Native Americans slain during Battle of the Neches honored during ceremony

Published on Sunday, 16 July 2017 00:57 - Written by AUGUSTA ROBINSON,

BEN WHEELER-The lives of Native Americans who were slain during the Battle of the Neches on July 15 and 16, 1839, were honored Saturday on the grounds where the second day of battle took place.

The American Indian Cultural Society hosted the event, which featured music, dancing and storytelling that honored various tribes.

Eagle Douglas, chairman of the American Indian Cultural Society, has been helping with the upkeep of the land for 20 years and said the event was a great way to both honor those who lost their lives there and get more people to learn about the sacred area.

“We are not trying to beat people over the head with history, but if you forget history it repeats itself,” he said.

The conflict began when the second president of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau B. Lamar, announced it was time for a war on Texas Indians, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

Under his leadership, the Republic refused to recognize earlier treaties with the Cherokees who lived in East Texas and, after accusing the Indians of planning to join Mexico in an insurrection, he sent troops to occupy Indian lands, the historical association states.

On July 16, the Cherokees and their leader Chief Bowles, along with several allying tribes were defeated, and approximately 100 Indians - including Bowles - died in the fight, with survivors fleeing to Indian territory, the association further states.

At Saturday’s event, members of various organizations such as the Dallas Indian Mission United Methodist Church and the Soar Beyond Youth Mentor Organization paid tribute.

Michael Tongkeamha and his father, Frank Tongkeamha, both with Soar Beyond, led a processional, flag song and round dance along with others in the program.

Michael said he and his father are natives of a different tribe than those that lost their lives during the battle, but he still thought it was important for them to attend.

“Although the Kiowa people have no ties to the Chief Bowles (memorial), we appreciate the past and we want to give people a traditional way of celebrating Native Americans,” he said.

For Douglas, he hopes the event will grow and inspire more people to honor the events that took place on the property - which is located on Van Zandt County Road 4923 and open to the public during daytime hours - in the years to come.

“We would like to see more people involved in time so that after I go home and go to my reward, our ancestors can be honored,” he said.