I grew up in awe of the American Indians. There was this powerful spiritual force that surrounded them in my mind. The basics of their marginalization that I learned in school was an opening to learning more about individual American Indian tribes and the people as a people.
One of the things I suspect we’re at risk of culturally is entirely forgetting the American Indians in any meaningful way. I think is partly due to the rise of political correctness and identity politics, which makes it functionally impossible for whites to speak about American Indians (even in an appreciative way) without being looked at suspiciously as either a potential appropriator or as some sort of racial nut. I think it’s also due to the fact that we tend to lack American Indian symbols, names, and faces from so much of our cultural landscape. Lots of names remain in a geographical sense, but names on a map matter less than an intellectual or physical encounter with the people who we removed from the land and who we have little way to “encounter” in cultural practice.
It would be very difficult (if not political suicide) to attempt to name a school in honor of a historical American Indian figure, for instance. Yet that sort of thing can introduce generations of Americans to the first peoples of our lands, as it did for the students of Kishacoquillas High School in Lewistown, Pennsylvania for 30 years:
Kishacoquillas Junior/Senior High School alumni are giving back.
The Class of 1982 has established a scholarship fund to financially support college-bound students from Mifflin County.
“When we were planning our 35th reunion, several of us thought it would be nice to make the event purposeful by raising money for a local charity,” explained class member Terry Yoder. “We eventually decided to create a scholarship in the name of our alma mater.”
The class is still raising money toward the Spirit of Kishacoquillas Scholarship. Yoder said more than $4,000 has been raised thus far. Short term, the class aims to raise $12,500, for an endowment that would allow it to award one $500 scholarship annually based on interest earned. The ultimate goal is to raise $25,000, which would boost the endowment to award $1,000 per year.
Here’s a bit about Kishacoquillas from Centre Foundation, where the scholarship has been established:
The Spirit of Kishacoquillas Scholarship Fund
Perpetuating the legacy of a peaceful Shawnee Chief and the school which bore his name by financially supporting a new generation of community-minded students.
Kishacoquillas was a widely known chief of the Shawnee Indians of Mifflin County, Pennsylvania around 1750. He was held in high regard by early colonial officials in the area because of his successful efforts in keeping the Shawnee neutral during the beginning of the French and Indian War. A beautiful valley and the creek that runs its length bear the name of Kishacoquillas. From 1958 through 1988, students in grades 7 – 12, living in the townships of Armagh, Brown, Union and Menno attended Kishacoquillas Junior/Senior High School, affectionately known as “Kish.”
In 1966, Anne Kepler Fisher completed ‘Kishacoquillas,’ a painting that depicts Chief Kishacoquillas watching over the school that was named after him. For years, it hung by the entrance to the Kish auditorium and is now displayed in the Mifflin County Courthouse in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. The family of Anne Kepler Fisher is honored to have this image associated with the Spirit of Kishacoquillas Scholarship Fund.
There’s no bringing back the American Indians—the first peoples of the American continent. But there are practical ways to honor them and remember the peoples and nations that came before us through statuary and public buildings and scholarships and so forth. However imperfectly we may remember them, and however shabby it is that we can only perpetuate their memories rather than enjoy their fellowship as living neighbors, it’s a powerful and worthwhile thing to honor the American Indians as our cultural ancestors.