My great grandfather, Cornelius Byer was a friend of the Indians at a time in history, when that was rather uncommon. During his lifetime, the White Man was well known for backing out on treaties as the need or desire for more land warranted, resulting in the pushing back of the Indians further and further off of the land they had been promised. This of course eventually resulted in the placement of the Indians onto reservations, many of which still exist to this day. It also cause much contention between the Indians and the White Man, and of course, the Indian Wars. At that time and even beyond, many Indians did not trust the White Man, even after peace came about, however my great grandfather was a man they not only trusted, but indeed, loved and respected. Over the years, the family would see many times when the Indians would show up at the house, with their whole families in tow. The women and children always waited outside while the men went in to visit with Grandpa about whatever it was they had come for. For the children, I suppose all this seemed normal, but when we look at it in light of history, it seems strange to think of the Indians having such trust and respect for any White Man, and therefore strange to think that they came to the house, and that they were welcomed into it. Nevertheless, this is what happened, and Great Grandpa Byer went to their villages as well.
On one such visit to the Indian village of Chief Red Cloud, my grandfather, George Byer was allowed to go along. He recalled that when they entered the tent, Chief Red Cloud was sitting by a fire wrapped in his robe or blanket. Apparently it was customary in this case for him to have little or nothing on underneath that, so I almost have to wonder if it was a sweat lodge or something. Either way, that is what my grandfather recalled as a young boy of about ten years. His dad had gone to visit Red Cloud about something, and in during the visit, the peace pipe was passed around. When it was handed to my grandfather, he was allowed to take it and that resulted in his smoking the peace pipe for the first time as a very young boy, who was apparently considered man enough to do so by the Indians. I doubt if many of us can say, in this day and age, that they know someone who smoked a peace pipe before, but that is the truth.
My great grandpa was so greatly respected that not only was he asked to smoke the peace pipe with them, but when he was dying, a rather amazing thing happened. Because he had been their friend, the Indians came to pay their respects. As they had before, they brought their families, but this time the families did not stay outside. The braves came in to shake Great Grandpa’s hand, as did their wives, and their children. Every single one of them shook his hand…from the oldest to the youngest. It was such a moving show of respect for him, and one that was almost never afforded to a White Man. But then, Great Grandpa Cornelius Byer was their friend, and that made him more than just any other White Man. He was like a brother to them.