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By Abe Villarreal

Like no other form of communication, the written word, whether it be through proclamations or a simple text message, has had the power to bring us together, and also to divide.

On this Fourth of July, red and white stripes, and the beauty of 50 stars will be seen waving all around. Families will get together. Floats will be paraded. We'll feel a sense of patriotism, knowing that we have the privilege and blessing of living in these United States.

Our country is young and continues to experience growing pains. Our leaders argue about things, mostly because they care about how America will look tomorrow, for us, and for future Americans.

We've had many ups and downs, but somehow we've come together and for the most part, have progressed towards that more perfect Union.

The road has been tougher for some than it has been for others.

It was in 1777 when she was first called The United States of America in Article 1 of the Articles of Confederation. In the State of Pennsylvania, in the city of brotherly love, the document was signed by our four fathers, many of them of strong Christian belief. Some ministers.

As a Christian, I'd like to believe that our country was founded on the spiritual beliefs that I hold deeply. Unfortunately, history would show that our most revered leaders did not always practice what they preached.

One hundred years after the passing of the Articles of Confederation, the surrender of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce took place just 40 miles South of the Canadian border. Chief Joseph had been on the run, along with 750 of the Nez Perce tribe. They were fleeing the American government, which with all its power had sent 2,000 soldiers to force the movement of the Nez Perce.

America had broken its treaty with the tribe who were residing in Wallowa Valley, Oregon, and the U.S. government demanded they relocate to a reservation in Idaho. The disagreement sparked a 1,000-mile chase where the Nez Perce became known for their acts of care towards prisoners.

Finally captured on October 5, 1877, a century after the Articles would initiate the founding of a new country - a shining city on a hill - Chief Joseph and his tribe would have to surrender. They were prisoners in the only land they ever knew.

We are a great country, even though we have not been perfect. As we remember the ideas and the values that helped form our union, it is important not to forget how many suffered during this democratic experience.

Chief Joseph's speech of surrender:

Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our Chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead. Ta Hool Hool Shute is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are - perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my Chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.

I pray that one day we all reach true independence, the kind we've been trying to reach for 241 years.

Abe Villarreal is the Director of Communications at Western New Mexico University. When not on campus, he enjoys writing about his observations on marketing, life, people and American traditions.

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