LEXINGTON — The Constitution and Native American heritage were the subjects of the two proclamations which were signed by the Lexington mayor on Sept. 10.
This week, the day of Sept. 17 marks the 232nd anniversary of the drafting of the Constitution of the United States by the Constitutional Convention. Sept. 17-23 has now been known as Constitution Week.
Mayor John Fagot signed a proclamation which stated, "and ask our citizens to reaffirm the ideals of the Framers of the Constitution in 1787 by vigilant protection the freedoms guaranteed to us through this guardian of our liberties, remembering that lost rights may never be regained."
School House Rock taught many how to remember the preamble of the Constitution by song, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
The Constitution was drafted after the failure to the Articles of Confederation. Originally the United States had been established as a confederation, with little power given to the central government. Congress could make decisions, but could not enforce them.
Congress could also barrow money but couldn’t pay it back. No states paid all of their taxes, and some paid nothing at all. The federal government tried anything it could to gather taxes.
Shay’s Rebellion, fought between 1786 and 1787, railed against aggressive tax and debt collection. The federal government could not even finance troops to quell the rebellion. The shock of the rebellion drew retired General George Washington back into public life and led to his two terms as the first president of the United States.
The Constitution essentially lays down the frame for the federal government of the United States. Three branches were decided upon, the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch.
Sometimes bitter debate raged between the federalists who wanted a strong central government and the anti-federalists, who opposed centralized power.
Ironically, the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution which guaranteed citizen’s rights, wasn’t originally part of the document and had to be doggedly fought for by the anti-federalists. Federalists opposed it due to the procedural uncertainties it would create. Eventually the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution after much debate.
Eventually the Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788 and has been the law of the United States.
The second proclamation signed was for National American Indian Heritage Month in November.
The proclamation read in part, "The history and culture of our great nation have been significantly influenced by American Indians and indigenous peoples, the contributions of American Indians have enhanced freedom, prosperity and greatness of America today. Their customs and traditions are respected and celebrated as a part of a rich legacy throughout the United States."
Native American Awareness Week was started in 1976 and recognition was expanded by Congress and approved by President George H. Bush in 1990 and designated November as American Indian Heritage Month.
Nebraska’s name is derived from an archaic Otoe word "Ni Brasge," meaning "flat water,"
The Nebraska prairie was home to several indigenous Native American tribes, including the Omaha, Missouria, Ponca, Pawnee and Otoe. Several branches of the Lakota Sioux tribes also lived in the area. These people inhabited the region for thousands of years before European exploration.
Each tribe had their own histories and rich tradition, those societies who were based around agriculture tended to be more sedentary, like the Pawnee. Many societies changed after the introduction of horses by the Spanish in the 1600s. Buffalo hunting was expanded and tribes ranged the Great Plains following the massive herds.
After the arrival of Europeans, native tribes were ravaged by Old World diseases and were forced off their lands by the ever encroaching settlers. Some natives chose peace, some chose to fight back.
A coordinated attack by Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho natives ranged from Colorado to Nebraska. Part of this, on Aug. 8, 1864, the Plum Creek Massacre occurred when 100 Native Americans descended out of the hills and attacked a wagon train and killed 11 people.
Native fits of violence in the face of white settler encroachment only brought harsh reprisals including massacres and moving natives to reservations.
Some have characterized the treatment of the Native Americans as genocide. When Columbus landed in North America in 1492, there were thought to be 5 million to 15 million Native Americans living in the land. By the end of the Indian Wars in the late 19th century, there were fewer than 238,000. Their population was thought to have declined around 90 percent.
Today there are six reservations in Nebraska, which include the Omaha, Winnebago, Ponca, Iowa, Santee Sioux, Sac and Fox.