Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Remembering Local History: Oak Oregon Trail Days and the Raids of 1864

On Saturday July 26th, I went back home to my parents farm for a family reunion and special celebration for my Grandma turning 95 years old this year. It just so happens that happening at the same time Oak, Nebraska was having its Oregon Trail Days Celebration. Oak is a very small township comprising of 66 people, at least according to the 2010 US Census.

Oregon Trail Marker near
where I grew up and
the Kiowa Station Emery Station

Oak's Oregon Trail Days is a celebration for the town, but also a way to remember the significance the Oregon Trail and westward expansion had on the growth and development of Nuckolls County, Nebraska. The citizens of Oak also commemorate a series of attacks by Native Americans that took place on August 7, 1864 that killed many of these settlers and drove many more of them back east. The Nebraska Historical Society has a short blurb on their website about these raids: 1864 Indian Raids 

1967 Reenactment at
Kiowa Station

The interesting aspect of this celebration is the tradition of putting together these reenactment raids that have been taking place since 1967. In 1967 my father and uncle participated in one of these reenactments playing the role of Native Americans attacking a stage coach near the Kiowa Station. Many families have been responsible for organizing and staging these reenactments passing these historical skits down to each new generation.

Reenactment of raid near The Little Blue Station
Reenactments are not without controversy because the question about presenting these historical events fairly and accurately is essential. I remember back in the 1990's when they were holding these events a tribe in Oklahoma was very concerned and came to protest about how their own ancestry was being portrayed. Most left feeling that they had been portrayed fairly, and I believe organizers try to fairly present the events. At the first stop of the tour the narrator spoke about why the the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho quite brilliantly orchestrated their attacks that began on August 7th. As Americans pushed west, Native American's pushed back violently to protect their homes and way of life that was under attack by these settlers encroachment.  It is important to be inclusive in these stories and provide context to the perspective of the participants of these events. 

Family Homestead in 1903 and Now
Connecting historical events to your own personal history is something I aim for and like to share with my students in a hope that they too connect history to their family history.  When the U.S. Calvary came back and put down the raids that drove many of these tribes onto reservations, my Great Great Grandfather (a veteran of the Civil War) was able to make it to Nebraska to settle into this area of Nebraska where my family has lived for over one hundred years. 

If you are interested in learning more about these raids that took place in 1864, here are some resources that were published with interviews and testimonials from those settlers that experienced these raids.

Nebraska History and Record of Pioneer Days Google Book

Publications of the Nebraska State Historical Society Google Book

A Frontier Life by Charles Wesley Wells

The Invasion of America Map: A map that looks at how westward expansion impacted the Native Americans on the Great Plains.

Indians of North America: Selected Resources from the Library of Congress

We Shall Remain: PBS Documentary for American Experience.

Video of Reenactment July 26, 2014 of the Abduction of Laura Roper,  Mrs. Eubanks, and Mrs. Eubanks two children

Video of Reenactment July 26, 2014 of the Massacre at the Oak Grove Ranch