Summarizing such a complicated history is always a risky business. Suffice to say that the story revolves around the Ten Commandments. You can go on and on about the rich legacy of the Europeans and the aboriginal peoples but it boiled down to two sets of standards. Both sides had rascals but both sides did not have the same ethical standards. Putting an early settler next to the natives would be comparable to a modern American being told to sit down with a member of the radical jihadists or a sworn communist and encouraging both to shake hands. Both sides have scruples and both sides have their moral justifications but compatibility? No way!
It was bad enough that the number one method of genocide was the spreading of European diseases. The nation of Belize (British Honduras) was created out of a population vacuum. The Mayans literally died by the hundreds of thousands from plaques. The Plymouth Plantation was able to get a tenuous grip by settling on a former Indian village. It’s residents had all died from diseases. The first Newbury settlers found a pre-plowed fertile area because the Pentucket inhabitants had all been wiped out by disease. You get the sad picture.
But the already weakened natives just couldn’t survive the incompatibility nor could the settlers, the Indian way of life. Most tribes fled to the north and west and many fled into Canada only to face more trouble. (The British weren’t much better in their treatment either.)
Years later, Americans and Canadians created reservation systems that, as far as I am concerned, took the form of ‘do-gooders’ trying to ‘fix’ an injustice. The result has been even more injustice by the most insidious means: government-dependence! Living on these allotted lands often ended up being no better than the internment camps for the Japanese. At least the Japanese could go back to normal living after the war!
Americans owe a lot to the native peoples. A local group, outside of the government, has the right idea. A benevolent and educational organization, the New England Native American Cultural Council, is a non-profit organization that is just getting started in Salisbury. Started by customers going to the Owl Beaver Trading Post in Salisbury, MA; they felt they needed to gather native and non-native peoples into something that could make a difference in the area. To highlight the importance of native-American culture, they had a fine display at the west end of the Bartlett Mall during Old Fashioned Sunday.
This group is small and just finding their way organizationally but they could have a potential to wield great influence and re-awaken a new appreciation for native peoples.
They’re starting off right by keeping away from the government!
PS. If you would like to read about the local tribes that lived here, I have a link to a document for downloading.