Marty Boller is a long-time Iowa City resident. His Boller family first moved here to Johnson County in 1853 and he comes from a long line of Hawkeye historians. You can check out his website at Our Iowa Heritage.com. At the Dedication Ceremony, Marty offered this blessing to Johnson County’s newest historical site…
We are here today to remember a number of memorable events in the long history of Johnson County. Sadly, in a culture that celebrates the now, we often forget that this land that we are standing on today is much older than even the stories we are remembering. Indeed, history indicates that there have been as many as four different Native tribes who have called this place home – long before any European first set foot here in the 1820’s.
Today, we begin our dedication of Remembrance Park by honoring those who have gone before us. We acknowledge that this land we now call Johnson County, Iowa is the homeland of many Indigenous people. It’s land taken from the Sovereign Nations of the Meskwaki, the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, the Ioway, and the Kickapoo. These Indigenous people are not relics of the past, as The Native Governance Center reminds us, but are our neighbors. And today, we celebrate who they are and the contributions they have provided in the face of violence, oppression, and colonialism. Let’s honor our brothers & sisters with this moment of silence.
In January 1838 – in a trading post very close to where we are standing today – seven people from very diverse backgrounds gathered together around one common cause. There was one fur-trader and four farmers – five white men as you might assume – gathering for the purpose of making their new home here a more habitable place. History shows us that this was Johnson County’s very first business meeting and as a result of that one meeting, the Territorial Legislature – meeting over in Burlington – would agree to give us a post office, build roads, and eventually decide to make this place we’re standing the new capital of Iowa.
Notice, I said that there were seven people officially listed as attending this first business meeting. Five white guys. Yup. But here’s the amazing fact. The other two people in that business meeting were Jennie – a Native American woman, and Mogawk, an African-American man – surrounded by a tribe of 2,000 Meskwaki people led by Chief Poweshiek.
Shall I say that one more time?
People of color – take note. Women – listen up.
Here in Johnson County, Iowa – in 1838, mind you – when most of America was all about white privilege and manifest destiny, the providence of God intervened and whether it was intentional or not, we had diversity in leadership in Johnson County – long before it was ever a popular thing to do.
Did you hear that? Diversity in Leadership.
Think of it. You and I, in our rich Iowa heritage, have a story of diversity that’s not just a little by-line, but you and I have an amazing story of diversity right in the middle of a story that many historians believe was one of the most pivotal moments in Iowa history.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in coincidences. You see, it’s not a coincidence that we’re here today talking about Johnson County’s diverse business meeting held here in 1838. It’s not an accident that these six men and one woman, all under pretty intense pressure to just simply live and let live, did what they did. And it’s not accidental in these very divisive times for us to remember this story of diversity and know that today, we too – can choose to come together – across all boundaries of race, politics, sexual orientation, religion, and whatever to work together for the common good of all of us.
I’m so excited that the Iowa City Schools are picking up on this story of diversity in our Johnson County history. It’s so important that our kids and grandkids to hear about these things and believe that they can repeat history in their day and in their time.
Say it again with me – Diversity in Leadership.
So, today we remember – by placing these two stones on this hallowed ground -we remember what’s happened here long before we were ever here, and maybe more importantly – we choose to live in such a way that we all move forward together – for the common purpose of all.
Will you bow with me for one moment in silence and prayer.
God of our mothers and fathers, Lord of our brothers and daughters, Creator of us All, we humbly accept our responsibility to live at peace with all who live around us. Equip us with Your love, and give us strength and wisdom beyond our fleshly ability, so that peace & prosperity, and faith, hope, love, and joy can become both our goal and our future. For Your name’s sake. Amen. Aho! May it be so!
Read more here about the vision for Diversity in Leadership in Johnson County.