Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cheyenne NAACP banquet includes awards and presention about "Big Medicine" of the Lewis & Clark expedition

Attended the Cheyenne NAACP (Unit 4108) Freedom Fund Banquet last night for the first time. My wife Chris has been a number of times, as she's actively involved with the local NAACP in planning the annual Juneteenth Celebration in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. It's the longest-running Juneteenth event in Wyoming and, until recently, the only one. Chris and I were given a gift membership to NAACP last year. This year, we renewed the membership.

Also attending were about a dozen members of the Laramie County Democrats and the the Laramie County Democratic Grassroots Coalition. Love & Charity hosted a big table of youth, giving them an opportunity to see the NAACP in action. A number of Colorado NAACP members were present, including the Wyoming/Nebraska/Colorado region chair.

Cheyenne NAACP President Elder Rodney McDowell presented a number of awards to sponsors and volunteers. Chris was surprised when she received a "President's Choice" plaque, so surprised that she burst into tears. She does most of her work behind the scenes and isn't used to blatant public presentations of awards. She got as standing ovation, to boot, and a big hug from Elder McDowell. The wording on the plaque: "In appreciation of your commitment and dedication to Civil Rights and Social Justice in Cheyenne and throughout Wyoming." Those words mean so much in Wyoming, a place that doesn't always lived up to its motto of "The Equality State." So proud of you, Chris!

Guest speaker was Dr. Robert Bartlett, actor and professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University in Cheyenne, Wash. He performed a one-man presentation, "Manservant York." York was the manservant/slave that William Clark brought with him on the famous "Voyage of Discovery." The two has grown up together on the Clark Kentucky plantation. Clark taught York outdoor survival skills as the two hunted and fished the wilderness. When Jefferson appointed Lewis and Clark to make their trek, Clark felt that York's skills would come in handy. They did. York became known as "Big Medicine" to the Indians encountered along the way. On more than one occasion, his presence dissuaded the Indians from killing the voyagers. One Nez Perce chief thought so much of Big Medicine that he had him bed all four of his wives.

During the expedition, York became a free man in the wilderness. On his return to St. Louis, he once again became Master William's slave. He was even beaten after he'd asked for his freedom once too often. York's end is a mystery, although Bartlett opines that he lit out for Indian country, spending the latter part of his life with the Crow Nation in northern Wyoming. York urged the audience to look for him in the history books, "although you'll have to look awfully hard."

Look for York; see if you can find him. 

1 comment:

Ken McCauley said...

We are ALL very proud of Chis' work with the NAACP, Juneteenth, and the many other social events she helps organize and hold together!!!

Bob Bartlett's presentation as Manservant York was very moving!

And Mike, your analysis of the presentation is excellent. We should all look for York.