As We Commemorate Indigenous People’s Day

I found the following essay by Dee Seton Barber, ETS’s daughter, in my filing cabinet today. It was also discovered by David L. Witt at the Academy for the Love of Learning in 2017.  Having unearthed it again, I would like to share a portion of it.

Seton’s Relationship with Native Americans and First People

Seton was a man whom although his skin and upbringing was white, his soul was as theirs, his lifetime action strong proof of this mutual recognition.

From the 1880’s, he went among the people, not to change them, but to learn from them. He respected their culture and their wisdom. He learned their speech and sign, their songs and stories. When invited to council he listened as the wise ones spoke.

He shared their understanding that the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds were each a part of the same whole. He knew that the First People cared for the land with respect. That in their wisdom they took only what they needed to provide for themselves and their children; that they would always be free and the land unharmed, down all through the generations.

He learned to respect their bravery, honor, and strength. He too became wise in the ways of the woods and in the ways of the spirit. He was not a stranger but a welcome friend in the sweat lodge, a council, or alone by a small fire on a hill, listening for guidance from the Great Mystery. He heard the Voices and knew of Vision.

In his youth (in Manitoba), he first learned about the wisdom of the people. He sought to expand his knowledge and learned many things from the Ojibwa, the Sioux, the Cree, the Blackfoot, and the Six Nations at their invitation. He lived with the Crow, the Lakota, the Cheyenne, the Navajo and Pueblo peoples. He knew the Cherokee, the Omaha, and the Kiowa. All his life he shared a deep, mutual respect with the First Peoples, the Native Americans.

He opposed the traders who brought the poison of alcohol to the people. He spoke against governments that were determined to change the people, kill the buffalo, dishonor treaties. He despised missionaries who imposed their beliefs without recognizing the wisdom of the old ways.

He was tortured with the thought that all of the teachings of the elders would be lost, and the European settlers would destroy the heart and soul of the people, as he knew them a century ago. Not only taking their lands but also their traditional ways of living.

He was an advocate for native rights in a time when the West was being destroyed by the greed and avarice of the settlers. H sincerely believed that the highest duty was to provide for and protect the community, not gain or hold riches, but to share and be responsible for the welfare of all.