Thursday, November 26, 2009


I spent much of the 4th Thursday in November as I usually do, recalling the horrific histories of the Powhatan Confedederacy encounters with the English around Jamestown - where my own ancestor's people, the Wicocomico, were destroyed; then the disastrous series of betrayals that characterized the English encounters with the Wampanoag, events now recalled by saccharine tales of "Thanksgiving."

But what strikes me increasingly in the last couple of years as I re-read these histories, and the histories of early European incursions into India, Africa and elsewhere, is how repetitious the pattern is. It begins with trade and trade routes, alliances made with one local group of people or another to facilitate this trade. It progresses quickly from there to war as European demands expand and begin putting pressure on local economies, foreign trading companies begin playing off one group against another, strategizing to maintain "friendly" leaders in positions of power, king-making. The English and French in the Southeastern US, Africa and elsewhere notoriously established "medal chiefs" - rulers by virtue of their alliances with foreign powers. Sound familiar?

The genocide or ethnocide and the enslaving or other subjugation of entire nations is just one strand of the net, the final one for many people, pulled tight around the neck at last. Those who see it coming, who try to resist, are branded "rebels" or "terrorists" - not always incorrectly, but always without telling the full story.

In fact, I think this may be the most important lesson of the story of "The Day of Mourning" or what my friend Alan Jamieson calls the "Last Supper for Native People": the conquest continues. In Iraq. In Afghanistan. In Africa. In South America. In North America.

Which helps explain why people get so upset when you talk about it.

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