10-day SMU trip reveals Wild West myths that obscure ‘theft, deception & genocide’ for Native Americans

10-day SMU trip reveals Wild West myths that obscure ‘theft, deception & genocide’ for Native Americans

Native American roots run deep for SMU alum

DALLAS (SMU) — One of the pilgrims on the Embrey Human Rights “American West” trip is a recent SMU alumnus who carries in his DNA a unique connection to Native American history and culture.

Tony Bluejacket
Tony BlueJacket 

Tony’s BlueJacket’s fifth great-grandfather was Native American war tribal leader “BlueJacket” (1743-1810), who served with legendary Shawnee leader Tecumseh. BlueJacket’s fierce protection of his tribe’s ancestral lands reached its peak during the Northwest Indian War (1785-1795) and earned him great respect as a war chief.

America’s controversial treatment of its indigenous people will come into sharp focus during the 10-day trip, but many of the complex issues to explored won’t be new to Tony, an Irving native who this May earned a B.A. in human rights and B.S. in anthropology from SMU. He grew up participating in powwows, blessing and naming ceremonies, and other tribal customs.

“Most of my family still lives on or around Shawnee territory, and all five of my aunts and uncles have served the tribe at one point or another,” he says. Mainly he looks forward to “the spiritual connection to be gained on the journey,” and says he hopes to see a few family members while in South Dakota.

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June 10, 2015

DALLAS (SMU) — Thirteen SMU students, faculty and staff members are traveling the American West to better understand past and present struggles of our country’s “too often-forgotten indigenous people,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin, who is leading the June 2-12 trip.

During the 10-day journey through Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, the group will visit Native American sites of what Halperin describes as “brutal military and socio-economic strife as well as cultural resilience,” including the Pine Ridge Reservation and Wounded Knee area of South Dakota and the Battle of Little Bighorn site in Montana.

“Native American justice is perhaps the most fundamental – and most overlooked – human rights issue in the United States,” adds Embrey Human Rights Assistant Director Brad Klein. “This trip will raise awareness of how myths about the taming of the ‘Wild West’ obscure a history of theft, deception and genocide.”

Trip participants also will see how Native Americans are still fighting to better their communities and build a better world for the next generation, Klein says.

This is the first time the Embrey Human Rights Program has sponsored the “American West” trip, which Halperin says will be offered again.

It also marks the first time that an SMU student, sophomore Karly Zrake, has helped research and plan the trip’s itinerary. “Considering Karly’s educational and career goals, we thought her involvement would offer a great way to gain relevant skills and experience,” Klein says of the Southern California native, majoring in human rights and anthropology. “She is a student of rare maturity and ability” who chose SMU for its unique human rights degree program, Klein says.

Follow the “American West” trip via “SMU Adventures” blog posts at http://blog.smu.edu/studentadventures/category/american-west-human-rights-2015/ and on Twitter via #AmericanWest15.

Signing the Treat of Greene Ville by Howard Chandler Christy
Howard Chandler Christy’s “Signing the Treaty of Greene Ville” painting commemorating the 1795 event.
“BlueJacket” (in blue jacket and red sash at left of warrior standing with peace offering) and “Black Hoof” (second from bottom left). Also depicted are renowned explorers Meriwether Lewis (at left behind warrior signing treaty) and William Clark (standing second from right).

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