The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

"Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"

I watched "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" last night and it brought back some memories.

It was winter of 1973 and Pa had passed along his copy of Dee Brown's "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee." I was captivated -- and angered -- by its account of atrocities and other mistreatments committed against the Native Americans. He also gave me a book about Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce.

As bothered as I was by the accounts, I'm now wondering if I did not also harbor a sense of betrayal by my history teachers. After all, I spent a good many years in the Virginia school systems, where knowledge of Commonwealth history was almost a religion. You learned Virginia history first, and then moved on to U.S. history where you learned about all of those people who were not fortunate enough to be Virginians. It's a cliche, but most true Virginians believe they are "American by birth; Virginian by the grace of God."

In Virginia history, we learned about the "real" first Thanksgiving -- "Suh, ours was held at Berkeley Plantation exactly one year and 17 days before the Pilgrims even set foot in that nawthun colony of Massachusetts." We also learned about the Mattaponi, Chickahominy, Monacan, Nansemond, Pamunkey and Rappahannock tribes, but it was always with a sense of romanticism.

In U.S. history, we learned about a lot of things, but I don't recall hearing about the Trail of Tears or Wounded Knee until after the publishing of Brown's book.

So it was that in February 1973, when Pa and I heard about the American Indian Movement and the Lakota Nation's siege at Wounded Knee, we felt the siege was justified. We partly teased about ... well, uh, sending some assistance, so to speak.

Why is this recollection on my pastor's blog?

Because that year, my history teacher was also a pastor and it was my first such encounter with this particular denomination (both will remain unnamed). I liked him, but also considered him somewhat misguided. Like most 16-year-olds, I thought a lot of adults were misguided.

But it's strange to me that I only recall two conversations with the gentleman.

One occurred on a day when I was being held after school in his classroom. (I don't recall why, but I'm certain it was for a good reason. At the time, I'm also certain to have believed that reason to be misguided ...)

"Mr. Trexler (all of my teachers either called me Mr. Trexler, or Frank, never Buzz), where do you attend church?" he asked.

"I don't go to church," I replied.

"Why not?"

"Because I don't want to be in a room full of hypocrites," I said, likely a bit puffed up.

The only other conversation I recall was during class, and if memory serves me correctly it was either during or after the February 1973 siege at Wounded Knee.

There is this scene in my mind's eye where another classmate, Ronnie, and I stood alone in our defense of Native Americans and their past mistreatment. One of us said something along the lines of, "It was wrong to just come and drive them out of their lands."

And there was this astounding reply by the pastor/teacher: "Why? They weren't doing anything with the land to begin with."

What's sad is that I believe this guy meant what he was saying, and that it was not some teacher trick to spur on discussion. Ronnie and I were simply in the minority.

Now, don't get me wrong: Neither of the conversations had anything to do with one another.

Still, it's strange that it's one of the few one-on-one teacher conversations that I can recall during my high school years: A teacher-pastor that I still consider to be misguided -- likable, but misguided.

Grace and peace ...