A Journey into History

A Journey into History


Below is an except from Rev. Char Corbett's blog Beyond Acadia to Zion written on December 28:

Overlook Along Skyline Drive
photo by Char Corbett

For me, this journey is about coming to terms with the realization that sometimes history isn’t what we’ve been told. It’s also about what’s intentionally, and conveniently, not told. Indeed, I’ve come to realize, late in life (and embarrassingly so), that most of what I’ve learned about American history, its native peoples and the land has been white-washed, quite literally. The truth about the United States’ Native Americans and our genocidal treatment and/or the removal of them, for example, has been glossed over, covered up, silenced, denied, forgotten, erased, and dismissed in every way possible. Native Americans have been and continue to be made invisible. For me, this growing, real truth lies in our Park and Indian reservation systems.  Our honest history tells us that our forefathers moved the native peoples from their sacred land for purposes of recreation, tourism and economic wealth, among other reasons, and forcibly put them onto reservations, leaving them there, forgotten (if they hadn’t already killed them). We wrote and re-wrote treaties to benefit our land interests and then never honored them.


Just today, in my study materials on religion and its impact on American environmentalism, simplified, dismissive statements are carelessly proffered to explain their presence away: “The standard narrative of [American] environmental history begins with the retreat of Indians before European colonists and their diseases. Indians had tended and shaped the landscape, and when they died or left, pioneers often marveled at the Edenic abundance they found.” [Stoll, Mark R. Inherit the Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism (Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2015), Page 7.]

Preparing to visit Shenandoah National Park via the Blue Ridge Skyline Drive, I’ve been aware of my privilege. Not just the gifts of time and presence to be here on this exploration, but also the resources that I am privileged to have to make this journey possible. And although I’m among the likely 1.2 million visitors anticipated at this park this year, I know I’m not invisible. My privilege as a white, heterosexual, Christian female of middle-class means guarantees that. And my privilege to drive here, to and through these beautiful scenic points, adds to the environmental crisis of our time. Auto emissions have long been an environmental hazard of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains. I recognize the privilege in that, too, and acknowledge that I have clearly succumbed to it in order to see these public places and lands for myself. I wish the park had a bus or carpooling system as some of the other national parks do out West, so I would feel just a little less guilty. And yet, I travel on.

You can follow all of Rev. Corbett's journey here.

Excerpt reprinted with author's permission.


Rev. Char Corbett Corbett

 Associate Pastor at First Church in Windsor, UCC, Windsor, CT

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