No reservations about giving some land

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 13, 2002

&uot;By the shores of Gitchigumi,&uot; went a line I seem to half remember from a poem I was supposed to master back in grade school but apparently didn’t. It was about Indians, the kind we used to call &uot;redskins&uot; before nutty politically correct zealots became a pain in the national butt. We wondered why we had to learn it when across the river, between the United States and Canada was a genuine Indian reservation on Walpole Island.

Where is that? Easy, Michigan’s lower peninsula; look at your left hand backside up. Halfway between the thumb knuckles was the St. Clair River on its way south from Lake Huron to what we called the St. Clair Flats (Lake St. Clair). That water comes from Lake Superior, flows around Michigan, eventually spills over Niagara Falls and ends up in the Atlantic Ocean.

On the far side of the river is Walpole, a reservation forced on the Indians eons ago by Canada and the United States. Too many tribes to name them all here, crowded together on a small island close to the Canadian side.

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There is no reason to go there because it is a genuine reservation, sans casinos, and most everyone is impoverished. If you chanced a trip by ferry you came back ashamed of what we had done to those nations of earliest Americans.

On our &uot;white eyes&uot; side we gave them menial tasks and jobs and were constantly warned to pay with ‘Fire Water.&uot;

When the river froze over in January the Indians marked &uot;safe&uot; trails across that mile of jumbled ice with ex-Christmas trees. But often the cold water claimed a life. It always troubled me that my parents had full-time Indian employees that were like family but, regardless of the weather, the laws forced return to the island before nightfall. Customs officers kept very careful records. A million times better than our nation’s current border guards.

You know what I’m getting at – it’s time we gave some land back to the Indians. They owned it all at one time and took better care of it than we do. The only litter back then came out of the backside of large animals. Traffic was unimpeded unless you consider that occasionally one would have to slow his horse to let a herd of buffalo pass. That land was so clean, so pristine we decided they didn’t deserve it.

Whiteface didn’t buy it, he took it, and many Indians in their graves would cry if they could see how we have messed it up.

I don’t know how many billions of acres there are in this country, but here in Virginia the Nansemond Indians are asking for a measly 140 acres on the Nansemond. We seldom use the part they want and it’s all but empty. They are asking – pleading – for a piece of territory on the water with trees, like the stuff we took away from them.

No, they don’t want to live there, they want to construct an Indian village and a museum, both of which would be great assets to Suffolk if our Council is serious about pulling tourists to this part of Virginia.

Our city &uot;planners&uot; wanted to shove them over to Driver, not a lot of water over there.

The Indian leaders have made many concessions to the city including lucrative casinos you see on some reservations.

All they want are trees, land and water like it used to be, and there is plenty available in the 1,200 acres of Lone Star.

City &uot;planners&uot; have ideas for a city marina in that same area but there is plenty of room for both and they would complement each other.

A good part of that section is marsh and wetland, which can’t be used for anything, but would be a natural part of an Indian village.

The good folks backing the Indian plans are more than eager to get going. They can see the grant money is available, their plans are complete, and only need quick action by our new Council.

Thanks to Prime Media, Andy Damiani taped his monthly show, Roundtable Talk, at the Grist Mill in Chuckatuck and we were all pleasantly surprised by the artifacts housed there.

Many have contributed their &uot;collections&uot; and more will when there is a museum large enough to hold them. I wouldn’t call it a gift show although there are a few items for sale. Call for open dates if you are into arrowheads, tom-toms, tomahawks, deer hide items, etc. The kids will love it and history buffs are in for a treat.

The mill is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Or, call 255-7001 to be sure. For info, e-mail: She is the coordinator for Native American Resource Network.

Robert Pocklington is a regular columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald.