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National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in US: Adventurer Mikah Meyer Opts for Historic Cross-Country Trek in America

Mikah Meyer has recently wrapped up visits to three national parks, a historic battlefield, a peace memorial and a U.S. presidential home with a famous front porch

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The formal declaration of war against "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the dependencies thereof," signed by President James Madison on June 19, 1812. VOA

Sept 19, 2016: In celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary this year, adventurer Mikah Meyer is travelling across America with the goal of visiting every one of the more than 400 sites within its jurisdiction.

The young traveller set out from Washington, D.C., in June and has already experienced dozens of sites. And VOA has been following him every step of the way.

He recently wrapped up visits to three national parks… a historic battlefield, a peace memorial and a U.S. presidential home with a famous front porch. All three sites, connected by history, gave Mikah a rare window into America during the 1800s.

The War of 1812 – a short history

In a military conflict that is often referred to as America’s second war of independence against the British, there were no declared winners. But despite humiliating losses for the U.S., especially when the British captured and set fire to much of Washington, including the U.S. Capitol building and the White House, the Americans at the time believed they won the war… and with good reason.

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They had successfully defended their sovereignty against British aggression, British capture of American seamen and British incitement and support of Native American attacks on U.S. citizens along the Northwest frontier. The Royal British navy was shocked by a number defeats at sea in ship-to-ship battles with American frigates.

And the British suffered humiliating losses in the battle of New Orleans, where its army experienced one of its worst defeats in history – at the hands of mostly untrained American volunteers which included blacks and Native Americans.

The war also secured American’s westward expansion – something Britain and Spain were desperately trying to stop.

Ultimately Britain, the world’s foremost military superpower, was forced to settle for a negotiated peace without any territorial concessions. The two sides eventually wound down the war with the signing of a peace treaty in Ghent, Belgium, on December 24, 1814.

Native American defeat

The biggest losers of the war of 1812 were Native Americans, who had aligned themselves with the British to defend their territories.

During the two-year and eight-month-long conflict, they lost their revered Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, who had formed a confederation of tribes to block American expansion into their territories.

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They also lost the sovereignty of their lands in the “Old Northwest” – territory that included the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and the northeastern part of Minnesota.

During the War of 1812, Native American tribes lost sovereignty of their lands across the “Old Northwest,” eventually leading to removals of Indian communities to reservations west of the Mississippi. VOA

The River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe, Michigan, commemorates a series of battles that took place there in the winter of 2013 when it was known as Frenchtown, Michigan.

From January 18–23, the north bank of the River Raisin became a battleground where the Americans and the British fought for control of Michigan and the Lower Great Lakes, and – some say – for the future of Frenchtown, Canada, and Tecumseh’s alliance of Native American tribes. The battles ended with a decisive victory for the British and the indigenous tribes. It took about nine months for U.S. forces to regain their momentum.

Encompassing about 30 hectares (76 acres), River Raisin is one of four national battlefield parks within the national park system and the only one that focuses on the War of 1812.

Atrocities committed on all sides

Mikah said his main takeaway from his experience there was how openly and fairly the National Park Service has handled a battle site where “all sides committed atrocities, including the United States.”

“Usually we talk about ourselves only as the good guys and everything we did was as heroes,” he said. “But they really acknowledge that every side did some really nasty things to each other and they want to make sure that they are telling all those sides of stories.”

To make his point, he gave the example of a painting on display there that depicts Native Americans scalping Americans, which he described as “propaganda by the U.S.”

An 1813 painting by John Blake White that many believe was used as a propaganda tool. The well-regarded artist painted many works depicting military scenes from the War of 1812. VOA

“It was Native Americans scalping Americans but they were holding knives and whisky that was labelled with labels from Britain, so the idea was to try to incite the rest of America into being angry at the British because the British had enlisted the natives to fight for them.”

Mikah got a tour from a park ranger, who told him he had to be careful about his description of the park’s history, “depending on who is visiting – if it’s a native person, if it’s a Canadian or Brit, [Canada was part of the British colony then] or if it’s somebody from the U.S. – because people can get really offended.”

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, so it depends on who’s hearing the story,” the ranger added.

“Remember the Raisin!” became a popular rallying cry during the War of 1812 after the battles in River Raisin. The aftermath of the forced removal of Native Americans from the Northwest Territory at the conclusion of the war continues to influence the United States today.

Battle of Lake Erie

A major turning point in the war came on September 10, 1813, when U.S. Captain Oliver Hazard Perry led a fleet of nine American ships to a victorious battle over six British warships on Lake Erie off the coast of Ohio.

It is considered one of the biggest naval battles of the War of 1812.

By winning control of the lake, the Americans were able to cut off British forces, and their Native American allies, from their supply base. It also allowed the Americans to gain control of the Northwest Territory, recover the city of Detroit, which had fallen into British hands, and kill Tecumseh.

This 1865 painting Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie by artist William Henry Powell depicts the moment when Captain Oliver Hazard Perry made his way from the destroyed battleship Lawrence to the Niagara. It inspired the phrase “Don’t give up the ship.” VOA

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, was established to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie, sometimes referred to as the Battle of Put-in-Bay.

Mikah pointed out that the focus of the historic site is not to commemorate the battle itself, but “to celebrate the long-lasting peace among Britain, Canada and the U.S. that still endures,” and also the world’s longest undefended border, about 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles).

“The whole town – and all around the island – they have American flags and British flags, local flags and peace flags,” he said. “So I think as a community, they’ve really taken on this idea of representing this peace that has been lasting since the Treaty of Ghent.”

“Don’t give up the ship”

During his visit to the Peace Memorial, Mikah noticed the recurring phrase “Don’t give up the ship!” posted in various forms throughout the town of Put-in-Bay.

“That was their battle cry,” he explained. “Because the U.S. had nine ships and the British had six – the U.S. lost their flagship right away – the Lawrence – and then ended up transferring the flag over to the Niagara to finish the battle and basically it was this idea of don’t lose this battle.”

A fitting symbol

The park’s centerpiece, a Doric column rising 107 meters (352 feet) over Lake Erie, stands about eight kilometers (five miles) from the U.S.-Canadian border.

A bird’s eye view of the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. VOA

The pillar “is the tallest open-air observation deck in the entire national park system,” Mikah noted, “even taller than the Statue of Liberty.”

It is a fitting tribute, Mikah observed, “that at the base of that peace memorial there are three American sailors and three British sailors buried together in the crypt.”

A two-hour drive along the lakeshore from Put-in-Bay is Mentor, Ohio, home of James Abram Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, who served from March 4, 1881, until his assassination later that year.

His home, at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site, stands on what remains of the President’s 65-hectare (160-acre) farm, which includes a Visitor Center in a restored carriage barn built in 1894, a windmill and other buildings.

80 percent of the artifacts and items inside President James Abram Garfield’s home are original. VOA

The most interesting part of Mikah’s visit was learning how hard the National Park Service worked to make the interior appear as it would have when the president actually lived there.

Mikah said there had been many changes made to it both during and after Garfield’s life, and he thought the park service did a “fantastic” job of recreating the rooms to their original state.

“So from that perspective, it was the best-maintained and the best-preserved house site that I’ve been to this whole trip,” he said.

Presidential porch

What Mikah also found interesting was Garfield’s “Birth-of-the-front-porch” campaign. In 1880, he would greet thousands of well-wishers during his presidential campaign as they stopped by his front porch.

“That’s because the train let out in the backyard of his farm, so people would get off the train and they would walk to his front yard and they would set up camp, they’d put up tents and wait for the next day to hear him speak on his front porch.”

Mikah remarked how unlikely that scenario would be in today’s presidential campaigns!

Today, the front porch of President Garfield’s home serves as a gateway to the story of the Garfield family. VOA

Coming attractions

In the coming days, Mikah will be visiting Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo, New York and Niagara Falls, which is not part of the US National Park Service, but will make a fascinating story nonetheless.

To follow Mikah and learn more about the places he’s travelling to, he invites you to visit him on his website. (VOA)

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Trump Sends Undocumented Migrants to Sanctuary Cities

Democrats must change the Immigration Laws FAST. If not, Sanctuary Cities must immediately ACT to take care of the Illegal Immigrants

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Trump Sends Mixed Signals on Migrant Crisis at US-Mexico Border. VOA

The White House on Sunday, echoing President Donald Trump, said sending undocumented migrants to sanctuary U.S. cities that have protected them from deportation remains a possibility even though government agencies have said it would be impractical and there is no money allocated to do it.

“We certainly are looking at all options as long as [opposition] Democrats refuse to acknowledge the crisis at the border,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told the “Fox News Sunday” show.

Trump said late Saturday on Twitter, “Democrats must change the Immigration Laws FAST. If not, Sanctuary Cities must immediately ACT to take care of the Illegal Immigrants – and this includes Gang Members, Drug Dealers, Human Traffickers, and Criminals of all shapes, sizes and kinds. CHANGE THE LAWS NOW!”

Hundreds of U.S. cities, along with California, the country’s most populous state, have declared themselves as havens for migrants who have illegally crossed the southern U.S. border with Mexico, refusing the help U.S. immigration officials to track down the immigrants so they can be deported.

U.S. border authorities apprehended more than 100,000 undocumented migrants, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, at the border in March, nearly twice that in the same month in 2018.

 

“The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities,” Trump said. “We hereby demand that they be taken care of at the highest level, especially by the State of California, which is well known (for) its poor management & high taxes!”

The U.S. now houses thousands of migrants at the border, but is running out of beds and instead is releasing new arrivals into the U.S. on their promise to appear at asylum hearings that might not occur for two years.

The Department of Homeland Security has said that Congress has not appropriated any money to transport the migrants from the border to far-flung sanctuary cities across the U.S., while the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency has called it an “unnecessary operational burden.”

Sanders said, “Nobody thinks this is the ideal solution,” sending migrants to sanctuary cities. But she said mayors of cities “who want this… should be looking to help” Trump resolve the crisis at the border. She accused Congress of wanting to spend “all of its time investigating the president” rather than dealing with the immigration turmoil at the border.

Trump tweeted, “So interesting to see the Mayor of Oakland and other Sanctuary Cities NOT WANT our currently ‘detained immigrants’ after release due to the ridiculous court ordered 20 day rule. If they don’t want to serve our Nation by taking care of them, why should other cities & towns?”

 

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., arrives at the Capitol on the morning after House and Senate negotiators worked out a border security compromise hoping to avoid another government shutdown, in Washington, Feb. 12, 2019. VOA

Trump was referring to a court ruling prohibiting the U.S. from detaining migrant minors, those under 18 years old, for more than 20 days, before being required to release them to relatives in the U.S. or other care givers.

A key Republican lawmaker, Sen. Lindsey Graham, told another Fox News show, “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo,” that after the current two-week congressional recess ends, he would introduce legislation that would authorize the detention of children beyond 20 days, “toughen up our asylum standards,” and allow migrant children to be returned to Central American countries, which is not now allowed once they have entered the United States.

ALSO READ: Mueller Report Release on 2016 US Presidential Elections Appears Imminent

“We’re never going to change this with troops and walls at the border,” Graham said of the U.S. immigration crisis. “Doing what we’re