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History isn't black and white

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Regarding Mary Stange’s essay on place names, I grow very tired of those who want us to discard our history simply because it isn’t the kind of "Hollywood" pretty they demand it might be (HCN, 2/6/06: Living with the Ghosts of the Indian Wars). It is true that those Army generals of the mid-to-late 19th century were "Indian fighters," and their task was to facilitate the settling of the American West — and the taking of Indian lands that it entailed. But those who imply that it was out of character with the history of that land are simply not telling the truth.

Tribal wars over land and the dominion of that land were a fact of life in the West. The West was not a bucolic place where all Indians lived in peace with each other. They were every bit as brutal as the U.S. Army. Our "tribe" was simply more successful at consolidating dominion than others. Not pretty — but a part of our history we must understand and acknowledge.

My ancestor, Gen. George Crook, took many "shots" from some of his fellow generals because of his belief that fighting Indians was a last resort and not the way to approach the "Indian problem," as it was called back then. He was widely known among the tribes he dealt with as an honorable man who never lied to them and who opposed draconian measures.

The history of the West is not as black-and-white as Ms. Stange would have you believe. Only fools would banish history from any age’s landscape.

R. Barry Crook
Aspen, Colorado

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