Why do we believe that preserving family stories is so valuable? A recent article in the Prescott Arizona Daily Courier offers an excellent illustration.
The newspaper reported about a new book, All My People Were Killed: The Memoir of Mike Burns (Hoomothya), A Captive Indian. It was published by the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, Arizona exactly 100 years after Burns first tried to get his stories into print.
Burns’ story recounts an 1872 incident at Skull Canyon, Arizona, in which U. S. cavalry troops killed 75 Yavapai and Apache men, women and children, including all of Burns’ own family. The then seven-year old Burns was raised by cavalry officers and their wives. He eventually served as a scout for General George Crook during the latter’s campaigns against the Souix. Following his military service, Burns returned to Arizona and lived out his life on the Yavapai McDowell Reservation, dying in 1934.
The book’s publication meant a lot to Burns’ descendants. "I wish the older ones were alive," Walker said. "They really would have liked to see the book,” said Burns' granddaughter, Leonardine Walker, who was two years old when Burns died in 1934. "This is what he wanted. He wanted to tell his side of the story." Burns' great-granddaughter Gail Hunnicutt said, "We're just grateful for this book to be brought out. It's been a long time coming."
The value to the family is important. But Burns’ story, like any memoir or family history that recounts events in a time and place, is a document of broader historical value. "It is important that this diary has at last come to light," wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning author N. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa Indian. "By knowing Mike Burns in his time and place, we know better ourselves and our country."
Click here to read the full Daily Courier article.