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Old 04-16-2007, 01:56 PM   #1
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The End of the Trail? Or, a Reminder to Keep up the Fight?

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The End of the Trail? Or, a Reminder to Keep up the Fight?

by Barbara Gray

Today we see the image of a tired and defeated native with his shoulders and
body slumped forward over an equally tired horse. We see this image in
artwork and jewerly, but does anyone know what its true meaning is? Do you know
why it was created? If we did know what what the true meaning of the image
is, would we continue to use it, display it in our homes, and wear it?

The very first model for the End of the Trail was completed in 1894 by,
James Earle Fraser. Fraser was born in 1876 and died in 1953. He was a
sculptor. The End of the Trail sculptor was made for the Panama - Pacific
International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915.

Fraser also designed the famed, Indian Head / Buffalo Nickel. This nickel
was first put into circulation in 1913 and was discontinued in 1938. However,
the United States mint, in 2001, used the image on a United States
commerative coin. Recently the mint issued issued a gold buffalo, with Fraser's
Indian Head nickle image, which is one ounce of gold bullion. Fraser also
designed, in 1919, a Victory Medal, to commerate the end of WWI. Over five million
copies of the medal were struck at that time.

When the End of the Trail statue was created, around 1915, most
Euro-American people believed the frontier period was over, and Native peoples were a
thing of the past. It was the thought of the time that Native cultures would
cease to exist through United States' polices of assimulation and erradication.


At that time popular literature portrayed Indians as "savages," some noble
others not. The statue portrays the belief of the people of that time that
the nineteenth century Indian was defeated and bound for oblivion. Most
people today are not aware of the statue's negative implication.

The Native people knew that their "trail" had indeed become a hard, rocky
road to climb, but they believed their unique cultural way of life would
continue. During that time the resurgence of the Ghost Dance was seen. Wovoka had
a vision that if the native people did the Ghost dance, it "would bring
about the remewal of the earth, the return of the buffalo, and their deceased
loved ones would live again." This message was brought to many native nations
and it brought hope and gave the people strength even at a time of in such
despair.

Native people have never accepted it to be at an end. Forced assimilation,
termination policies, boarding schools, broken treaties, disease, lies and
more has taken its toll, but Native people are still here. Many Native
nations have retained their traditional spirituality/political ways of life inspite
of the attempts of assimulation and termination. Traditional cultural
beliefs and practices have continued to keep the Native people strong and alive to
this day.

Although, in the past, the End of the Trail statue was created to depict the
defeat of Indian people, today it should be seen as a lesson in
steadfastness, integrity and righteousness. Indian peoples should look at the statue as
a reminder of the past, a past not to be repeated. The statue should remind
the people to keep fighting for the life of the coming generations, their
inherent rights, and their right to be Onkwehonweh people free to practice their
own cultural ways of life.
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