A Native American advocate said Thursday that Americans need to be better educated on what happened to indigenous people during the Civil War.
“The history of what truly happened here is not being taught in the history books,” Yolanda Bluehorse, executive assistant for the Society of Native Nations said. “It is time for America to recognize what the government has done to the first people of this land.”
Her comments came after a professor from the University of California Davis argued that the Dakotas in the 1800s played a big role in the outcome of the Civil War and Native Americans suffered heavily at the hands of the American government.
“The fate of the Dakotas and the fate of the United States would remain specifically intertwined,” Professor Ari Kelman, Chancellor’s Leadership Professor of History, said.
Kelman came to SMU to talk about how the Civil War bled into the Indian Wars two centuries ago.
He said the Native American people struggled in the Dakotas during the 1800s and detailed the start of the “war with the whites” in North Dakota between settlers and Native Americans. He said that overall, empire and liberty would always work together during the era of the Civil War and the Indian Wars.
A seemingly innocuous history lecture turned personal when Bluehorse stood to thank Professor Kelman for his dedication to educating others of Native American struggles.
“My people were almost completely wiped off the face of this continent,” Bluehorse said. “It is sad, it is a form of racism and it was all wrong and we need to learn from that.”
Kelman said that in North Dakota, many Native people were killed in battles with the settlers, who had more effective weapons than the indigenous people.
“I am very blessed that my ancestors fought for what they did to even be existing today,” Bluehorse said.
Kelman said that the government organized a treaty where they would pay about $3 million in cash and annuities for 25 million acres of Dakota lands and the indigenous people would be moved to reservations, which proved very difficult for them.
“The advance of whites over the frontiers has been so rapid in Minnesota that the hunting grounds of the Indians have been taken from them before they’ve had a chance to become fully domesticated,” Kelman said.
Kelman has published three books about American history, one of them specifically about the Civil War.