Archived Opinion

Let’s honor a different history

Let’s honor a different history

To the Editor:

I am so sick of hearing this argument that we’re “changing” or “erasing” history by changing statues or county namesakes. The history of the Civil War and the history of how we treated Native Americans in this country will always be the same, because the past is the past. However, we can choose which parts of history we want to honor. Statues, memorials, and namesakes are created to honor people or events. Should we have statues honoring people who fought for a cause that, at its core, was over slavery? Should we have our county be named after a man who forced people off the land they’d inhabited for thousands of years so that white people could live there? 

It’s ironic that people talk about these things as if we’re changing history when the very history books used in most schools (at least when I was growing up) conveniently avoid the parts of our history that involved mass genocide and forced labor of Native Americans and instead paint the history of our country’s beginnings as some peaceful, “rainbows and butterflies” story, where the colonists had a nice dinner with the Native Americans and the Natives taught the settlers how to forage and grow food for themselves. They also don’t talk about how Native American children were forcibly separated from their parents and sent to boarding schools where their culture was stripped away from them, their names were replaced with European names (to “civilize” and “Christianize” them), and they were often abused. So, who’s really wanting to erase history here? 

Sports stadiums have their names changed every time they get a new sponsor. So what’s so wrong with simply changing the namesake of our county? No trouble is involved as it would be with doing a full out name change. It’s simply a symbolic gesture that would mean a lot to the people whose land falls within the county border and whose original land, in reality, all of us outside the Qualla Boundary are living on now. It seems like a no-brainer to have our county be named after a good man who lived in this area and who was part of a tribe whose original territory covered this entire region, rather than an atrocious man who wasn’t from here and who forced thousands of people off of their land so that white people could live there instead. So how about we try to repair some of the wrongs that were inflicted on our neighbors and choose a different history to honor?

Rachel Smith


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