Virtually everything written about Natives in colonial New England is viewed through an ethnocentric lens of the master narrative. Further it is structured by a religious zeal which proclaims their god given right of manifest destiny to “rid the world of heathens” and “proselytize the gospel.” In order to maintain this propaganda and justify the theft and slaughter of millions; a controlled and consistent "record" reflecting the dehumanization of Indians was required.
We don’t have to delve into a rustic dusty library to research an old text to note the malefic and racist attitudes towards Natives of long ago.
David Barton recently provided a stellar example of this myopic behavior on the appropriately named Wall Builder Show.
He views the attack and destruction of Native peoples as the linear and spiritual progression of god’s chosen people. He claims to speak from a “historical and biblical point of view” and that it’s “not about fairness but of justice…god’s justice” He said.
When Barton referred to the cause of King Philip's War of 1675 he claims, “The Moravian missionaries went to the Indians and told them to stop torturing each other to death, so the Indians said the white guys are trying to change our culture. So they declared war on all the white guys, it was torture on one side and trying to be civilized on the other and that was King Philips War.”
This is brazenly false. The Moravian missionaries don’t arrive in America until 1735. And let’s use logic here- if the Indians were all torturing each other to death, I’m quite sure the English would be inclined to just stay out of the way. And we can’t discuss torture unless we mention one of the favorite punishments by the English, which was decapitation and displaying the head on pole. Then there was nailing you down by your ears to a frame, in a device called a pillory. We even see our first form of water boarding with the ducking stool. Whether it was piling stones on top of person, riding the timber mare, flogging or just burning you at the stake; it’s safe to say the first settlers were no strangers to divers’ methods of torture.
Barton’s mendacity is evocative of a time when race and religion supersede any human rights. And that’s what King Phllips war was really about, human rights. After years of pent up anger, insults, murder and theft; war was inevitable.
There was not a preemptive attack on settlers. Even before the arrival of the "Pilgrims" in 1620, English traders and slave ships were harassing and taking Natives captive for decades. Not judging them all to be the same, our ancestors attempted a peace and trade with the first settlers. For at least the first decade, although our first form of segregation – Natives lived within their communities as did Whites, but coexisted with a level of decorum. Trade was the prominent form of interaction. However the English would attempt to dominant and control the fur and wampum trade. This led to the predawn attack on May 1637 with the incineration of hundreds of Pequot Indians. The explosion of hegemony, avarice and murder was promulgated by a religious and racial ideology much like Barton posits here in 2013.
An entire race of people became synonymous with savagery and the color of their skin a pejorative. Fictionalized and defaming accounts spread likes toxic weeds and choked out any chance of self expression. Native Voice was controlled and contained within the colonial master narrative. (Note: During this era there were several Native writers. Primarily their writings were betrothed to Christian dogma of self deprecation and cultural containment. A thorough discourse is required on this topic)
By 1640 a decree is passed by the general court of Massachusetts to “Christianize the heathens.” Indians are relocated to so-called “praying towns” where Christianity and obedience is severely enforced. The primary purpose of this experiment was to move the nomadic tribes out the way for the growing English population. The usurped lands created a land boom for speculators and at the top of the list of profiteers was John Elliot—missionary to the Indians and Daniel Gookin—Indian agent.
Tribal villages that refused to remove were under constant threat.
From here we go into an unprecedented time of erroneous and coerced land deals codified by large amounts of alcohol. European diseases kill over 75 percent of some tribal villages.
By the time of King Philip's War 1675, there had been decades of murder, abuse and theft. Also a disregard and assault on the spiritual and traditional life that has been practiced for thousands of years. Indians throughout New England were fighting for the right to exist, like my folks the Nipmuck who joined by the thousands. One Nipmuck chief in particular named Mattawamp was said to be the most brilliant military leader of the war. (Schultz & Tougais 1999) He commanded some of the most smashing victories of the war: Wheelers surprise, Brookfield, Bloody Brook and New Braintree. (Schultz & Tougais 1999)
The Indians who were conscripted to the “Praying towns” became interned prisoners of war. These Indians had not lifted any arms against the English and obeyed their laws. They were summarily rounded up from Natick and forced to the barren and cold Deer Island without adequate food, shelter or clothing. Hundreds of woman and children froze and starved to death. During the war there was massive loss of life on both sides.
There is a lot of complexities and nuance to this conflict that should be earnestly discussed. But within Barton’s distorted narrative it was a smooth and justified transition backed by god. There is a malevolent sickness to this pathology when race, religion or gender is the catalyst to destroy and divide society. But the walls of colonial containment have been broken. Native epistemology should no longer be filtered through the master narrative and Wall Builders like Barton need to be exposed.
Larry Spotted Crow Mann is a writer, performer, Nipmuck cultural educator and citizen of the Nipmuck tribe of Massachusetts. He was applauded for his role in the PBS Native American film, We Shall Remain, directed by Chris Eyre, and In 2010 his poetry was a winner in the Memscapes Journal of Fine Arts. His recent book, Tales from The Whispering Basket continues to receive excellent reviews.