Skip to main content

tv   David Silverman This Land Is Their Land  CSPAN  November 28, 2019 6:40am-7:53am EST

6:40 am
booktv.org and search "what are you reading" at the top of the page. >> tonight we will hear from david silverman, a professor of history at george washington university.
6:41 am
he received his phd from princeton university and of course he was also an mhs fellow. it's important to put in there. he specializes in native american colonial american and american racial history. he's authored four books and co-authored one. tonight he will be speaking on his most recent book this land is their land. please join me in welcoming him. good evening and thanks for coming out in the weather. the massachusetts six-story co-society is the first place i ever received research fellowship and i believe that was way back in 1998. i will never forget, coming here and the first document i looked at when i was here was the missionary journal of john cotton junior. john cotton junior was the son
6:42 am
of the legendary minister of boston and has a big shoes to fill he didn't fill them. he wound up a missionary on martha's vineyard and eventually he fell out with the proprietor there and ended up in plymouth and got into some shenanigans with his female parishioners and ended up in charlestown south carolina. what i will never forget from this document it was only meant for his own private use. it was filled with a series of questions and answers that he had engaged in with the local wampanoag people. it was so insightful to the sophistication of the christian knowledge of the wampanoag people but also the way they infuse that christian knowledge with their own ancestral traditions. i'll never forget it left such an incredible impression on me. which is just a long-winded way of saying i'm really grateful to be back at the mhs this
6:43 am
repository of such historical riches. a few contextual remarks before we begin. i need to tell you, i love thanksgiving. i really do. i like to gorge myself on pie as much as the next guy. but i must warn you, i'm going to provide you with everything you need to ruin your family's holiday. [laughter] i realize some of you don't need that help. you're perfectly capable of ruining the holiday on your own. but i'm going to give you more ammunition to turn up the heat this thanksgiving. i also want to note, i realize it might be jarring to some members of the audience to see the word indians in my book title and hear me use it during the appearance tonight. everybody here knows that
6:44 am
indian is a misnomer, propagated by europeans, after all, we are not in india. in recent decades, some people have substituted the term native americans for indians in an effort to be more accurate and racially sensitive. yet in the course of my years of interactions with indigenous people all across the united states, and every project i pursue i try to reach out to the kit ãsend it communities i learned that most of them albeit not all favor the term indian when referring to them in the aggregate. though almost to a person they prefer tribal names when appropriate. so this is just my way of saying it's out of difference not in difference to them that i use this term. i also want to emphasize here that though my book focuses on
6:45 am
historical wampanoag people and strives to include their voices at every opportunity, i don't know if my surname gave it away, i'm not wampanoag. this is not a history told from a modern wampanoag perspective. to be sure, my conversations with modern wampanoag have informed the content, i would have written this book if it had not been for those conversations. but there is material in this book and in this talk tonight that some wampanoag people will consider dubious, outright wrong, and perhaps even none of my business. as an outsider. i've done my best to way criticisms in advance through conversations over the entire course of my research also by soliciting opinions to drafts of the book among historically minded wampanoag colleagues. and friends. i've offered to include dissenting opinions alongside my interpretations, all the while aware the playing field is uneven because i'm the
6:46 am
author. ultimately all the editorial decisions of the book belong to me alone. the final analysis i made a number of tough choices based on my understanding of the standards of my discipline of history. that said, i want to urge everyone here and everyone who reads this book to seek out the wampanoag own tellings of that history and they are widely available all you have to do is google wampanoag and thanksgiving and lots of youtube videos will pop up. articles which wampanoag people have authored or in which they have been interviewed. many of those sources of information are cited in my endnote. so i didn't cover to consult those too. my hope is that wampanoag and other indigenous people will see an informed well-intentioned attempt to fulfill the indian call to take
6:47 am
indian history seriously in the context of a greater american history. for generations americans have been telling themselves a patriotic story of the suppose it thanksgiving that treats colonization as a consensual bloodless affair. in this tale, the pilgrims religious dissenters from england cram aboard the mayflower in search of freedom of conscience in america. these adventurers land off cape cod with a fresh copy of their proto-constitution the mayflower compact i suspect many of the people in this audience read that mayflower contact in elementary school. after some fruitless exploring and brief contacts with the natives they decide to file their settlement up the coast at a place they call plymouth. yet the future of the colony is
6:48 am
very much in doubt during its first couple of months. because the indians, rarely identified by tribe in traditional talent, on whom the english they know they must depend for food and protection seem to be best weary and shy and at worst, hostile. however, eventually the natives reach out to the newcomers through the interpreters samoset and squanto. the story sidesteps the obvious question of how these figures manage to learn english. it doesn't explain why the indians suddenly became so friendly. the native chief ãbby his title even agrees to a treaty of alliance with plymouth. over the spring and summer the
6:49 am
indians feed the pilgrims and teach them how to plant corn and where to fish. whereupon the colony begins to thrive. that fall the two parties seal the friendship with the famous first thanksgiving. the piece that follows permits colonial new england and by extension modern america to become blessed seeds of freedom, democracy, christianity, and plenty. as for what the indians have to say next the story has nothing to say. the indians legacy is to present america as a gift to white people. or in other words, to concede to colonialism. like pocahontas and psychiatry we had the other famous indians of early american history they help the colonizers and then
6:50 am
move offstage. white people love indians who help. the wampanoags what is now southeastern massachusetts who are the indians in this drama have long contended this tale is not history. that sugar coats the ãbmy book reckons with this uncomfortable assertion and its implications. for instance, in traditional accounts of thanksgiving pilgrims stepped onto plymouth rock and into a new world or wilderness, when in fact, human civilization and the americas was every bit as rich and ancient as in europe.
6:51 am
this illustration here gives you a sense of what i'm talking about. by the way, this was drawn by samuel ãin 1605 during french explorations in the new england coast, 15 years before the mayflower arrived. history didn't begin for the wampanoag with the mayflower. they were frozen and some kind of stone age existence until europeans arrived. they already had a dynamic past, countless generations old that shaped who they were, and what they did. including how they responded to the english. in other words, they inhabited an old world and the so-called wilderness in which the english arrived, as you can see here was full of villages. the wampanoag recent history mattered too.
6:52 am
though the thanksgiving myths suggest the pilgrim ãbin fact, it was just one in a string of bloody meetings between the wampanoags and europeans since 1524. not 16, 1524. and particularly from 1602 onward. thank you to samuel the champagne he captures that theme as well during his second journey of the new england coast. here he is depicting a clash that he and his fellow french sailors had with the wampanoags of monda moya or amada moy, now called chatham massachusetts roughly at the elbow of cape cod. the thanksgiving myths portrays the wampanoags as timid and overawed by the pilgrims. i show in my book that the wampanoags were easily the stronger party during
6:53 am
plymouth's early years. here you see a of waupun country. the english did not dictate to the wampanoags, instead, the wampanoags initially used plymouth colony as a pawn in their tribal and intertribal politics. it will come as a surprise and maybe as a disappointment to most of my readers that the celebrated first thanksgiving actually played a minor role in this relationship. hardly anyone considered it all that important. far more influential in shaping the alliance were a series of other less power ãpalatable episodes. i also submit that our emphasis on the nearly 50 years of peace following the first thanksgiving and its associated treaty of 1621 as memorialized in these images aligns the more
6:54 am
important point that the wampanoags came to resent the colonists aggressive and often underhanded expansion. the truth is, the english and wampanoags nearly came to blows repeatedly during the suppose it long peace. particularly after the death of ãbat 1660. culminating in the terrible king philip's war of 1675 /76. this perspective i think is especially urgent as modern america grapples with new
6:55 am
manifestations of white nationalism. while at the very same time indigenous americans in new england and all across the country reasserting their political economic and cultural sovereignty. having passed to the apocalypse. we need long-term historical developments in order to understand these trends. after all, i've written a book about native people. stay with me. try to focus on those names. colonial new englanders would
6:56 am
rename people such things as indian john or indian sarah. we are not doing that here. we are going to use their names.try to focus on them. we started with who; who most of you know as massive suede. his name was new;. we are going to continue on. our first revisionist historian is none other than the wampanoags agent or chief emoticon. he is better known to most of you as king philip or meta, or meta-comic he was the son of ã ãin the late spring of b50 years after his father had greeted the pilgrims hermetic home sat down to talk with the delegation of english magistrates from the colony of rhode island. here's a map of wampanoag country during this period. this is the area we are focused
6:57 am
on. the rhode islanders were there to encourage this agent or chief to agree to a peaceful arbitration of the wampanoag mounting tensions with plymouth colony. yet i contend that the medical home has already resolved to fight and agree to this conference only to explain why. let's consider what he said that day and we can do that only because lieutenant governor of rhode island john easton wrote down what he said in the rhode islanders new wampanoag. they had to translate into english. ãview the history of wampanoag english relations is little
6:58 am
more than the colonists failure to live up to the promise of the 1621 alliance. the sachem recalled that when the pilgrims first settled at plymouth 55 years later his father, stay with me the language is a little arcane. his father was as a great man in the english as a little child. he was like a father to the english children. here is his mark. the medic on contended that ã could wiped out the infant colony if he had wish. instead, he held back its native enemies, fed the starving colonists and granted them land. he conveniently left out that his father had made the choice less out of altruism then a need for allies. for the wampanoags had been hobbled by a plague between 1616 and 1619 whereupon their
6:59 am
narragansett rivals to the west began subjugating generally speaking, hermetic on was correct that plymouth would have become another english lost colony had it not been for sasse largest. how did plymouth show its gratitude now the decades later it had become the great man and the wampanoags with a little child. in 1662 plymouth had seized and, he alleged, fatally
7:00 am
poisoned his brother who the english called alexander because the english feared he was plotting an anti-colonial league. i think they were right. more recently the english used christian indian testimony to arrest, try and execute three of the medical's men for the murder of another christian indian, john sassaman who had been leaking wampanoag intelligence to colonial authorities. plymouth colonies, and presumed assassination were bad enough as discrete events a but were still was they crystallized a vast array of english laws. try to stick with the language.
7:01 am
if 20 honest indians testified that englishmen had done them wrong it was as nothing but if one of the worst indians testified against any indian suspected by the english that was sufficient. the english had begun to interfere in criminal matters between wampanoags with an wampanoag territory. whatever was between indians and not in english townships, they would not have us prosecuted. if an indian commits a crime within indian country what is it to the english? about half the wampanoags mostly on cape cod and the islands of martha's vineyard had adopted christianity and sworn off of permeticomb's leadership as well as paying tribute.
7:02 am
fearing the re-prize all because they enjoyed english protection by virtue of their christianity, which this is a page from the first bible printed in north america printed in the wampanoag language at harvard university press. you are seeing here what was written by wampanoag people who had achieved formal literacy responding to certain passages of the bible. some of these native communities adopt christianity and use the alliance that fosters with the english to break off their tribute obligations to permeticomb and his community. there are other issues, they
7:03 am
use land deeds, some fair, many foul. to claim wampanoag territory for their own exclusive use under their own exclusive jurisdiction. i often ask my students imagine a flotilla of wampanoag canoes and they buy land from english peasants there. would that land fall under wampanoag jurisdiction, that is preposterous, that is precisely what the english are assuming in reverse on the other side of the pond. and the land sales merely conveyed permission for the english to settle among them where in other words for the english to become part of wampanoag society and follow wampanoag rules.
7:04 am
when indians resisted colonists flooded contested tracks with livestock and indians who injured the animals, wandering private property claims with trumped up criminal fines and lawsuits. native people scratch their heads the colonists didn't have to complement them for hunting deer. the point was to hold out natives to release their claims and resigned themselves to the english interpretation of these sales. such machinations give the colonists as permeticomb put it 100 times more land than the king, had for these people. the english now have 100 times more land than the wampanoags. to the wampanoags english while the shakedown by people with short memories and thin loyalty.
7:05 am
given these patterns, permeticomb asked rhetorically, why would he put faith in a negotiated settlement has proposed by rhode islanders. history taught that the english would use technical violation as an excuse to confiscate his land and even murder him. rhode islanders seeing where this headed cautioned that it would be suicidal for the wampanoags to resort to arms because they said and i quote, the english were too strong for them. in that case, i quote again, the english should do to the wampanoags as they did when they were too strong for the english. he called on colonists to assume the role of the great man. by acting with generosity, restraint and justice toward
7:06 am
the wampanoag little child and that is where the conversation ended because everyone knew his wish was futile. just days later, permeticomb led a force against nearby english towns prompting a war as depicted here that would engulf the entire region and ultimately break the back of indian power in southern new england. this war is the most basic feature of the wampanoag english relationship that the thanksgiving myth studiously ignores. initially wampanoag resistance fighters got the best of it by repeatedly stacking exposed english settlements and ambushing troops on the march. furthermore, soon they had the support of the net marks from massachusetts.
7:07 am
and in the middle connecticut river valley whom the colonists turned into enemies by violating their neutrality such as attempting to confiscate their arms. the english made things worse for themselves by treating the thousands of christian indians who pledged fealty to the colonists at the start of this war as wolves in sheep's clothing. massachusetts and plymouth took the christian indians into island concentration camps including deer island in mass bay where the people suffered malnutrition and exposure. the warring indians took advantage of these colonial missteps to accumulate victories in which they took the lives of upwards of 300,000 englishmen, destroyed 16 colonial towns and slaughtered 800 key to cattle.
7:08 am
the resistance collapsed. but largely because other indians, focusing attention in hudson river. in february 16, '76, the mohawks, one of the 5 nations of the iroquois league were a gesture of alliance to the young english colony of new york drove permeticomb's winter camp away from dutch and french guy markets on the hudson river and eastward back to the teeth of colonial new england forces. also lying in wait where the mohicans in connecticut so pictured here where connecticut is located and christian
7:09 am
wampanoags from cape cod who under duress had sided with the colonies from the beginning and were just as adept at warfare as resistance fighters. meanwhile the warring indians and their families were stocked by hunger and disease as they lived in cramped quarters on the run always from their cornfields and fishing stations. consequently by late spring of 1676 growing numbers of them began to accept quarter in exchange for switching sides or fighting alongside rather than against the english. others managed to escape this terrible choice by escaping to the upper hudson river valley or canada where they built new lives but most of them never made it that far. by june, 1676, indian prisoners
7:10 am
were telling english captors - better? are we good? great. by june 16, '76, indian prisoners were telling their english captors that permeticomb, quote, was ready to die, you have now killed or taken all his relations and almost broke his heart. those relations included his wife and his son, we don't know his son's name, who colonists captured and sold into the horrors of caribbean slavery. they were but two of the estimated 2000 indians, men, women and children alike the english sentenced to slavery. not only in new england but as far away as the west indies, gibraltar and tangier.
7:11 am
some of these poor souls surrendered based on mercy only to discover the terms were harsher that colonial officials had pledged to. some surrendering natives, colonial authorities would not spare any indians they suspected of having taken english lives. massachusetts, plymouth and rhode island held public executions throughout the summer of 1676 including 50 hangings on boston common alone. this map is from the mhs collections. there is no memorial by the way to this event on the boston common.
7:12 am
on august 6th colonial forces found the drowned body of a female ward leader and sister of permeticomb's wife. authorities ordered her head to be centered -- severed and spiked next to a holding pen full of wampanoag prisoners. the captives according to english accounts made a most horrid and diabolical lamentation crying out it was the queen's head. after this incident permeticomb was dead too shot down by a christian indian. filled with the vengeful spirit captain benjamin church had him dismembered and his head sent to plymouth. now on the very site where his father had allied and feasted with the pilgrims, authorities
7:13 am
mounted the grizzly trophy outside the town gate and left it there to rot for 20 years. it is likely one of the last things permeticomb's wife saw when plymouth shipped her from her homeland into slavery. plymouth holiday of thanksgiving in praise of god for saving the colony from its enemies. think we can all agree these horrors as contrary to the thanksgiving story as it gets. i told you i would be able to ruin your family's thanksgiving. though history rarely pays attention to the wampanoags after king philip's war, my book emphasizes this conflict was the first stage in a
7:14 am
century long battle to defend their land and sovereignty. it should come as no surprise to the people in this room that the english seized nearly all the wampanoag's territory in the decades after the war leaving only a handful of town size reservations mostly for christian indians. please take note, i didn't frame this process as the wampanoags losing their land as if by mistake. now. colonists and their successors took it. the english also seized the wampanoags as laborers. from the late 1600s through the mid-1800s white merchants creditors, courts and government appointed guardians, to force the wampanoags and their children into indentured
7:15 am
servitude after eight farmers, householders and whaling merchants with terms often lasting for years and even decades. such court ordered servitude, one favors the term judicial enslavement, made it nearly impossible for the wampanoags to sustain their normal social patterns including the process of raising children, to the point that few wampanoags could speak their native language by the mid-19th century. enter william apus, the pequot born creature to the wampanoags of cape cod who was the second native figure to dispute white american self-serving sanitized histories. in 1836, right in the middle of jacksonian indian removal he wrote his eulogy on king philip
7:16 am
and delivered it to an all-white audience in boston. this eulogy on king philip used a revisionist account of the pilgrim saga to call attention to the plight of indigenous people. in it, he argued that indians were the real heroes of plymouth's founding because they comported themselves like model christians whereas the supposedly saintly pilgrims behaved like villains and hypocrites. apus meticulously laid out how the pilgrims had introduced themselves to the wampanoags by desecrating their graves during their initial probes of cape cod and looting their corn and then had the audacity to turn to do; for help. the chief to his moral credit applied like a true christian.
7:17 am
now people could be used better than they were, apus intoned. the wampanoags gave english medicine and sold them corn. every white man would have been swept from the new england colonies. apus also contended that his son permeticomb was, quote, the greatest man that ever lived upon the american shores. apus even ranked him higher than the namesake of my university, george washington, because of the plot against a darker tierney and greater freedom with far fewer means at his disposal. in apus's telling, permeticomb was now misguided hothead for taking up arms against colonial dominance. rather, he was a sage because he foresaw, quote, that the white people would not only cut
7:18 am
down their groves but would enslave them and how true the prophecy. our groves and hunting grounds are gone, dead or dug up. our counsel fires were put out. it was all and outgrowth of a fire created by pilgrims from across the atlantic to burn and destroy my poor unfortunate brethren. this is where apus preached when he wasn't in boston. in light of this sordid history apus proposed that indians should treat each the summer 22nd the anniversary of the pilgrims landing in plymouth and every fourth of july as, quote, days of mourning and not joy. let them rather fast and pray to the great spirit, the indians god who deals out mercy to his children and not
7:19 am
distraction. for indians to commemorate they bore the burden of white america's triumphs would resonate with the wampanoags long after he was gone. we will come back to that point. less then 40 years later in the late 1860s and early 1870s, massachusetts aggressive the stubborn refusal of the wampanoags to disappear by dissolving their reservations of gay head, chappaquiddick, christiantown and others. the state divided the common lands of these places into private property tracks, subjected those lands to taxation and confiscation for debt and declared the inhabitants to be full-fledged citizens and no longer indians
7:20 am
as if the two were antithetical. you ca map of the division on chappaquiddick. white officials congratulated themselves but in their magnanimity they had bestowed legal inequality on indians just as new englanders were pressuring white southerners to do with black friedman and women under reconstruction. they refused to understand that civil rights for african-americans and civil rights for native americans are not the same thing. native people were here first, we don't just want equality and justice, they want sovereignty. these officials refused to listen to wampanoags who protested the supposed gift of citizenship was actually a trojan horse to rob them of their remaining land and force
7:21 am
them to scatter. that was indeed the point. white proponents of this measure, more honest moments, admitted they considered the wampanoags to be too racially into mix to be classified as indians and in any case it was the fate of indians to vanish. over the next century, white americans did everything they could to make that supposedly natural process occur including reducing indians to romantic bit parts in the country's history as exemplified by thanksgiving. throughout the colonial era thanksgiving had no association whatsoever with pilgrims and indians, none. the link between the holiday
7:22 am
and the history appears to be 1841, when the reverend alexander young published a primary source account of a 1621 harvest feast hosted by plymouth colony and attended by neighboring wampanoags. this is the primary source account of thanksgiving. that is it. to it, young influential footnote, let me tell you as a historian there are not a lot of influential footnotes out there but this is one of them and you can see it highlighted there and it reads this was the first thanksgiving, the harvest festival of new england. over the next 50 years, various authors, lecturers and politicians disseminated this idea until americans took it for granted. predictably new englanders were
7:23 am
the first to tout the pilgrims as national founders and their dinner with indians as a template for thanksgiving but for the rest of the country to go along, the nation had to subjugate the tribes of the great plains and far west. only then could white people stop vilifying indians as bloodthirsty savages and give them an unthreatening role international founding myths. the pilgrim saga also took old because it had used in the nation's culture wars. yes, there have always been culture wars. it was no coincidence that the pilgrims emerged as national founders amid popular anxiety the united states was being overrun by catholic and then jewish and orthodox christian immigrants, supposedly unappreciative of the country's democratic protestant origins
7:24 am
in values. additionally, treating the pilgrims as the epitome of colonial america served to minimize the country's record of racial oppression, past and present, better to highlight the pilgrims religious and democratic principles instead of the indian wars and slavery more typical of colonies including the new england colonies. through such means, northeastern earth could redefine the black and indian problems as southern and western exceptions to an otherwise inspiring national heritage so they sanitized the history of new england and then make new england the model for the rest of the united states. so what i am saying here is
7:25 am
though in americans eventually assumed the thanksgiving holiday had been associated with pilgrims and indians in 1721, that tradition was a product of white protestants in the 19th century, particularly yankees asserting their cultural authority over european immigrants, americans of color and other regions of the united states. this invention became tradition by the early 20th century. and it has remained so in no small degree because american schools hold annual thanksgiving pageant in which students dress up as pilgrims and indians to reenact the first thanksgiving. i myself remember participating in such a performance in which we saying that is i won't impose my singing on you, in which we saying my country is of thees we praised america as a sweet land of liberty and the
7:26 am
pilgrims as my father's, my father's. the point of this exercise was to have a diverse group of schoolchildren learn about who we as americans are. or at least who we are supposed to be. even students from ethnic backgrounds would be instilled with the principles representative government, liberty, and christianity while learning to identify with english colonists as fellow whites, to get me to identify with the english as fellow white people. leaving indians outside the category of my fathers also carried important lessons. it was another reminder about which race ran the country and
7:27 am
whose values mattered. unless we dismiss the impact of these messages let's consider the experience of a young wampanoag woman, the loan indian in her class, her teacher cast her as chief mastasoyyou, and had her sing this land is your land, this land is my land. at the time she was just embarrassed but now as an adult she sees a cool irony in it. other wampanoags told me about their parents going into school to object to these pageants, and associated history lessons that the new england indians were all gone only to have school officials question their claims to be indian, authentic indians were supposed to be primitive relics frozen in stone age time, not modern
7:28 am
people. what were they doing in school, speaking english, wearing contemporary clothing and returning home to adults who had jobs and drove cars? by 1870, frank james, the third in our sequence of native historians, reached the limits of patients with this nonsense. james was born and raised in gayhead on martha's vineyard which had long ranked as one of the poorest communities in massachusetts after the division of the common lands. nevertheless james grew up determined to succeed and represent his people. as a teenager he even adopted the wampanoag name after the eldest son who preceded permeticomb on calling on the wampanoags to resist colonialism. is in a drive carried him all
7:29 am
the way around the corner to the new england conservatory of music where he studied trumpet and then after no national orchestra would hire him because of racial segregation to public school in cape cod where he became director of music. his passion was political activism and study of wampanoag history. he understood that knowing the past was critical to reforming the present. what he read in the primary sources made his blood boil because it bore little relation to the thanksgiving myth around people's neck bike -- like a millstone. when james was invited to speak at a state banquet celebrating the 350th anniversary of plymouth's founding he saw it as a rare opportunity to set
7:30 am
the record straight yet when he cemented his speech for review, white officials rejected it as too inflammatory. james, for his part, found an alternative script drawn up by the state to be so childish and untrue that he pulled out of the event altogether. instead he drew up plans for a commemoration where there would be no sensors. inspired by the red power movement for indigenous rights and justice, james organized a national day of mourning to be held on thanksgiving day, 1970, at the site of the statue overlooking plymouth rock. in choosing this name for the occasion james harkens not only to national days of mourning held after the recent assassinations of president john f. kennedy and the reverend martin luther king, he also reached back to apus's eulogy on king philip and like
7:31 am
apus, when james's moment came heroes up before protesters from across indian country, media and onlookers and deliver the inflammatory speech that massachusetts had tried to suppress. he began with the.that assertion that he had the right to the dignity of humanity despite society's efforts to diminish him and his people. i speak to you as a man, he stressed, a wampanoag man, a proud man, not of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by strict parental direction, despite his family and community suffering poverty and discrimination, two social and economic diseases. he acknowledged to his white listeners that thanksgiving is a time of celebration for you, celebrating the beginnings of
7:32 am
the white men in america. for james and the wampanoags, the day had doleful implications. it is with a heavy heart, he explains, that i look back on what happened to my people. like apus, james proceeded to tell a history of english wampanoag relations that turned the bedtime story of the thanksgiving myth into a nightmare. his conclusion was the welcome to the pilgrims, quote, was perhaps our biggest mistake. we the wampanoags welcomed you with open arms little knowing that it was the beginning of the end, that before 50 years were to pass the wampanoag would no longer be a free people.
7:33 am
to james, like apus, like permeticomb, the moral of the first -- the first thanks giving was that the english and their white successors had betrayed the wampanoags who befriended them in their time of need. this is the message that is echoed through subsequent national days of mourning which the united american indians have continued to hold each thanksgiving up to the very present day. the question for all of us was and is how to move forward. the answer according to james is to confront this history, including the fact as he put it that the wampanoags still walk the land of massachusetts. james also urged his fellow americans to consider indians worthy of the same respect as everyone else. let us remember, he counseled,
7:34 am
the indian is and was as human as the white man. the indian feels pain and becomes defensive, has dreams, tragedy and failure, suffers from loneliness, needs to cry as well as laugh. if the american people follow this counsel to extend their indian country been and women, basic compassion and acknowledgment, it would make thanksgiving day 1970 a new beginning toward a new america what james called a more humane america, more indian america in which native people could regain a position in this country that is rightfully ours. there are so many reasons to follow james's lead, and attempt to tell the story of
7:35 am
thanksgiving with 3-dimensional wampanoags at the center. columbus day as a focal point for continuing the role in the nation's past. it is bad enough to have gotten the story so wrong for so long. it is inexcusable to continue the annual tradition of having teachers, politicians, and television producers traffic in the thanksgiving myth and residential homes and shopping centers sport decorations of happy pilgrims and indians. these practices dismiss native people's real historical traumas at white hands in favor of depicting their ancestors as consenting to colonialism. to call the consequences harmless is to ignore the chorus of native americans, our fellow americans, who say the hurt is profound particularly to their children. the population has suffered far
7:36 am
more than its fair share in the creation of the united states. it shouldn't matter but it does, indians have contributed disproportionately to the military in every single one of the nation's wars all the way back to the beginning and up to the current time. in a pluralistic country it is morally acceptable to allow the celebration of a national holiday to damage part of the nation's people. nevermind the first people. or for that matter all the people. whereas the identity politics of marginalized groups tends to focus on achieving justice and equality, or in the indian case sovereignty as well. white identity politics has always centered on oppressing others. yet there has been too little public reflection about how the
7:37 am
thanksgiving myth teaches white proprietorship of the nation. why should a school-age child with the name of say silverman identify more with the pilgrims than the indians? after all, such a student is unlikely to descend from either group, both groups are his fellow americans. if the student is taught to think like a historian and both pilgrims and indians more dispassionately as they instead of we it might be a step toward a more critical understanding of history in which all the actors can be seen as fully human. the clock agrees. with all the virtues and shortcomings that one would expect to see in any population. at the same time, if the student is taught to think of more groups inclusively as we, aware of the associated risk of
7:38 am
appropriation which is real it might be a step toward a more compassionate national culture. what you are seeing here, a typical textbook map of colonial north america in the mid-1750s, no indians to be seen. the other slide is of an actual map from 1757. it is full of native people. what has happened? my vision here would have school curriculums treat native american history as basic to an understanding of american history in general. such lessons would address the civilizations indigenous people created over thousands of years before the arrival of europeans. the ways they have suffered under and resisted colonization and perhaps most importantly how they have managed to survive and adapt to modern
7:39 am
life and defending indigenous rights, units on american government would address the sovereignty of indian tribes as a basic feature of american federalism. such a shift make feature bringing them into the national conversation including having presidential candidates hold a serious discussion about their indian policies and the state of indian country. that's happening in the democratic primary this time, first time i have ever seen it, wants to seat in the national. if the public continues to associate with thanksgiving the least we could do is get the story straight with wampanoag actors and preceptors at the center. imagine if instead of that, we as a country reckoned with the
7:40 am
story is told by permeticomb, william apus and frank james, not naïve. i realize the challenges are significant at several levels. many americans are uncomfortable with the native american past. it tends to turn patriotic episodes inside out, and heroes into villains, at least deeply flawed he rose. it loosens white claims on morality and authority, it raises political, cultural questions about justice. it threatens to tear down monuments and rename buildings. but confronting this darkness also promises to shed light, cultivate national humility, and i think most importantly, signal the native people that the country values them as us. as one gracious elder told me
7:41 am
we do ourselves now goodbye hiding from the truth. i think she meant all of us. amen. [applause] >> a couple questions from the audience and happy to answer questions. >> i have a comment. >> i have been at two events lately where the beginning of the conversation was we stand on which end and they
7:42 am
acknowledge that. i wanted to give you an fyi. >> we are in a place, land of the massachusetts people. the massachusetts people are not organized as a recognized community any longer. whenever i am in the territory of the people who hold that status, i always acknowledge that background. >> my question is related to that. if you could speak to the political relationship with the massachusetts people at the time of the first thanksgiving. it is a big holiday. >> it is deeply relevant. the massachusetts people inhabited the area around massachusetts bay, very close
7:43 am
allies with the wampanoags when the mayflower arrived. it was preceded by an epidemic from 1616-1619 that does terrible damage to native people's beginning of the north all the way southward to the east shore of narragansett bay. one reason it passes is they are in close contact with each other. one of the reasons it doesn't pass to the west side of narragansett bay is the wampanoags and narragansetts were at odds, these two people spoke closely related dialects. they intermarried. they were military allies with one another. their fates were intertwined in this early period. >> like the massachusetts bay colony and those settlers.
7:44 am
boston was founded in 30. >> in many ways focusing on plymouth is missing the point. plymouth always remained a marginal, lightly populated, frankly unimportant colony. didn't attract an awful lot of migrants. massachusetts is quite another story. plymouth begins with 50 people. there is 100 at the beginning of the winter and by the end there is 50. it was always 1/10 the size of the population of massachusetts but massachusetts attracts between 15-20,000 migrants during the 1640s and you might focus on this detail. the women of the great migration at on average eight children over the course of their lives and those children tends to live healthy lives. on average more than 6 of them lived to adulthood.
7:45 am
they lived into their 60s, 70s and 80s, this is the recipe for a population explosion. these people swarmed native people still trying to recover from the epidemic which leads to a critical point. for those of us who are familiar with arguments of jared diamond, there's a tendency to place too much process on epidemic disease. i am not discounting how important it was. it did devastating work among native people but if we concentrate on epidemic disease as an accident of history we take colonists off the hook and the fact of the matter is they took advantage of native
7:46 am
american depopulation and prevented native people from recovering from that tragedy. that was certainly the case in massachusetts bay. once the colonial period begins the forces of colonization often helped to create the conditions in which epidemics thrive such as forcing people to live in fortified settlements not tending to nutrition and the way they would. and an accident of history of the western hemisphere, it was not. >> the - 5 years ago when somebody left the center for disease control one of the two remaining samples of smallpox in the world, terrifying.
7:47 am
smallpox -- there is flu, pneumonia, measles, chickenpox, right on down the line, these diseases that were so common in europe, asia and africa to which native people in the americas have not been exposed and done terrible terrible damage. >> three questions real quick. thanks for your talk, i learned a lot, really enjoyed it, thank you for your work. i want to understand your response to a previous question. you always acknowledgment but in certain cases, i want to understand the rationale better. second question was what got you interested in indigenous history and the third question was you said at the beginning that you encountered some criticism some folks of your work and i wonder what those criticisms were. >> i'm working through the land acknowledgment ritual. i understand the point. the point is to remind
7:48 am
everybody that native people were here first but i am a historian and sometimes i am uncomfortable saying this land belonged to this particular group when we don't know which group it belonged to or that claim is contested. for instance you go to providence, rhode island, that place is contested between wampanoags and narragansetts. if i say it is this group's land now i am injecting myself in a modern day political dispute and i don't want to do that. i am also uncomfortable engaging in a kind of performative ritual for non-native people and i understand the political point. it matters but i am uncomfortable with that aspect and i need to think more and talk to more native people about whether it is important
7:49 am
to them that i do that and if i hear more of that then i most certainly will. could you remind me of your other - >> criticisms you encountered. >> when i was in college i got interested in colonial era social history. history from the bottom up. history of working people, people with mud on their boots and dirt under their fingernails, kinds of people who rioted in the streets of boston or the revolution and turned a genteel revolution into something a little more revolutionary. not as revolutionary as i would like but revolutionary by the standards of the time. as i continued my education i realized there's a lot of missing stories in american history but no story was more missing than that of the first people. during the colonial period the overwhelming majority of the people in north america don't
7:50 am
occupy that kind of space in the way that would teach history. it is a challenge. intellectual leaders and thinkable challenge to recover the stories of indigenous people who with some exceptions, the wampanoags are one of them, didn't leave their own records behind. one has to read every source one can get one's hand on, try to understand the particular biases of that source, read archaeology, holly briefed me on southern new england archaeology when i need it. not least of all it has led me in conversations with distended native people so i wanted to learn what they had to know so i have a 20 year running relationship with the wampanoags, because i want their critiques on my work. i want if they are willing to
7:51 am
share i want to hear what they know and sometimes it is off-limits and that is fine. i get that but they raise questions very often that i hadn't considered before that lead me to go back to the sources with the new perspective. as for points of disagreement i have a tendency to see native polities and southern new england as more coercive than some native people who tend to see them as more consensual. i think that would be the major one. very often i will hear women were far more important to this story than you are telling. i readily acknowledge the point but i am a historian and i have to, what i say has to be dependent on sources. i don't know what they are doing because colonists who produce these writings paid no attention to half the native population. they didn't pay attention to
7:52 am
elders of children either. they pay attention to politicians, warriors, traders, that is about it. there are gaps in the historical record that very often native people i talk to want me to address and i say because of the methodological demands of my discipline i am restricted in what i can assert so i think those would be some of the examples. >> we have to get into questions while signing books. >> thank you all. [applause] >> to the book signing. >> bradford kane serve the legislative counsel in congress and the department secretary of information technology. and the author of this book, "pitchfork populism". i want to talk about why you

14 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on