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Zinn Chapter 7

Chapter seven in Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, “As Long as Grass Grows or Water Runs,” focuses on US expansion westward and its effect on the Native Americans that inhabited the land. I think it is fairly safe to say that we have learned about the tragedy that was westward expansion in our more mature history classes. From the Louisiana Purchase to the Trail of Tears, and every battle in between, the indigenous people of what is now the United States suffered. Zinn also discusses how various tribes had various fates, such as the Creek people of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama or Cherokee tribe, which was pushed all the way to Oklahoma via the Trail of Tears. 


Growing up in Wisconsin, which has the 23rd largest Native American population (1.6%), the remains of indigenous culture are very present. Many names of towns, parks, counties and bodies of water are derived from Native American words. Even the word “Wisconsin” has Native roots, as it is the French version of the word “Meskonsing,” which more or less means “river running through a red place.” I grew up on land owned by the Oneida tribe. The tribe’s presence is strongly felt in Green Bay, with casinos, country clubs, herbal shops, and even a gate named for it at Lambeau Field. While the tribe has its own police force, school system, government, etc, it is closely tied with the city. However, one can’t help but think what could have been if the Oneida tribe had not been pushed from upstate New York all the way to northeast Wisconsin. Was there a better way to have shared the land with its original inhabitants? We can’t know the answer, and we can’t rewrite the past, but we can honor it and learn from it.

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  1. Kayla O'Connell Kayla O'Connell

    That’s really fascinating that you grew up on land owned by a native tribe! Your description of the area and how present they are in your community is really interesting. I can’t help but imagine how my community would have been impacted if we were able to share our land with the original inhabitants better. Although I am unable to experience their presence first-hand, I will definitely continue to honor them.

  2. Christopher Wilson Christopher Wilson

    While I agree with your summary about Zinn’s (1980) “As Long as Grass Grows or Water Runs,” I respectfully disagree with your claim that we all have learned about the tragedies indigenous people have faced at the hands of white Americans. As someone who is from Tennessee where Andrew Jackson held a lot of influence, I do not recall my history classes spending a lot of time covering the horrific events indigenous people faced, oftentimes because of him. Similar to how I- and perhaps, you as well- was taught about slavery, many pivotal narratives, actions, and motivations were excluded from our history lessons. In that vein, I say that we as a society actually have much more to learn about the history of indigenous people, which Zinn (1980) hints at by writing this chapter.

  3. Annie Waters Annie Waters

    I struggle with the same questions as to how Indigenous tribes might be experiencing different ways of life today had they never been displaced from their original lands. Reading this chapter, I wondered whether tribal nations would have even been displaced in the first place if it hadn’t been for the elite criteria US citizens had to meet to be abl

  4. Annie Waters Annie Waters

    (2/2) be able to vote. Considering the capitalist gains that drove westward expansion, it’s interesting to think about whether expansion was sought by common US citizens, or just the elite upper class

  5. Samuel Hussey Samuel Hussey

    I enjoyed hearing about your personal connection to native nations in your area. I grew up in the Boston area, and I have taken several trips to Plimoth Plantation, a fake town built to replica the Wampanoag and Pilgrim villages that “coexisted” with each other. As early as first grade, I remember going there and being fascinated with the way of life of the Wampanoags. When my teacher told us it was time to explore the Pilgrim villages, I did not want to leave because I wanted to learn more about how the Wampanoags lived because I had been sheltered from this information my whole life. Although we got to see both villages, there was a heavier focus on the Pilgrims because of the whitewash in our society. It is ironic because without the Wampanoags the Pilgrims would not have even survived the first winter, let alone establish a colony.

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