Jim Schaap

White Buffalo of the Omaha Chiefs

Jan 2, 2017

According to an old Omaha history, the Omahas first saw a white man somewhere close to where today they would find Homer, Nebraska. Those strange white people carried with them “blankets, cloths, trinkets, and guns,” all of which made that first meeting historic—deathly-looking white folks were one thing, but guns—that was amazing.

It was the late 18th century, and that first sighting was reciprocal—it was the fur traders’ first sight of the Omahas as well. There are no reports of those trappers being equally awed.

The Last Buffalo

Dec 26, 2016

"Now, boys, is our time for fun." That's what the hoity-toity artist said when he saw a herd of buffalo Comstock, the rancher, had spotted along the Republican River.
 

Albert Bierstadt was on his way back from California when he and the newspaper man traveling with him stopped at the Oak Grove Ranch and decided to try his hand--not at hunting buffalo but painting them. Comstock and his men armed themselves with rifles; Bierstadt packed brushes.

He wanted an angry bull, he said, "so mad that he'll bellow and tear up the ground," Bierstadt told Comstock.

Something happened way back when, a crime long gone from the memories of anyone downtown Hawarden today. Probably never made the Sioux City Journal, but everyone in town, circa 1895, had to know because when the mighty fall the crash is as momentous as it is memorable.

This man was of high standing, among the pastor’s closest friends, a saintly man caught with his hands in the till, grabbing a fortune more than a few buffalo nickels. That good man’s fall affected a precocious little girl for the rest of her life, a child who became a novelist and never forgot.

Clear as a friend's heart, 'twas, and seeming cool--

A crystal bowl whence skyey deeps looked up.

So might a god set down his drinking cup

Charged with a distillation of haut skies.

As famished horses, thrusting to the eyes

Parched muzzles, take a long-south water-hole,

Hugh plunged his head into the brimming bowl

as though to share the joy with every sense. 

And lo, the tang of that wide insolence 

Of sky and plain was acrid in the draught!

How ripplingly the lying water laughed!

Religious visions were everywhere in the years preceding the Civil War. Boom towns out west here may have been hell holes for a time, but they were also peopled by starry-eyed believers who claimed their marching orders came from on high.

Tabor, Iowa, sits on a bluff far above the Missouri, the highest point of Fremont County. The place is not in terrific shape today; but Tabor has an epic past, created when fiery abolitionist Congregationalists set up camp here, just across the river from Nebraska.

In 1875, the year before the Battle at Little Bighorn, a 30-year-old single woman named Mary C. Collins, who’d been living in eastern Iowa, accepted an appointment as a missionary/teacher on the Great Sioux Reservation of the Dakota territories.

Not Even The Past

Oct 9, 2016

Not everyone believes the Homestead Act of 1862 worth celebrating. If I were Native American, I wouldn’t be thrilled to know the government gave away land they considered vacant.

Lighting candles for the Homestead Act is like making Columbus Day a holiday: isn't it wonderful that Columbus "discovered" the Americas?”—as if nothing was here before the Nina, Pinta, and the Sante Maria beached.

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