As we have this conversation about immigrants and immigration: who belongs here and who doesn’t; this would be the opportune time for America to reflect on the First People of this land.
But the silence is deafening. As the multitude of protests erupt across the country to let people in, the grievances of the Indigenous People of America never seem to get out. If only that same vigor could be harnessed to support the First Peoples across the USA/Canada the disproportionate amount of human suffering in those communities could finally be addressed.
The exegesis of this apathetic narrative goes back to the Church; then on to the media, politicians and the overall malaise in mainstream society concerning Indigenous agency.
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Ironically, if the Pokanoket Chief, Massasoit was a little less altruistic to the 102 weary and half-starved Pilgrims in 1620 , we may not even be having this conversation.
Or the Nipmucs who trekked over 70 miles to Boston with bushels of corn on their back to feed the famished English.
The First Peoples generally had an ‘open door policy’ to new immigrants. If you were willing to take part in the reciprocity of the land, you were welcome.
But the English could never get enough. Of anything. It was always more. That more, led to war.
These new immigrants had very little, if no respect for the land or indigenous agency.
So the fight for the continent erupted across New England in 1675, known as the King Phillips War.
There was a massive loss of life on both sides and the Nipmuc community took a devastating hit.
Truces and treaties were eventually “hatched” out. But not before certain tribal leaders were hanged, families enslaved and entire villages of Christianized Indians interned on Deer Island where hundreds froze and starved to death.
Nonetheless, Indigenous folk like my 5th great grandfather Sampson Hazard, fought alongside the fledging colonist during the Revolutionary War in the belief something good can come out of this calamity.
These inchoate ‘Americans’ effusively dropped the hegemonic hammer on the back of Turtle Island and the USA came into being.
When America was on the verge of collapse 85 years later; Native Americans like My 3rd great grandfather Samuel Vickers, his siblings and cousins fought, and some died in the American Civil War. Their arduous and complex stories are chronicled in the book by David Nuamec.
Some of the early White settlers found life unbearable in this new region. They turned to indigenous remedies to survive. People like my 2nd great uncle, Samuel Hazard who was a traditional Healer, known as the “Indian Doctor.” He was asked to doctor a young White girl who lived near the Hatchet Pond Nipmuc Reservation. It’s written he used certain plants and rattlesnake hearts to save her life.
Narratives such as these are interwoven in every tribal community across the land. Saying we are a nation of immigrants denies our existence, contributions and unresolved grievances.
Why it remains the darling of tropes, even for many pedagogues is beyond comprehensible.
Native Nations across U.S. and Canada have given and sacrificed more than ever could be mentioned; before and after the establishment said countries. Native people of this continent deserve a major part in this conversation.
But instead our words are ignored, children removed from their homes; “to be physically, mentally, and morally trained and fitted for positions of honorable self-support, usefulness, and respectability.” Which is what happened to my great aunt: Anna Vickers; who at age 11 was taken from her home, along with other relatives and sent to the Connecticut Industrial School for Girls in 1901.
We are not by any means, bystanders is this narrative of America. We have survived the intergenerational trauma, lateral violence, and the overall vicissitudes of raising our families in a so called “Nation of Immigrants”; whereby its very definition, is the final affront to our lives, sacrifices and very Being on this continent.
It is the epitome of cognitive dissonance and historical amnesia; cradled in a sort of patriotic schizophrenia. It engenders the breeding grown for the Native caricatures, mascots and colonial escapism taking place, even today.
We should say: We are a Nation of Immigrants, Descendants of Chattel Slavery & First Peoples of this Land. This would compel all Americans to acquaint themselves to the true history and sacrifices of this land that carved out the opportunities they now enjoy.