The Battle of Milk Creek is one moment in time. It is a pivotal moment that continues to transform global civilization to this very moment. Not long ago I stood on the Milk Creek Battlefield Park while a man from Africa told me that what happened here is happening around the world today. Shaking his head, he said that he didn’t understand why. Why didn’t people understand that they belong to the land and not the land to them? It isn’t enough to just inhabit the land we must be caretakers. Why isn’t there a fundamental human right to the pursuit of happiness? We wrote in the preamble to our constitution that we Americans have the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Why does it not apply to us all? Seeking justice is a process. Wishing something to be true doesn’t make it so. We have to put in the hard work that begins with a conversation across differences.

We sauntered over to the gazebo, sat in the cool shade, and continued our conversation. All over the world from Afghanistan to Syria, from Iran and Iraq, from the Mideast to Asia economics, politics and religion are locked in a battle for human souls. The man from Africa turns to me and says, “Why don’t we have places like this around the world where people with differences can come, sit together and share stories of what it means to be human. It is such a simple thing to just talk to each other.” I have the impression that he is going back to Africa and he will build a gazebo there where people can come and talk, sharing stories of what it means to be human.

I am reminded of the Vietnam Veteran who said, “Thank you for remembering the warriors from both sides who fought here. They know that you care enough to cut the grass in their memory. We are all one here. No longer are there any sides.” And there was the Ute woman who said, “When the blood of both white men and red are spilled on this ground, they are united in the honor of fighting for what they feel is right. There is no separation of white blood from Ute blood. It is all red blood and none of us can tell the difference.” And then there is the simple statement, “I will not thank you for your service. I thank you for your sacrifice.”

Yes, there is sorrow here. From this sorrow rises the mightiest nation on the face of the earth. Yet, to be genuinely great requires that we are also just. To be just we must ask and answer the hard questions It is hard to answer a little Ute girl who looks up to you with the question of, “Why do you (white people) hate me?” 

In this time and place there is no room for hate. It is here that the conversation begins and perhaps it will someday circle the globe. Someday, maybe, we will all understand that we all belong. Who knows what differences hold us apart and which hold us together?

Written by Jay Sullivan
RBCHS vice president