Jesus Garza, senior history and political science major at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, went on a journey this past summer for two and a half months, retracing the history of the Northern Cheyenne Exodus tribe.
His quest was “to map” the famous exodus of the Cheyene from Oklahoma back to their native lands in Montana.
“I believe retracing the Native American culture and the true history is very critical for not only Native Americans but also non-natives as well,” he said.
Garza presented his experiences and explained his journey at the Irma Rangel College of Pharmacy Lecture Room, Nov. 12, in commemoration of the Native American Heritage Month.
Garza’s idea for taking this journey was, at first, nothing more than just having a rejected thesis, he said. His professor, Dr. Roger Tuller, presented the idea of going on this journey and writing a paper about his experiences as an atlernative to a thesis.
“I wanted to learn more about Native America and my roots, because part of my blood line does go back to the Native American culture,” Garza said. “I decided to take on the mission.”
He expressed how American history books are “slightly biased,” and show little truth about Native American culture.
“It is our job as historians to dig deep, go to places that may seem uncomfortable or (we have) never been before, to actually discover the real truth,” he said.
At times Garza found himself having mixed emotions, recognizing that is his ancestral history, along with Catholicism that saw the Native Americans as savages and were part of the genocidal attacks.
“But the warm welcoming of all the Native Americans and non- Native Americans who were on this trip truly made it worth while,” he said.
Having the challenge of creating his own map along with his team, of the route the Cheyenne Exodus tribe went through, was a success in leading about 75 to 82 percent accuracy, along with the help of the geo science department–which allowed him to use the geographic information systems (GIS) and the technology on campus.
“I was greatly blessed and excited to retrace as much as possible to be historically accurate”, he said.
It was an emotional experience for Garza, dealing with the realism of reliving the Northern Cheyenne Exodus. Some of the trials Garza and his team surpassed was going through the tornado alley, right through the heart of tornado season. Also just the natural terrain of the area dealing with the harsh heat through out that summer.
“Overall it’s a once in a life time opportunity and I was just grateful and blessed to be a part of it”, Garza said.