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From: wredgranny10/6/08 3:00 PM 
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Commemorate vs. Celebrate

For Release: Immediate
Contact: Sammye Meadows, Cultural Awareness Coordinator
970.641.1355 office

Not Semantics: Commemorate vs. Celebrate

(Omaha, NE, July 29, 2004) --- The Lewis and Clark Expedition is one of America’s watershed events but the Bicentennial of the 1803-06 journey has ancient voices, rarely heard until now.

“Indian people are not celebrating the Bicentennial,” said Roberta Conner, Vice-President of the National Council for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. Conner, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Walla Walla, Cayuse and Umatilla said, "We want people to think about their choice of words. For us, the idea of celebrating the harbingers of what would become genocide is offensive and shameful.”

Steve Adams, Superintendent of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the national touring exhibit “Corps of Discovery II: 200 Years to the Future,” said, “commemoration is the appropriate message to carry to the public.”

“During the bicentennial period of the Corps of Discovery, it is certainly appropriate to commemorate the members of the expedition for their bravery, determination, and scientific achievements,” Adams said. “We cannot, however, celebrate the profound and adverse social, economic, and political consequences of the expedition to many peoples of color in the 200 years since the Corps first entered the lands of the First Nations.”

“Let us not forget that what was a daring trek across the western wilderness for these European Americans was but a typical life for American Indians,” Adams said, “Without the help of Sacagawea and without the generosity of many American Indians, the expedition would surely have failed. Federal policy and/or inaction after the expedition led to the near extinction of the buffalo - part of a long, deliberate, and deadly campaign to forcibly acculturate the native peoples.”

“Commemorate means to 'honor the memory of',” Conner said, “We are honoring the memory of our ancestors, their dignity, tenacity and foresight. Tribes are planning bicentennial events to publicly affirm the fact that we've survived. We are not invisible, nor extinct. We’re actively planning for the future. Tribes are very busy protecting the species, the habitats and the land that Lewis and Clark traversed so that these gifts will still be here long after we are gone.”

Dr. Robert Archibald, President of the National Council and President of the Missouri Historical Society, looked at the future. “The Lewis and Clark Bicentennial is an opportunity for commemoration, a chance to reflect on how radically our world, so vividly described by the sojourners, has changed in the years since the expedition ended. For humans of conscience, this occasion is no cause for celebration, for the intervening years are – like all history – a story of the capacity of our species for both good and evil. This bicentennial is an invitation to consider how we will build upon legacies and overcome burdens, leaving as our own legacy, a better world for the future's children.”

“There is much left to do,” Adams said. “Has America lived up to the promises of the 14th Amendment and its guarantee of equal treatment under the law for all its citizens? Part of the mission of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail is to encourage every American to practice the personal responsibilities of citizenship, including acceptance and inclusion in their daily lives, for true change will come only through them.”

“Imagine the torment and anguish of York,” Adams said, “the expedition’s only African American, who tasted the blessings of acceptance and freedom on the trail only to be returned to the reality of enslavement upon William Clark’s return to St. Louis.”

National Council of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial
P O Box 11940 Saint Louis, MO 63112-0040
Phone: 888-999-1803 Fax: 314-454-3162

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