By Caleb Flege
When I was younger I was taught all sorts of things, and as a child, I had to believe those things because I had no reason not to. As we grow we begin to learn that the truth isn’t always true and that the winners wrote our history; because of that, it is our responsibility to learn the truth we were never taught. Growing up in Kentucky and learning about the “Indians,” I was always told that they never lived here. I was told Kentucky was their sacred hunting ground and that they only stayed here for short periods while hunting or traveling through. Later on in my education, that story was ingrained deeper when I heard the myth of “the Dark and Bloody ground”. This myth is believed to have originated from a native leader by the name of Dragging Canoe in 1775 at a treaty negotiation where the Cherokee nation would lose a large portion of what is now Kentucky to Richard Henderson’s Transylvania Company. What Dragging Canoe reportedly said was that “a dark cloud hung over the land, known as the Bloody Ground”. What the white people distorted this to mean was “that a conflict existed between Indian groups over Kentucky lands and that, therefore, the land was not claimed by any of them. Thus, if Kentucky was not the property of any particular Indian group, land speculators could justify selling this “free” land to settlers; and the settlers had every right to move in and establish farms.” Others believe it was meant as a premonition of the wars that would be fought over Kentucky. Either way, the myth that no one lived here is just that, a myth, and there is ample proof to dispel it. Kentucky “The Dark and Bloody Ground” will be a bi-weekly (hopefully) blog that explores the rich history of Kentucky natives from 9500 B.C.E to present day.
This is the introduction to the blog series, so let’s dive right in. I will be dissecting this long history into five broad periods. I think it’s important to say these divisions and the names for them were not made by Native peoples themselves, but by those who were studying them. The first of these time periods is sometimes called the First Peoples and spans from 9500 B.C.E. to 1539 C.E. Because this is a long period of time, I will break it down to three smaller periods: Hunter Gatherer (9500 B.C.E.-1000 B.C.E), Hunter-Gatherer Gardener (1000 B.C.E.-1000 C.E.), and Hunter-Gatherer Farmer (1000 C.E.- 1539 C.E.) The ancient history of Kentucky and the people that lived here belongs to the broad Eastern Woodlands tradition of Native American heritage and shares many characteristics with the histories of the surrounding states; this is because the lives of people of this time were lived in large expanses of land that cross our imaginary state lines. Next time we will begin to go in depth on the first peoples, the way they lived, and what changes occurred.
Native History for Ky Teachers, Gwen Henderson and David Pollack, pg 43