Thursday, 11 September 2014

Jayhawks and Bushwhackers - History and Present Day

The local University football team is called the Jayhawks.  This is a term that carries over from the U.S. civil war, when the anti-slavery guerrilla fighters of Kansas would make raids into Missouri and destroy infrastructure like... farms... and people.

"Confederated at first for defense against pro-slavery outrages, but ultimately falling more or less completely into the vocation of robbers and assassins, they have received the name --- whatever its origin may be -- of jayhawkers"

A lovely person I met through the Couchsurfing website pointed out to me that Jayhawker was a term describing people who went into Missouri and conducted raids.  We drove along a hill overlooking the stadium while the first Jayhawks game of the season was happening and she mentioned that when the Jayhawks win a game against Missouri the fans lose their minds and take down the goalposts and dump them in a lake, and that's just something that happens.  Winning against Missouri is a big deal.

Winning against Missouri is a big deal?  Those roots, and the roots of the term Jayhawk, have common ground.  A gentleman named Quantrill has a place in the history of Lawrence Kansas that takes up literally half of their museum, because he led a thing called Quantrill's raid.  This is where a bunch of the militia from Missouri came into Lawrence, shot a large number of civilians and burned down a large number of buildings.  They called these pro-slavery militias from Missouri "Bushwhackers." 


Kansas still celebrates its roots as a state of Jayhawks, they wear it proudly in blue and red, and the Jayhawk is definitely the mascot of the University football team (as well as the name of the football team).






This same girl from Couchsurfing mentioned that there are Bushwhacker celebrations in Missouri on a fairly regular basis, and you don't have to look very far to find them.  Apparently she grew up in Kansas celebrating the Jayhawks and also visited Missouri and attended Bushwhacker Day, and that both things were really fun parties.  She commented without irony that both celebrations were ultimately about crossing state lines and trying to kill each other.

Anyone who says that history doesn't have much influence on present day, I invite to attend the next game against Missouri.  It might encourage you to change your opinion.

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