Independence Rock stands above the high plains of Wyoming as a natural monument to the early pioneers of the Oregon Trail. Travelers hoped to reach Independence Rock before the 4th of July to ensure an arrival to the Oregon Country before the first snowfall. Many passersby inscribed their names on the rock, though contemporary inscriptions are punished. One generation's graffiti is another generation's treasured artifact.
My children and I climbed the rock and enjoyed the wonderful view.
Of course, I had to do the LOOK, yet again, from another another landmark. Is this another tradition in the making?
On a more serious note, I recently spoke to a group of LDS missionaries regarding my persepctive of history. The pioneer legacy is something they obviously cherish, especially as they consider the religious conviction that compelled their ancestors to brave the unknown dangers of the frontier. And yet, the opening of the various historic trails caused the decline of indigenous cultures in western North America. The frontier opened a new chapter of discovery for the American pioneers, but marked the heartbreaking decline of indigenous lifeways.
Even as I stood atop Independence Rock to see the endless Wyoming plain, the effects of that place reached my ancestors hundreds of miles away. More than a half a million people crossed that place en route to the Oregon Country, which at that time included the traditional territory of my Spokane and Kalispel Salish ancestors. My great grandparents directly experienced the effects of the westward migration, often through tragedy, sickness, forced assimilation, and death.
How can I reconcile these opposing forces of history? How can I reconcile the anger and the grief with the equally compelling desire to create peace in the world today? No answers immediately appear, but perhaps one of the great mysteries of life is that sometimes horrible things happen, and we are left with the choice of how to respond. In the end, history is done, and my personal response of either bitterness or acceptance is the only choice that remains.