I recently read an American Thanksgiving-related post about the candy-coating of the Pilgrims/First Thanksgiving story, bemoaning the ill-treatment of the Indians (We’re indigenous – and it’s not India.), by the White Man.
“They robbed graves, stole our land, enslaved us, murdered our children, forced their Christian religion upon us and gave us smallpox.”
I already question, and have problems with most of these claims, but the argument is adversarial. If the Whites are portrayed as ‘Bad’, then the Indians must be ‘Good.’ I simply do not believe that.
The stereotype of the Red Man as friend to Earth, steward of Mother Nature’s glories, is bullshit. This tale comes from White Man’s Guilt and media, and has been eagerly accepted and rebroadcast by the Natives.
Some years ago, there was a ‘Give A Hoot, Don’t Pollute’ TV ad, showing a bag of garbage being flung from a car onto a highway, and a proud Indian, complete with feather, weeping at the spoliation of the pristine landscape. Problem was, the ‘Indian’ was really an Italian actor.
When the white man arrived, the Indians didn’t own the land. They had freehold use of it by right of occupation or right of conquest. This was the law of the land at that time. The Whites didn’t steal it. When they took it, they did it exactly as the Indians had been doing for centuries.
A tribe of Indians would settle in a fertile area, and begin to rape Mother Nature. It might take several years, but, like a colony of army ants, they would strip it clean. They would over-hunt and over-fish, until there were no deer, moose, bear, geese or fish. Population would go up and available food would diminish, until children and old folks were starving, then they would pack up their teepees, and move to (literally) greener pastures.
If there was another tribe where they wanted to resettle, war would break out. Men, women and children would be tortured and slaughtered, till one group or the other moved on. The Hurons ousted the Eries. The Iroquois forced the Hurons out, and they all took slaves from those they conquered.
In exchange for smallpox, the Indians gave the Whites syphilis, a disease unknown in Europe at that time.
Preserving culture and heritage is a great thing, but the world will move on, with, or without you. My small hometown abutted an Indian reservation. Back when there were still manufacturing jobs in Southern Ontario, we had four small factories in town. Indians with sufficient pride and initiative got jobs in them, to purchase food, clothing, TVs and cars.
This was not a matter of ‘the White Man’s way’ versus ‘the Indian way.’ This was “The Canadian Way!” Those who didn’t take jobs didn’t dress in buckskins, and hunt and fish, or gather roots and berries from the forest. They sat around in dirty, worn clothing, on the front stoops of decaying hovels that Mississippi Negroes wouldn’t live in, waiting for their next Government cheque, so that they could buy booze. They weren’t enslaved, or prevented from working, and most of them weren’t Christian.
One proud young Indian joined the Canadian Army, and served in Cyprus, keeping Greeks and Turks from each others’ throats. He felt he’d like to come back to retire, and began building a house. Every time he came home on leave, he and his friends and family worked on it, first an excavation and foundation, then framing and roof, later, walls, plumbing and wiring.
After about three years, he came home, and entered his little jewel. While he had been away, a bunch of the stay-at-home thugs had broken into it and partied – hard! – several times! They had built a campfire on his unprotected living room rug, burning a hole in the floor, to the basement. At least they didn’t burn it down.
Beer bottles were smashed. Broken glass was everywhere. Holes had been kicked in the wall boards. There was a large pile of excrement in one corner, but it had been smeared, by hand, on most of the walls. He threw up his hands, said, “I don’t want to live here anymore.” and never came back.
A mile offshore in Lake Huron, there was a particularly rich area where fish fed. For years, 3 or 4 fishing boats went out every day, set nets, and brought back hundreds of pounds of fresh fish to sell. Finally the white man completely fished out this ‘mud hole.’
When the White Man signed a treaty with the Indians, a clause was included allowing them to hunt and fish. Since fish boats didn’t exist here 200 years ago, it seems clear that the intent was for personal or family use. The Indians drove a loophole in the contract. A group of them bought one of the now-retired boats, and proceeded to scrape up the last few surviving fish.
The history of European immigration does not always show the White Man in the best of light, but a close look reveals that the Indians are neither the heroes nor the victims that many would have them be. Because of population pressure, white men did wholesale, what Indians did retail.