Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lessons from the Native Americans

Faithful blog followers may remember that we've had an ongoing service-learning partnership with Tarrant County College--Trinity River Campus for a few years now.  Every year, dedicated students come tour the Village, help us preserve the cabins by raking leaves, and research and write blog entries for us.  

We will publish these entries here for you to enjoy over the next few weeks.  Thank you so much, Professor Blank and students!!!!

Andrea Winburn
History 1301
Lisa Blank

Lessons from the Native Americans

Life as a pioneer, most definitely contained struggle and hardship.  Plenty of new experiences took place in these pioneers lives. They were traveling through landscapes that were foreign to them and encountered Native Americans, who were also foreign to them.  Pioneers included people from all walks of life, including women. Pioneer women have been described  to be, “weary, overworked…taken from her happy home, and thrust onto the frontier with all of its threats and dangers”(Williams). They have also been  romanticized as a “strong, brave, moral woman who headed West as a sort of civilizer and Christianizer of the frontier”(Williams). 

Many women had to endure encounters with Native Americans and were pressed with the duty of protecting their families and defending their belongings.  One account of a conflict with Native Americans comes from Mrs. Samuel A. Maverick, “Two Indians rushed by me on Commerce Street and another reached my door, and turned to push it just as I slammed it to and beat down the heavy bar…One had stopped near Jinny Anderson, our cook, who stood bravely in front of the children, mine and hers. She held a great stone in her hands, lifting it above her head, and I heard her cry out to the Indians: 'G'way from heah, or I'll mash your head with this rock!'”(Looscan).  There was also quite a bit of fear amongst women as they encountered Indians for the first time along the trail westward. “They were the first Indians I had ever seen, and to my frightened vision, dressed in their long mackinaw blankets with eagle feathers in their hair — my thought was that they would kill us all, and take my baby in captivity” (Williams). One woman, Catherine Haun, described her group as performing drills in order to prepare for a possible Indian raid upon their camp.

However, after repeated encounters with groups of Indians, the pioneers soon learned that most Indians actually posed no threat to them. As the two groups became accustomed to each other, they were able to interact in different ways, like trading food and learning how to craft different items. Indians that were encountered along the trail, also acted as guides for the pioneers. The emigrant women took note of the differences between their culture and that of the Indians.  They noted the dress and the jewelry of the Indians. “A piece of scarlet broadcloth edged with several rows of white beads decorates the top of the moccasin and from either side of this extends around the top of the quarters a little drop curtain effect fringed by making fine cuts an inch deep around the edges”(Williams). 

Overall, pioneer women’s ideas and opinions about the Indian peoples changed. They were first seen as worrisome and fear invoking, but soon many women learned that some of the Indians they encountered were civil people and learned a great deal from them.

Works Cited
Looscan, Adele. "Texian Women by Adele Briscoe Looscan." Texas A&M University. Sons of Dewitt Colony Texas, 1997. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
Williams, Carol. "My First Indian: Interaction Between Women And Indians On The Trail, 1845-1865." Overland Journal 4.3 (1986): 13-18. America: History and Life with Full Text. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.

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