400 yr old history re-written as if it happened today

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from The Gray Area:

The Washington Post published an article this weekend entitled, Powhatan and his people: The 15,000 American Indians shoved aside by Jamestown’s settlers. It is a re-writing of 400 yr old history to be read emotionally as if it happened today.


Is it to more accurately depict the history of Virginia settlers and the American Indian tribes native to Virginia in the early 1600s?

No. No one disputes the history.

It is a continuation of the attack on America, its founding and its history as one of racial oppression and violence.

Certainly there are episodes in our 243 yr history of which none of us is proud. But there is a thousand times more episodes of which Americans should be rightfully proud. To replace the majority of good with the small minority of bad is unjust and false. That is what this article is, unjust and false.

As with all American Indian stories these days, it tells only part of the story and hypes the brutality of early Americans to make you believe the minority version is the ‘real’ history.

This story, and all others like it, leave out basic facts that are pertinent to the understanding of what happened. For example, the early Virginia settlers from England initially tried to live together with the natives. When that didn’t work, they tried negotiations. When that didn’t work they defended themselves, as did the Indians. Sometimes brutally, as was the custom on both sides in those days. Almost all native groups had allied with the British and served as Loyalists during the war, but when British negotiators agreed upon the terms of the 1783 peace treaty, they offered no protection to their former Indian allies.

Some settler brutality toward the Indians is well known. Some Indian brutality of settlers (and their women and children) is also well known. This article and others glide past those data points so that the reader doesn’t get the full picture, only the picture they want you to have – brutal early American settlers (and later, Americans in western expansion) were merciless against loving, peaceful native Americans. Those same peaceful native Americans who were warring constantly with each other for territory and attacking settlers.

Sure, we have glowing stories of Powhatan, Pocahontas and John Smith that are obviously too sappy and probably void of some facts. But, the basics of negotiation, co-habitation and intermingling obviously happened and are consistent. And, the real historical story is always told with the caveat that we don’t know some details or can be reasonably suspect of others. In an era of worldwide expansion, like 400 years ago, history tells us that all peoples around the world were fighting for growth and survival.

As a person who grew up and went to school in Virginia, I can tell you that the history of the European settling of this country was told in great detail. Native Indians, particularly Powhatan, were discussed with historical accuracy and reverence. In Virginia, there is a county and schools named after Powhatan and Pocahontas.

Since the WaPo authors are trying to get to the feelings and sensibilities of 21st century Americans to leave a negative message with this garbage, maybe we should add another element of 21st century sensibilities to the story. Should the descendants of Jamestown settlers be suing to take the name of Powhatan off that county and those schools (much the way it is happening to civil war monuments, schools and streets) because of the brutality his people laid on the early settlers?

Let’s just stop re-writing history and trying to re-live it as if 400 years ago happened today.

It is not for historic accuracy. It’s clearly political.

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