Caddo Indian Memorial

Entrance to the memorial park.
I had put Norman, Arkansas in the rear view mirror of my pickup and just a short piece down the road I came upon Caddo Indian Memorial Park. It wasn't much really, just an open area with a trail around it; a couple of vague mounds in the middle that apparently were built by the Indians long ago for some purpose nobody is really sure of. You had to kind of squint your eyes and use a bit of imagination to see them. I thought it would be something interesting, but sometimes what sounds interesting isn't. I certainly appreciated the fact that somebody or some organization constructed this memorial to the Indians that lived here until the late 1700's; there just wasn't much to it. There was a sign with a nice Caddo Indian Memorial Poem.

Blessed are all who enter here, for this is hallowed ground.
Look around and hear the heartbeat of a different time.
My ancestors are buried here, amongst nature.
Holy are the beauties of this earth.
Holy are the glories of the skies above.
Feel their essence in the air, exalted in the sunshine and the clouds.
Each leaf, each tree, each insect, beloved parts of the whole of creation
Not to be done without.

Here, I remember Grandmother's long gray braids, once shiny, black as satin.
Her cooking pot full of stew, rich aroma whetting my appetite;
Her daily chanting, comforting as the chirping birds.
I miss her warmth, her knowing eyes.
Grandfather too, who now dwells by her side.
He taught me to hunt game, made my first bow and arrows with his gnarled hands.
He showed me respect for the gifts of the earth.
Fishing with Grandfather on the river not only brought food,
but was one of the real pleasure's of life.

Feel the presence within these grounds you encircle.
Take time to walk a little taller, to feel more alive.
Breath deep of the soil,
You will strive for excellence and be better than you were when first you arrived.
Enjoy my family.
Enjoy my people.
Know that in truth, we are all one.

 I stood there in the heat of an excessively hot August day with sweat dripping down my neck and contemplated the poem. I didn't have to worry about someone else impatiently waiting behind me; I was the only person there. Like a lot of people, I have a certain affinity for Native Americans, imagining a much simpler time, a time when people didn't rape the earth, but lived with what the earth provided; a time when people didn't kill women and children just because they didn't believe the same. Of course, reality was different from our idealized vision. That vision is really just a projection of the way we should live, the way we would like to live if but only we could.

I finally grew too uncomfortable, the sun beating down, the heat suffocating. I made my way back to the air conditioned comfort of my truck and started to pull out of the little gravel parking lot. I glanced over and noticed a road sign just down from the Caddo Indian Memorial sign. I thought, "How appropriate. What better way to show how far we've come." The Indians had lived right here for who knows how long. We come into the picture and here in this remote place, surrounded with hundreds, even thousands of acres of nothing but woods, right next to this memorial place, we put a solid waste station. It upset me at first. I thought of Iron Eyes Cody, the crying Indian in the "Keep America Beautiful" commercial back in the early 1970's.

But then, in spite of my great desire to keep that idealized version of Indian life in my head, I thought, "Indians had to poop too. And they probably had one area where they all went so they wouldn't be nervous about walking around the village and stepping in something."  Maybe that area was right here. Most likely, all we did was put our version of a big outhouse right on top of theirs. Then I turned right onto the road and put this place in my rear view mirror too.