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O give me a home where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play,
where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the sky is not cloudy all day ...

   Many people know the Kansas state song. We can hear gladness in it about the prairies where people used to hunt big animals. Nowadays the buffalo and the red indians have almost disappeared, and Kansas has become well known for its vast sunflower fields. These monotonous fields have somewhat corrupted the beautiful landscape of the olden times.
The name Kansas comes from the language of the Sioux indians, and means "nation of the southern winds". Just like in many other places, only the name reminds us of the original inhabitants. In the nineteenth century the new, white inhabitants called this land their 'home on the range', that is their home on the hilly grass lands.

buffalo on the great plains


   Why did the white Americans go to Kansas? This is because they began moving westward ever since they liberated themselves from England. Napoleon sold to the United States the whole region of the great plains, from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi. Until then, mainly red indians were living there.
The pioneers, with names from the Old Testament like Joshua and Jesse and Jeremiah, went westward in search of their own promised land of milk and honey and grassy meadows. Like Abraham and Moses, they wanted to become a great nation and settle in an own new Canaan. As the Israelites under kings like David and Solomon made short work of the Philistines in Palestina, so they themselves were going to expel the godless red indians from their new home lands.

pioneers in the wild west


The red man was pressed from this part of the West and is likely no more to return
to the Red River banks, where seldom if ever, their flickering camp fires still burn ...

   In this line from 'Home on the Range' we can hear relief because the red indians disappeared, but we can also hear a bit of nostalgia in it. The original inhabitants of the wild West not only frightened people with their cruelty, but also impressed them with their courage and skills as horsemen when hunting buffalo.
Where did they go? In the years 1830, many of the expelled tribes of red indians settled in Oklahoma, where the soil was poor. But the palefaces were not content yet, and it turned out they had spoken with forked tongues. Although the red indians had buried the hatchet, and smoked the pipe of peace together with the invaders, they were taken from Oklahoma to reservations in Arizona, where the proud men of war got addicted to fire water.

indian scouts

red indians

   When we learnt at school that the numbers of red indians and buffaloes on the prairies had gone down so much by the violence of the pioneers, so in the end they had to be protected from extinction in reservations, we were indignant. It wasn't fair, because the palefaces sold to the red indians guns that were inferior to their own guns.
But we only gradually understood that the culture of the red indians is in some respects superior to the culture of the palefaces. "How can you possess the air and the warmth of the land?", asked chief Seattle. "Your religion was written on tables of stone by the iron finger of an angry God, lest you might forget it. The red man could never remember nor comprehend it."

red indian family

red river

   Meanwhile, the Mexicans had chosen a quite different approach to the red indians. Whereas many adventurers were only searching for gold, the Franciscans and Jesuits wanted to save the souls and promote civilization. To this end they founded many lonely missions, which were to become big cities later on, like Los Angeles, Santa Fe and San Antonio.
Saint Francis wished to be poor together with the poor, and follow Jesus by practising love of all fellow creatures. He would have loathed the war of Mexico against the Apache indians and the war of the United States against Mexico. After this last war, Mexico had lost a large part of its territory: Texas, Arizona, California, and more.

Franciscan mission


   One of the best presidents Mexico ever had, was a nineteenth century red indian: Benito Juarez. When Benito was only twelve years old and couldn't read nor write nor speak Spanish, a Franciscan friar noticed that the boy was very intelligent nevertheless, and placed him in a boarding school.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos explained why the Mexican race combines the best qualities of the white and red races. So he was an advocate of the mexicanization, that is interracial propagation, which was already going on for some centuries. That's why in Mexico there have never been big racial problems.



Desde el cielo, una hermosa mañana, la Guadalupana bajó al Tepeyac ...
One beautiful morning, the holy virgin Mary of Guadalupe descended from heaven onto the hill of Tepeyac ...

   This is the first line of a song all Mexican children learn at school. A second line tells about a certain don Diego, who saw her and listened to her, and that all who heard of it were glad and in harmony with each other. Furthermore, the song tells us virgin Mary left her own image and likeness on her red indian cloth.
Ever since, Mexicans always have been venerating the virgin of Guadalupe. They continued to do this when the priests were being persecuted after the Mexican revolution. However, the song asserts even more in another line: "She piously folded her hands to pray, and both her face and her bearing were Mexican." So the image on the Red Indian cloth shows what a Mexican woman looks like!

The virgin of Guadalupe


   We conclude that in the United States there has been relatively little interracial propagation of palefaces and red indians, whereas in Mexico mixed descent was normal.
One of the causes of this fact is the Mexican Catholics recognized earlier than the American Protestants that coloured people are, in point of principle, equal to white people. Since the American pioneers read aloud to their families texts from the Old Testament every day, they likened themselves too much to the chosen people of Israel. They even thought Christ had exclusively chosen the reformed people to be saved.
However, nowadays there are many people with both white and red ancestors in the United States, because, from 1910 until now, millions of Mexicans have migrated to the United States.

(Maastricht, November 2016, H.Reuvers)

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