of pintos in their herds by the mid-19th century. Mr. Roe says the answer might never be known unless we are willing to impart a far greater knowledge of genetic training to Plains Indians than we ever believed possible.

Goings on of Native American Interest This Week, 3/20.2017

Last week, I commented on the failure of the Indian Child Welfare Act, ICWA. How it has degraded into a system where a state like South Dakota has been able to legally kidnap some seven hundred Native children per year and place them in White foster care facilities or adopt them out to white families without regard for Native tradition, history or culture. Today, however, I can speak of success. “Indian Country Today Media Network” reported that the Federal District Court for Arizona dismissed a class action suit filed in 2015 claiming that “The Law,” was unconstitutional because Indian children were given “separate and unequal treatment based on their race.”

Goldwater Institute challenge

For complete details, see the link above, but this case is the sixth attempt to overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act since 2013. Failed cases have been filed in South Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Minnesota. When challenged, the courts have consistently upheld the law, but no one is filing against states who blatantly defy the law because individual tribal citizens don’t have the wherewithal to do battle.


In another exciting event that occurred this week, on the 400th anniversary of the burial of Pocahontas, Virginia Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner reintroduced a bill that would grant federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes. If enacted, the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond would be added to the list of 566 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes recognized by the federal government. “Recognition,” says the sponsors, “would right a long-standing wrong.” See the link below for details.

Fed Recognition for Six Va. Tribes

Because of a gap in record keeping that was the result of a state law called the “Racial Integrity Act.” of 1924. The law required all births in the state to be categorized as either “white,” or “colored,” and the law was strictly enforced for thirty-five years by the state’s registrar of the Bureau of Vital Statics, Walter Plecker. There was no option for Native American, and anyone born with “even a drop of non-white blood,” had to be classified as colored. This historical, systematic, deception resulted in the destruction of a centuries-long record of the existence of the Virginia tribes, which are required to prove their Indian status. One insatiable racist with the necessary power, committed what historians call “paper Genocide.”

Until next time, stay well.