Friday, May 1, 2009

Golden Inspiration: Pocahontas, Sacagawea, and Esther

“Nothing in the story of American history has been more puzzled with stereotypes and falsehoods than the lives of American Indians and the very essential role that they played in our nations past.”

-Moulton (2001) in Everyday Life among the American Indians
by Shaina Peters
Southeast Community College

There are three Native American women that come to mind easily for changing the world in many different aspects. The world would not be the same if it wasn’t for their contributions. I've always thought of Pocahontas and Sacagawea as positive role models, and now it’s time for others to see what they had brought to our nation so many years ago. I'd like to recognize Pocahontas, Sacagawea, and her great granddaughter for their influence on our nation.

First, I will show why Pocahontas should be admired for the important role that she had in what became the first English settlement. Then, I will honor Sacagawea’s adventures across America. Finally, I will praise Esther Horne for her contributions to the American culture.

Because Pocahontas shared her friendship with the English settlers it helped ensure the success of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement of America. According to Pocahontas (2000) in the year of 1607, a few English settlers made their way on to Native American territory and were they were taken into captivity. Pocahontas’ father sentenced Smith, who was the captain of the exploration, to death for trespassing in his territory. With Indians hovering over him readying to take his life, Pocahontas forced her way through her own people, placing her life before Smith’s.

Pocahontas’s father respected her wishes and spared Smith’s life. In result, as a part of the mock execution and salvation ritual, Smith and Pocahontas were now friends, and her father had taken him in as his own. Positive relations between the Indians and the settlers continued through the years. While some say Pocahontas’ willingness to give her life to save another is a legend there is no doubt that her friendship with the early settlers benefited the existence of Jamestown (Pocahontas, 2000).

The remembrance of Sacagawea and her adventure may be imprecise but the facts we do know are remarkable. Sacagawea traveled through America, her son attached to her back, leading Lewis and Clark on their adventures. She was hired to help Lewis and Clark travel their expedition because she could speak several Indian languages, and as a Shoshone, she could contact her own people for trade (Sacagawea, 1999).

Sacagawea helped Lewis and Clark acquire the crucial necessities that were needed for the success of their mission. She provided the knowledge that was needed to survive through the rugged country of North America. She taught the explorers how to find edible roots and plants that were beneficial to their health. Most importantly, Sacagawea and her baby functioned as a “white flag” of peace for the Lewis and Clark expedition (Sacagawea, 1999).

As the Lewis and Clark party entered what could be hostile territory and because women and infants never accompanied a war party, the Indian response was interest rather than violence. Instead of hostilities all would make conversation first, and Sacagawea would serve as a translator (Sacagawea, 1999).

At the age of 14, Sacagawea led Lewis and Clark on a once in a life time adventure, and now is known as the golden inspiration and is honored on the dollar coin (Sacagawea, 1999). Finally, I will show what the great granddaughter of Sacagawea brought to the world of education.

Esther Horne was known for her commitment to the education of American Indians. She was an inspiration as an educator and as an advocate for the Indian people. Horne received many honors in her time including a Master Teacher for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. With the experience of being both a student and a teacher she helped inspire the dreams of many young Indian children. If it wasn’t for these accomplishments, she would not have been able to portray the complexity of the Indian experience at the Indian boarding schools (Esther Burnett Horne, 2006).

Esther’s life enlightens us of the ongoing struggle of the Native teachers and students. She helped retain her and her student’s cultural identities although government systems were trying to prevent the teaching of Indian heritage. She helps us understand the complex meaning of boarding school education and its impact on Indian students’ lives (Esther Burnett Horne, 2006). Esther Horne’s should receive honor for what she had brought to the teaching of and about the American Indian people.

I hope my words have helped you to consider how we should recognize and acknowledge Pocahontas, Sacagawea, and her great granddaughter, Esther Horne, for their contributions as they have had an impact on shaping our nation to be what it is today. We saw why Pocahontas should be admired for the important role that she had played in what became the United States of America. Then, we honored Sacagawea’s adventure across America. And finally, we gave praise to Esther Horne for the contributions she made on behalf of American Indians to the American culture.

These histories of these three Native American women may be “puzzled with [some] stereotypes and falsehoods” but there is no doubt that the “very essential role[s] that they played in our nations past” deserves our admiration.


References:

Esther Burnett Horne. (2006). Read North Dakota. Retrieved February 24,
2009 from http://www.readnd.org/Esther_Burnett_Horne.aspx

Moulton, C. (2001). Everyday life among the American Indians. Cincinnati, OH: Writers Digest Books.

Pocahontas. (2000, 1997). The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities.
Retrieved February 22, 2009 from http://www.preservationvirginia.org/history/pocahont.html?process=0

Sacagawea: The early years. (1999). Defense Link. Retrieved February 22, 2009 from http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/nativeamerican01/life.html

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