Monday, June 3, 2013

Searching For a Link to the Past - Part 3

My former blog on Xanga is coming to a close. At some point, I may transfer some of those old posts to this new site, since some of them continue to get traffic. This post will close a series I had started on the Xanga site. For the past year and a half, I've been spellbound by colonial North America. Having read Bernal Diaz del Castillo's "The True History of the Conquest of New Spain" several years ago, I've always wondered where the history of the New World fits into God's plan. How much of the interaction between European and Indian was He concerned with? Their actions changed the world forever and to this day we see the implications of those first contacts. Indeed, some of those first meetings between conquistadors and jungle natives involved religion. The Aztecs were seen as savage man-eaters by the Spanish conquerors who, in turn, saw themselves as agents of God. It was no different for the Jesuit missionaries who converted Huron and Algonquin to their religion a hundred years later in missions up north.

Habitation de Québec by C.W. Jefferys

This interest culminated in my first kayak trip on the Missouri River. For hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, this river has been used for transportation in the heart of North America. The most recent pilgrims have been our American forebears who utilized the river to expand their civilization and fulfill their Manifest Destiny. But before that, native peoples, explorers, fur traders, and religious men have traversed its waters. The only law that existed in this land at that time was the law spoken of in Romans 2:14-15. So, if you were to ask what interests me so much about this time period, it is that. The people who were dispersed at the tower of Babel eventually met up once again, by way of their descendants, in a violent clash of ideologies. Jean-Baptiste Trudeau, a French fur trader who ascended the Missouri several years before Lewis and Clark, noted in his journal many immoral practices of the Indian tribes he met on his journey. However, he also witnessed things that made him ashamed to call himself a "White", in particular, the alcoholism introduced by the European. By seeing rum traded for skins, he witnessed the native way of life being destroyed before his own eyes.

It's hard to appreciate the endurance these two societies must have had to survive in the wilderness until you get out there and feel it for yourself. I spent about four hours doing almost non-stop paddling and my muscles can now appreciate the experience of those peoples who lived and died in this land without roads and truck stops. It's no surprise that before Europeans arrived, native children were not given names at birth. They were, instead, identified by the traits and experiences they had as they grew in the world around them. They believed they belonged to the earth and felt no more than its steward, rather than its owner. The fears that they shared also became real. The river is powerful and, for once, I felt humbled by the divine entity of Nature. As much as I prepare to face the dangers it has to offer, I understand that, ultimately, my life rests in God's hands and in His control over the Creation. Few things in our technology-driven, twenty-first century society have a similar effect.

Kaw Point at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers.

Photo taken from my kayak on the Missouri River. My friend, Mike, can be seen on the far left.

Our first trip on the Missouri ended at Fort Osage, about thirty miles downstream from Kaw Point.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog! :) And a nice post too. I like the pic of you and Mike with both the river and the city in the background.

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