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ARTICLE ARCHIVE: The Freedom We Take for Granted

The Freedom We Take for Granted

When we think of the history of the Pawnee City area, it's natural that the settlers who traveled long distances to make this their home come to mind. From some of those first families, celebrities emerged: Governor David Butler, Senator Kenneth Wherry, Harold Lloyd, Irish McCalla. But those courageous and hard-working settlers weren't the first to inhabit this part of Nebraska. The first inhabitants of Pawnee County, the people for whom the county and the county seat were named, were the Pawnee Tribe.


It's estimated that in the early 19th century, more than 10,000 members of the Tribe lived along the North Platte River in Nebraska. But by the 1840s, smallpox and cholera brought here by early settlers had decreased their numbers from 10,000 to approximately 600.


Although considered a "friendly tribe" by the U.S. Government, the Pawnee were eventually forced to give up their homelands in Nebraska and Kansas. Their relocation to the present tribal seat in Pawnee, Oklahoma, was completed in 1875.


The contrast between the settlers and the Pawnee Tribe is striking. Our ancestors relocated voluntarily in the search for a better life. The Native Americans, on the other hand, had been living happily in their ancestral home and were forced to leave simply because a stronger force wanted their land.


Times have certainly changed. It's unimaginable to us today that all the inhabitants of a city could be forced to move from their homes and told they must settle in a place not of their choosing. Because we've had the right to choose where and how we live for so long, we've come to take it for granted.


That ability to choose is a rare and precious freedom. In some parts of the world, there are still populations for whom "home" isn't something they can count on. War, policital upheaval, and devastating weather events tear communities and families apart. Even in the U.S., there are people who spend their lives seeking, but never finding, a place to call home.


While we may not be able to create a sense of home for every person who has none, we can be aware of our good fortune, fully appreciating the safety and comfort of the homes we have and the stable, supportive communities in which we live.



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