Win the Peace

on Thursday, November 08, 2007

Claudia has a wonderful post about winning the peace. It was a very honest post and I was compelled to respond. The truth is that the human race has generally sucked at being at peace and there has been hardly any period of time when there has not been war on this planet. So is the idea of winning the peace an illusive dream?

I think Canada’s history while not perfect, has a few gems to teach us about winning peace. There was Lester Pearson who won the Nobel Peace Prize for envisioning the use of soldiers to establish and keep the peace - the birth of the U.N. Peacekeepers. Canada also led the way in the campaign to ban landmines.

The one which always grabs my imagination involved Sitting Bull and the Sioux nation. After massacring Custer andthe US 7th Calvary, the Sioux fled to Canada and who do the Canadians
send to meet him?. Certainly not a regimentof well-armed soldiers. Instead, an unarmed detachment of five North West Mounted Police (fore-runner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) bravely rode into the midst of more than 1,000 Sioux and they told Sitting Bull to respect the land of the Blackfeet and Crow. Sitting Bull was so impressed by the sense of
justice that he agreed to peace.

At the root of being able to fight for peace must be the pursuit of justice. We will fail if our agenda is tainted by anything else such as political influence or economic gain. May we indeed find a way to fight for peace in our modern but divided world. Shalom.


Below is the detailed story of Sitting Bull and the NWMP (taken from "Sitting Bull and the Mounties" by Ian Anderson) :-

On May 7, 1877, some 11 months after Custer's bloody disaster, 34-year-old NWMP Major James M. Walsh, a sergeant and three troopers followed an Indian trail to the dun-colored hills and ravines of Pinto Horse Butte, some 280 miles north of the Little Bighorn. Around noonh, Walsh's scouts spotted mounted Indians sitting motionless on hilltops, watching them--a sign
that an Indian camp was nearby. As they rode on, they saw more and more Indians on the hills, until the small patrol was surrounded. None of the Indians, however, made any attempt to stop the scouts.

Moments later, Walsh and his men rounded a hill to find a large camp spread before them. Reining in, they sat in their saddles while a group of Indians rode toward them. Spotted Eagle, war chief of the Sans Arc Sioux, told them they were the first white men to dare approach Sitting Bull's camp so unconcernedly. Walsh asked to meet Sitting Bull. Shortly, the Hunkpapa chief, at the head of a retinue of lesser chiefs, approached.

Sitting Bull must have been just as curious about Walsh and his Mounties. Walsh, almost as tall as Sitting Bull, held himself straight as a lance. Wiry as a mountain lion, he had intense brown eyes set in a weathered face, a full mustache, whiskers below his bottom lip and wavy brown hair beneath a blue and gold cap.

Walsh and Sitting Bull shook hands. At first Sitting Bull treated the redcoats with cautious reserve, but he gradually warmed up to them. They all retired to the camp and sat down for a conference that lasted the remainder of the day. Walsh asked them why they had come to the White Mother's (Queen Victoria's) country. To find peace, they replied. The Sioux claimed they had suffered greatly at the hands of the blue-clad Long Knives, that they had been fighting on the defensive for years. They hoped the White Mother, or Grandmother(the term preferred by the Sioux), would give them sanctuary in her land. Spotted Eagle said they had been forced to cross the medicine line (the border--the Sioux also called it "the big road") to protecttheir women and children from the Long Knives.

John Peter Turner, historian for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (that name didn't come until 1920), wrote in Volume 1 of The North-West Mounted Police 1873­1893: "Sitting Bull said, in effect, 'Yesterday I was fleeing from white men, cursing them as I went. Today they erect their lodges by the side of mine and defy me. The White Forehead Chief (Walsh) walks to my lodge alone and unarmed. He gives me the hand of peace. Have I fallen? Am I at the end?'"

Walsh explained that the purpose of his visit was to find out their intentions and to tell the Sioux about the White Mother's laws, which everyone, white men and red men alike, must obey.

They must not make war against other tribes and must not steal horses or anything else. They must not kill or injure any other person. They must not use the White Mother's country as a refuge from which to strike back across the border at the American soldiers. They could not
remain in her country if they would not obey her laws, Walsh told them. Sitting Bull said he and his people would obey the laws, adding that he had "buried" his weapons before crossing into the White Mother's land.

Sitting Bull liked what Walsh told him about the White Mother's laws, especially the principle of justice for all, regardless of race. He showed Walsh medals King George III had given his grandfather for service to the British Crown during the War of 1812. His grandfather had fought alongside the red-coated soldiers of the Shaganosh (British) king. They were good men, Sitting Bull's grandfather had said, adding, "If you should ever wish to find peace, go north to the land of redcoats."

Sitting Bull asked for ammunition for his people to hunt buffalo. He said they had used up all their bullets fighting off the Long Knives. Walsh agreed to allow them enough bullets to hunt meat, but he warned that no bullets were to be used for warfare across the border. Walsh and his men spent the night in the Sioux camp.




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15 comments:

ivan@creativewiting.ca said...

Great review of the story of James M. Walsh and Sitting Bull.

But I believe the high constabulary finally pulled a fast one and had Walsh re-posted and replaced.
Woe to Sitting Bull after that, It seems to me.

meggie said...

Thanks for this story.

MedStudentWife said...

Thanks LGS -

I did not know that peace (sic) of our history... of Sitting Bull and the NWMP.

I learned the words to Dona Nobis Pacem in grade 5 and I can still sing it... I always did like it :)

riseoutofme said...

The pursuit of Justice ... A noble aspiration for us all ..

Thanks for this story lgs.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

ivan,
From what I could gather, the MacDonald government in Ottawa remained skittish about the presence of a large potentially hostile Indian tribe that might either incite local Indian tribes or drag Canada into a war with America (fear causing a deviation from justice). They decided that the Sioux were American refugees with no right for lands in Canada. While they took no action directly to expel the Sioux, they also offered no assistance especially during one harsh winter when the Sioux were short of food. Facing starvation, the Sioux eventually drifted back to USA. So unfortunately, this story did not complete its human potential and ended sadly.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

meggie,
My pleasure.

msw,
Unfortunately,ultimately the story ends badly for the Sioux. See my response to ivan above. I actually know nothing about Dona Nobis Pacem. I just picked it up from claudia's.

riseoutofme,
Peace has a price - justice and equality. In the absence of that, there will always be conflict.

Marja said...

Wow what an amazing story. How brave and nobel of the canadians to meet the sioux like that. Great example to learn from. you know a lot LGS

Open Grove Claudia said...

YAY!! I love these stories. I am amazed at how much I learned about war, as a child, but never learned about making peace.

So how would I be able to create it as an adult??

Great post!

Janice Thomson said...

It is amazing Lgs that you know more about Canadian history than many Canadians do. As usual a wonderful post in regards to peace. Like your globe too!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

marja,
history is a funny thing. If the Sioux had killed the Mounties, we would probably be thinking, "Those Canadian fools what were they thinking!". But it is a good story and one that gives us hope that we do respond to noble gestures of equality and justice.

claudia,
There is much talk about peace and justice but the proof is in the pudding ....that is, in how we try to put it into practice. And that's not easy.

janice,
like most boys, when I was young I liked tales of derring do. Most were war stories but this one was about peace and just stuck in my mind all these years.

Jocelyn said...

This post moves me, LGS, and not only because I grew up near to what used to be called "Custer Battlefield"--now known as "Little Bighorn Battlefield." I am also moved by the way you tie justice to peace, something that is too often forgotten.

Gledwood said...

So there really was a person called Sitting Bull? Wow I thought those were just white man's made up nicknames... like Pockahonkas! I never knew there really was an "Indian" girl who came to crown British "society" with her presence...

that was a really good story you posted.

Hope you're having a cheery weekend... yours surely has started already it's 3:15 pm here so surely about 10 at night by you...

take care!!

Gleds
"Vol 2"...

Gledwood said...

Yeah 11.16/11.17pm, see!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

jocelyn,
We all have an inherent sense of justice. The British call it common law. Law that makes sense to the common man. The majority of conflicts stem from injustice and lasting peace can only be reached when injustice and inequality is solved.

gledwood,
Oh, yes. Sitting Bull was real and he is a fascinating character. Worth a google. He later was even part of Wild Bill Hiccock's traveling rodeo. It is a story with a sad ending though.

Tai said...

Really interesting stuff LGS...though the ending is sad.

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