Los libros de texto de U.S cuentan cuentos
Las patrañas que descubrió James Loewen, cuando analizó el contenido de los principales libros de historia de las escuelas de Estados Unidos
Historiador y sociólogo Estadounidense, que analizó los libros de texto que se utilizaban en las escuelas de U.S encontrando graves errores.
Patrañas que me contó mi profe(Loewen)
Última actualización el 2021-05-20 / Enlaces de afiliados / Imágenes de la API para Afiliados
Lies My Teacher Told Me:
Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
Última actualización el 2021-07-20 / Enlaces de afiliados / Imágenes de la API para Afiliados
To understand the making of Anglo-America is
impossible without close and sustained attention to its
indigenous predecessors, allies, and nemeses.
The invaders also anticipated, correctly, that other
Europeans would question the morality of their
enterprise. They therefore [prepared] . . . quantities of
propaganda to overpower their own countrymen’s
scruples. The propaganda gradually took standard
form as an ideology with conventional assumptions and
semantics. We live with it still.
Memory says, “I did that.” Pride replies, “I could not
have done that.” Eventually, memory yields.
There is not one Indian in the whole of this country who
does not cringe in anguish and frustration because of
these textbooks. There is not one Indian child who has
not come home in shame and tears.
Old myths never die—they just become embedded in the
Start below zero
Historically, American Indians have been the most lied-aboutsubset of our population. That’s why Michael Dorris said that, in learning about Native Americans, “One does not start from point zero, but from minus ten.”
High school students start below zero because of their textbooks, which unapologetically present Native Americans through white eyes. Today’s textbooks should do better, especially since what historians call Indian history (though really it is interracial) has flowered since the 1970s, and the information on which new textbooks might be based currently rests on library shelves.
Our Original Sin
Our journey into a more accurate history of American Indian peoples and their relations with European and African invaders cannot be a happy excursion. Native Americans are not and must not be props in a sort of theme park of the past, where we go to have a good time and see exotic cultures. “What we have done to the peoples who were living in North America” is, according to
anthropologist Sol Tax, “our Original Sin.”
If we look Indian history squarely in the eye, we are going to get red eyes. This is our past, however, and we must acknowledge it. It is time for textbooks to send white children home, if not with red eyes, at least with thought-provoking questions.
An escalation of Indian warfare
Tribes that were closest to the Europeans got guns first, guns that could be trained on interior peoples who had not yet acquired any. Suddenly some nations had a great military advantage over others. The result was an escalation of Indian warfare. Native nations had engaged in conflict before Europeans came, of course. Tribes rarely fought to the finish, however. Some tribes did not want to take over the lands belonging to other nations, partly because each had its own sacred sites. For a nation to exterminate its neighbors was difficult anyway, since all enjoyed roughly the same level of military technology. Now all this changed. European powers deliberately increased the level of warfare by playing one Native nation off another.
The motive for the increased combat
Like African slaves, Indian slaves escaped when they could. This notice comes from the Boston Weekly News-Letter for October 4, 1739.
For many tribes the motive for the increased combat was the enslavement of other Natives to sell to the Europeans for more guns and kettles. As northern tribes specialized in fur, certain southern tribes specialized in people. Some Native Americans had enslaved each other long before Europeans arrived. Now Europeans vastly expanded Indian slavery.
Native Americans and good slaves
I had expected to find in ourtextbooks the cliché that Native Americans did not make good slaves, but only two books, Triumph of the American Nation and The American Tradition, say even that. American History buries a sentence, “A few Indians were enslaved,” in its discussion of the African slave trade. Otherwise, the textbooks are silent on the subject of the Native American slave trade in what is now the United States —except for one surprising standout. The American Pageant contains a paragraph that tells how the Carolina colonists enlisted the coastal Savannah Indians to bring them slaves from the interior, making “manacled Indians . . . among the young colony’s major exports.” Pageant goes on to tell how Indian captives wound up enslaved in the West Indies and New England.
In New England, Indian slavery
In New England, Indian slavery led directly to African slavery: the first blacks imported there, in
1638, were brought from the West Indies in exchange for Native Americans from Connecticut.
On the eve of the New York City slave rebellion of 1712, in which Native and African slaves united, about one resident in four was enslaved and one slave in four was American Indian. A 1730 census of South Kingston, Rhode Island, showed 935 whites, 333 African slaves, and 223 Native American
Native American slavery
As Pageant (alone) implies, the center of Native American slavery, like African American slavery, was South Carolina. Its population in 1708 included 3,960 free whites, 4,100 African slaves, 1,400 Indian slaves, and 120 indentured servants, presumably white. These numbers do not reflect the magnitude of Native slavery, however, because they omit the export trade.
From Carolina, as from New England, colonists sent enslaved American Indians (who might escape) to the West Indies (where they could never escape), in exchange for enslaved Africans. Charleston shipped more than ten thousand Natives in chains to the West Indies in one year.
Farther west, so many Pawnee Indians were sold to whites that Pawnee became the name applied in the plains to all slaves, whether they were of Indian or African origin.
On the West Coast, Pierson Reading, a manager of John Sutter’s huge grant of Indian land in central California, extolled the easy life he led in 1844: “The Indians of California make as obedient and humble slaves as the Negro in the south.” In the Southwest, whites enslaved Navajos and Apaches right up to the middle of the Civil War.
The slave trade
Intensified warfare and the slave trade rendered stable settlements no longer safe, helping to de-agriculturize Native Americans. To avoid being targets for capture, American Indians abandoned their cornfields and their villages and began to live in smaller settlements from which they could more easily escape to the woods. Ultimately, they had to trade with Europeans even for food.
By the time the pitiful remnant of the Massachuset tribe converted to Christianity and joined the
Puritans’ “praying Indian towns,” they did so in response to an invading culture that told them their religion was wrong and Christianity was right. This process exemplifies what anthropologists call cultural imperialism. Even the proud Plains Indians, whose syncretic culture combined horses and guns from the Spanish with Native art, religion, and hunting styles, showed the effects of cultural imperialism: the Sioux word for white man, wasichu, means “one who has everything good.”
The global economy
To be anthropologically literate about culture contact, students should be familiar with the terms syncretism and cultural imperialism, or at least the concepts they denote. None of the textbooks I studied mentions either term, and most of them tell little about the process of cultural change, again except for the Plains Indian horse culture, which, as a consequence, comes across as unique.
Even the best of the new textbooks are short on analysis. They don’t treat the crucial importance of incorporation into the global economy, which helps to explain why sometimes Europeans traded and coexisted with Natives and other times merely attacked them. Nor do they tell how contact worked to de-skill Native Americans.
Just as American societies changed when they encountered whites, so European societies changed when they encountered Natives. Textbooks completely miss this side of the mutual accommodation and acculturation process.
The frontier line
Instead, their view of white-Indian relations is dominated by the archetype of the frontier line. Textbooks present the process as a moving line of white (and black) settlement—American Indians on one side, whites (and blacks) on the other. Pocahontas and Squanto aside, the Natives and Europeans don’t meet much in textbook history, except as whites remove Indians farther west. In reality, whites and Native Americans in what is now the United States worked together, sometimes lived together, and quarreled with each other for 325 years, from the first permanent Spanish settlement in 1565 to the end of Sioux and Apache autonomy around 1890.
Historian Gary Nash tells us that interculturation took place from the start in Virginia, “facilitated by the fact that some Indians lived among the English as day laborers, while a number of settlers fled to Indian villages rather than endure the rigors of life among the autocratic English.”
Indeed, many white and black newcomers chose to live an American Indian lifestyle. In his Letters from an American Farmer, Michel Guillaume Jean de Crévecoeur wrote, “There must be in the Indians’ social bond something singularly captivating, and far superior to be boasted of among us; for thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we have no examples of even one of those Aborigines having from choice become Europeans.”
Crévecoeur overstated his case: as we know from Squanto’s example, some Natives chose to live among whites from the beginning. The migration was mostly the other way, however. As Benjamin Franklin put it, “No European who has tasted Savage Life can afterwards bear to live in our societies.”
Defecting to Native societies
Europeans were always trying to stop the outflow. Hernando de Soto had to post guards to keep his men and women from defecting to Native societies. The Pilgrims so feared Indianization that they made it a crime for men to wear long hair. “People who did run away to the Indians might expect very extreme punishments, even up to the death penalty,” Karen Kupperman tells us, if caught by whites.
Nonetheless, right up to the end of independent Native nationhood in 1890, whites continued to defect, and whites who lived an Indian lifestyle, such as Daniel Boone, became cultural heroes in white society.
Suggested union similar to the league (Iroquois)
In the 1740s the Iroquois wearied of dealing with several often bickering English colonies and suggested that the colonies form a union similar to the league. In 1754 Benjamin Franklin, who had spent much time among the Iroquois observing their deliberations, pleaded with colonial leaders to consider his Albany Plan of Union: “It would be a strange thing if six nations of ignorant savages should be capable of forming a scheme for such a union and be able to execute it in such a manner as that it has subsisted ages and appears insoluble; nd yet that a like union should be impracticable for ten or a dozen English colonies.”
The colonies rejected the plan
The colonies rejected the plan. But it was a forerunner of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. Both the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention referred openly to Iroquois ideas and imagery. In 1775 Congress formulated a speech to the Iroquois, signed by John Hancock, that quoted Iroquois advice from 1744. “The Six Nations are a wise people,” Congress wrote, “let us harken to their council and teach our children to follow it.
Symbol of the new United States
As a symbol of the new United States, Americans chose the eagle clutching a bundle of arrows. They knew that both the eagle and the arrows were symbols of the Iroquois League. Although one arrow is easily broken, no one can break six (or thirteen) at once.
Contributions to medicine
In the nineteenth century, Americans knew of Native American contributions to
medicine. Sixty percent of all medicines patented in the century were distributed
bearing Indian images, including Kickapoo Indian Cough Cure, Kickapoo Indian
Sagwa, and Kickapoo Indian Oil. In this century, America has repressed the
image of Indian as healer.
Indian Massacre at Wilkes-Barre
Indian Massacre at Wilkes-Barre shows a motif common in nineteenth-century
lithographs: Indians invading the sanctity of the white settlers’ homes. Actually,
whites were invading Indian lands and often Indian homes, but pictures such as
this, not the reality, remain the archetype.
Total Costs and Number of Battle Deaths
Our history is full of wars with Native American nations. “For almost two hundred years,” notes David Horowitz, “almost continuous warfare raged on the American continent, its conflict more threatening than any the nation was to face again.” American Indian warfare absorbed 80 percent of the entire federal budget during George Washington’s administration and dogged his successors
for a century as a major issue and expense.
Yet most of my original twelve textbooks barely mentioned the topic. The American Pageant still offers a table of “Total Costs and Number of Battle Deaths of Major U.S. Wars” that completely omits Indian wars. Pageant includes the Spanish-American War, according it a toll of 385 battle deaths, but leaves out the Ohio War of 1790-95, which cost 630 dead and missing U.S. troops in a single battle, the Battle of Wabash River
Textbooks give readers no clue as to what the zone of contact was like from the Native side. They emphasize Native Americans such as Squanto and Pocahontas, who sided with the invaders. And they invert the terms, picturing white aggressors as “settlers” and often showing Native settlers as
aggressors. “The United States Department of Interior had tried to give each tribe both land and money,” says The American Way, describing the U.S. policy of forcing tribes to cede most of their land and retreat to reservations. Whites were baffled by Native ingratitude at being “offered” this land, Way claims: “White Americans could not understand the Indians. To them, owning land was
a dream come true.” In reality, whites of the time were hardly baffled. Even Gen.
Philip Sheridan—who is notorious for having said, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”—understood. “We took away their country and their means of support, and it was for this and against this they made war,” he wrote. “Could anyone expect less?”
Paying the wrong tribe
Europeans were forever paying the wrong tribe or paying a small faction
within a much larger nation. Often they didn’t really care; they merely sought
justification for theft. Such fraudulent transactions might even have worked in
their favor, for they frequently set one tribe or faction against another. The
biggest single purchase from the wrong tribe took place in 1803. All the
textbooks tell how Jefferson “doubled the size of the United States by buying
Louisiana from France.” Not one points out that it was not France’s land to sell
—it was Indian land. The French never consulted with the Native owners before
selling; most Native Americans never even knew of the sale. Indeed, France did
not really sell Louisiana for $15 million. France merely sold its claim to the
territory. The United States was still paying Native American tribes for
Louisiana throughout the nineteenth century. We were also fighting them for it:
the Army Almanac lists more than fifty Indian wars in the Louisiana Purchase
from 1819 to 1890. To treat France as the seller, as all our textbooks do, is
Eurocentric. Equally Eurocentric are the maps textbooks use to show the Lewis
and Clark expedition. Even the newest maps still blandly label huge expanses
“Spanish Territory,” “British Territory,” and “French Territory,” making Native
Americans invisible and implying that the United States bought vacant land from
the French. Although the Mandans hosted the expedition during the winter of
1804-05 and the Clatsops did so the next winter, even these tribes drop out.
Apparently Lewis and Clark did it all on their own.
All but two textbooks miss the key result of the war.“After 1815 the American people began the exciting task of occupying the western lands.” All the other books miss the key outcome: in return for our leaving Canada alone, Great Britain gave up its alliances with American Indian nations in what would become the United States. Without war materiel and other aid from European allies, future Indian wars were transformed from major international conflicts to domestic moppingup operations. This result was central to the course of Indian-U.S. relations for the remainder of the century. Thus Indian wars after 1815, while they cost thousands of lives on both sides, would never again amount to a serious threat to the United States.
The loss of part of our history
Another result of the War of 1812 was the loss of part of our history. As
historian Bruce Johansen put it, “A century of learning [from Native Americans]
was coming to a close. A century and more of forgetting—of calling history into
service to rationalize conquest—was beginning.”
87 After 1815 American
Indians could no longer play what sociologists call the role of conflict partner—
an important other who must be taken into account—so Americans forgot that
Natives had ever been significant in our history. Even terminology changed:
until 1815 the word Americans had generally been used to refer to Native
Americans; after 1815 it meant European Americans.
It meant European Americans
After 1815 American Indians could no longer play what sociologists call the role of conflict partner— an important other who must be taken into account—so Americans forgot that Natives had ever been significant in our history. Even terminology changed: until 1815 the word Americans had generally been used to refer to Native Americans; after 1815 it meant European Americans.
Kupperman has shown how this process unfolded in Virginia after the Indian defeat in the 1640s: “It was the ultimate powerlessness of the Indians, not their racial inferiority, which made it possible to see them as people without rights.”
Natives: ingenious and industrious
Natives who had been “ingenious,” “industrious,” and “quick of apprehension” in 1610 now became “sloathfull and idle, vitious, melancholy, [and] slovenly.” This is another example of the process of cognitive dissonance. Like Christopher Columbus, George Washington changed his attitudes toward Indians. Washington held positive views of Native Americans early in his life, but after unleashing attacks upon them in the Revolutionary War and the Ohio War in 1790, he would come to denounce them as “animals of prey.”
This process of rationalization
This process of rationalization became unofficial national policy after the War of 1812. In 1845 William Gilmore Simms wrote, “Our blinding prejudices . . . have been fostered as necessary to justify the reckless and unsparing hand with which we have smitten [American Indians] in their habitations and expelled them from their country.”
In 1871 Francis A. Walker, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, considered American Indians beneath morality: “When dealing with savage men, as with savage beasts, no question of national honor can arise.” Whatever action the United States cared to take “is solely a question of expediency.”
Thus, cognitive dissonance destroyed our national idealism. From 1815 on, instead of spreading democracy, we exported the ideology of white supremacy. Gradually we sought American hegemony over Mexico, the Philippines, much of the Caribbean basin, and, indirectly, over other nations.
Although European nations professed to be shocked by our actions on the western frontier, before long they were emulating us. Britain exterminated the Tasmanian aborigines; Germany pursued total war against the Herrero of Namibia. Most western nations have yet to face this history.
Ironically, Adolf Hitler displayed more knowledge of how we treated Native Americans than American high schoolers today who rely on their textbooks. Hitler admired our concentration camps for American Indians in the west and according to John Toland, his biographer, “often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination—by starvation and uneven combat” as the model for his extermination of Jews and Gypsies (Rom people).
Alternatives to this history of war
Were there alternatives to this history of war? Of course, there were. Indeed,
France, Russia, and Spain all pursued different alternatives in the Americas.
Since the alternatives to war remain roads largely not taken in the United States,
however, they are tricky topics for historians.
Slave owners to appropriate
As Edward Carr noted, “History is,by and large, a record of what people did, not of what they failed to do.” On the other hand, making the present seem inevitable robs history of all its life and much of its meaning. History is contingent upon the actions of people. “The duty of the historian,” Gordon Craig has reminded us, “is to restore to the past the options it once had.” Craig also pointed out that this is an appropriate way to teach history and to make it memorable.
White Americans chose among real alternatives and were often divided among themselves. At various points in our history, our anti-Indian policies might have gone another way.
For example, one reason the War of 1812 was so unpopular in New England was that New Englanders saw it as a naked attempt by slave owners to appropriate Indian land. Peaceful coexistence of whites and Native Americans presents itself as perhaps the most obvious alternative to war, but was it really possible?
White conduct hindered
From the start, however, white conduct hindered peaceful coexistence.A thousand little encroachments eventually made it impossible for American Indians to farm near whites. Around Plymouth, the Indians leased their grazing land but retained their planting grounds. Too late they found that this did not keep colonists from letting their livestock roam free to ruin the crops. When
Native Americans protested, they usually found that colonial courts excluded their testimony. On the other hand, “the Indian who dared to kill an Englishman’s marauding animals was promptly hauled into a hostile court.”
The precedent established on the Atlantic coast—that American Indians were not citizens of the Europeans’ state and lacked legal rights—prevented peaceful white-Indian coexistence throughout the colonies and later the United States.
Even in Indian Territory, supposedly under Native control, whether Indians were charged with offenses on white land or whites on Indian land, trial had to be held in a white court in Missouri or Arkansas, miles away.
The «half-breeds” were stigmatized
A related possibility for Natives, Europeans, and Africans was intermarriage. Alliance through marriage is a common way for two societies to deal with each other, and Indians in the United States repeatedly suggested such a policy.
Spanish men married Native women in California and New Mexico and converted them to Spanish ways. French fur traders married Native women in Canada and Illinois and converted to Native ways.
Not the English. Textbooks might usefully pass on to students the old cliché—the French penetrated Indian societies, the Spanish acculturated them, and the English expelled them—for it
offers a largely accurate summary of European-Indian relationships.
In New England and Virginia, English colonists quickly moved to forbid interracial marriage. Pocahontas stands as the first and almost the last Native to be accepted into British-American society, which we may therefore call “white society,” through marriage. After her, most interracial couples found greater acceptance in Native society. There their children often became chiefs, because their bicultural background was an asset in the complex world the tribes now had to navigate.
In Anglo society “half-breeds” were not valued but stigmatized.
The overall story line most American history textbooks tell about American
Indians is this: We tried to Europeanize them; they wouldn’t or couldn’t do it; so
we dispossessed them. While more sympathetic than the account in earlier
textbooks, this account falls into the trap of repeating as history the propaganda
used by policy makers in the nineteenth century as a rationale for removal—that
Native Americans stood in the way of progress. The only real difference is the
Back when white Americans were doing the dispossessing, justifications were shrill. They denounced Native cultures as primitive, savage, and nomadic. Often writers invoked the hand or blessings of God, said to favor those who “did more” with the land.
Now that the dispossessing is done, our histories since 1980 can see more virtue in the conquered cultures. But they still pictured American Indians as tragically different, unable or unwilling to acculturate.
White settler propaganda
When they stress Natives’ alleged unwillingness to acculturate, American histories slip into the story line of the official seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. “Come Over and Help Us” is white settler propaganda, which grew into an archetype of well-meaning Europeans and tragically different Indians.
Under penalty of death
The trouble is, it wasn’t like that. The problem was not Native failure to acculturate. In reality, many European Americans did not really want Indians to acculturate. It wasn’t in their interest. At times this was obvious, as when the Massachusetts legislature in 1789 passed a law prohibiting teaching Native Americans how to read and write “under penalty of death.”
Cherokees already were farmers
President Thomas Jefferson told a delegation of Cherokees in 1808, “Let me entreat you therefore, on the lands now given [sic] you to begin every man a farm, let him enclose it, cultivate it, build a warm house on it, and when he dies let it belong to his wife and children after him.”
In reality, the Cherokees already were farmers who were visiting Jefferson precisely to ask the president to assign their lands to them in severalty (as individual farms) and to make them citizens.
Jefferson put them off. The American Way asks students, “Why were the Indians moved further west?” Its teachers’ edition provides the answer: “They were moved so the settlers could use the land for growing crops.” We might add this catechism: “What were the Indians doing on the land?” “They were growing crops!” When Jefferson spoke to the Cherokees, whites had been burning Native houses and cornfields for 186 years, beginning in Virginia in 1622.
Cherokee in Georgia in 1825
A census taken among the Cherokee in Georgia in 1825 (reported in Vogel, ed.,
This Country Was Ours, 289) showed that they owned “33 grist mills, 13 saw mills, 1 powder mill, 69 blacksmith shops, 2 tan yards, 762 looms, 2,486 spinning wheels, 172 wagons, 2,923 plows, 7,683 horses, 22,531 black cattle, 46,732 swine, and 2,566 sheep.” Some Cherokees were wealthy planters, including Joseph Vann, who cultivated three hundred acres, operated a ferry, steamboat, mill, and tavern, and owned this mansion. It aroused the envy of the sheriff and other whites in Murray County, who evicted Vann in 1834 and appropriated the house for themselves, according to Lela Latch Lloyd.
Native Americans acculturated
No matter how thoroughly Native Americans acculturated, they could not succeed in white society. Whites would not let them. “Indians were always regarded as aliens, and were rarely allowed to live within white society except on its periphery,” according to Nash.
112 Native Americans who amassed property, owned European-style homes, perhaps operated sawmills, merely became the first targets of white thugs who coveted their land and improvements. In time of war the position of assimilated Indians grew particularly desperate. Consider Pennsylvania. During the French and Indian War the Susquehannas, living peaceably in white towns, were hatcheted by their neighbors, who then collected bounties from authorities who weren’t careful whose scalp they were paying for, so long as it was Indian. Through the centuries and across the country, this pattern recurred. In 1860, for instance, California ranchers killed 185 of the 800 Wiyots, a tribe allied with the whites, because they were angered by other tribes’ cattle raids.
Five Civilized Tribe
The new textbooks do a splendid job telling how the “Five Civilized Tribes”—Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, Creeks, and Seminoles— acculturated successfully, but were exiled to Oklahoma anyway. Nevertheless, authors never let these settled Indians interfere with the traditional story line. Forgetting how whites forced Natives to roam, forgetting just who taught the Pilgrims to farm in the first place, our culture and our textbooks still stereotype Native Americans as roaming primitive hunting folk, hence unfortunate victims of progress. As Boorstin and Kelley put it, “North of Mexico, most of the people lived in wandering tribes and led a simple life. North American Indians were mainly hunters and gatherers of wild food. An exceptional few—in Arizona and New Mexico—settled in one place and became farmers.”
Europeans were the nomads
Ironically, to Native eyes, Europeans were the nomads. As Chief Seattle put it
in 1855, “To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is
hallowed ground. You wander far from the graves of your ancestors and
seemingly without regret.” In contrast, Indian “roaming” consisted mainly of
moving from summer homes to winter homes and back again.
Why acculturation couldn’t work
One way to understand why acculturation couldn’t work for most Natives is to imagine that the United States allowed lawless discrimination against all people whose last name starts with the letter L. How long would we last? The first nonL people who wanted our homes or jobs could force us out, and we would be without resources. People around us would then blame us L people for being vagrants. That is what happened to Native Americans. In Massachusetts, colonists were constantly tempted to pick quarrels with Indian families because the result was likely to be acquiring their land.
The Nez Percé reservation by 1862
In Oregon, 240 years later, the process continued. Ten thousand whites had moved onto the Nez Percé reservation by 1862, so a senator from Oregon suggested that the United States should remove the nation. Senator William Fessenden of Maine pointed out the problem: “There is no difficulty, I take it, in Oregon in keeping men off the lands that are owned by white men. But when the pos essor happens to be an Indian, the question is changed altogether.”
Without legal rights
Without legal rights, acculturation cannot succeed. Inmuttooyahlatlat, known to whites as Chief
Joseph, said this eloquently: “We ask that the same law shall work alike on all men. If an Indian breaks the law, punish him by the law. If a white man breaks the law, punish him also. Let me be a free man—free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to talk and think and act for myself.”
It was not to be. Most courts simply refused to hear testimony from Native Americans against whites. After noting how non-Indians could rise through the ranks of Native societies, anthropologist Peter Farb summed up the possibilities in white society: “At almost no time in the history of the United States, though, were the Indians afforded similar opportunities for voluntary
The acculturated Native simply stood out as a target.
Casting Indian history as a tragedy because Native Americans could not or would not acculturate is feelgood history for whites. By downplaying Indian wars, textbooks help us forget that we wrested the continent from Native Americans. Today’s college students, when asked to compile a list of U.S. wars, never think to include Indian wars, individually or as a whole. The Indian-white wars that dominated our history from 1622 to 1815 and were of considerable importance until 1890 have mostly disappeared from our national memory.
The antidote to the pious ethnocentrism
Indian history is the antidote to the pious ethnocentrism of American exceptionalism, the notion that European Americans are God’s chosen people. Indian history reveals that the United States and its predecessor British colonies have wrought great harm in the world. We must not forget this—not to wallow in our wrongdoing, but to understand and to learn, that we might not wreak harm again. We must temper our national pride with critical self-knowledge, suggests historian Christopher Vecsey: “The study of our contact with Indians, the envisioning of our dark American selves, can instill such a strengthening doubt.”
History through red eyes offers our children a deeper understanding than comes from encountering the past as a story of inevitable triumph by the good guys.
Book: -Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (James Loewen)