GenMassachusetts-L ArchivesArchiver > GenMassachusetts > 2001-06 > 0991610654
From: "Noreen" <>
Subject: [GM-L] Natives and White Settlers Discussion Posed by Carolyn Whitney Branagan
Date: Sun, 3 Jun 2001 19:24:48 -0500
In regards to comments by Carolyn/ Chris ? Branigan on the statements made by Lee Castleton in the Whitney group (which I also am a member of) although I do agree with both of their statements regarding us modern genealogists being careful not to pass judgements on our anscestors I have to speak up and say that we also must be cautious not to make the same mistakes they did.
Life for all Native peoples was never easy after whites arrived. Although natives in the New England were not faced with inhilation based on a outright campaign to the extent that the Jews in Nazi Germany did or to the extent that their native brothers and sisters in the midwest and western areas of America did, they were often victims of a more subtle genocide that lay in prejudism and discrimination. Often this form is perhaps the more dangerous as it seeks in part to destroy by destroying from within ( the distruction of for example one's culture). Native people in New England ,like their counterparts through the Americas, did not choose to assimilate into the white culture. Instead they were either forced into it (ei. being sent to reservations against their will) or did so in order to survive as a people.
Ms. Branigan spoke of the Abanaki tribe in Vermont ,their annual powwow in Swanton (which I have attended many times) and their native language. Even in modern times many of the few remaining Abenakis denied that they were Abanakis because of the racism they were met with. Joseph Bruchac, a native Abanaki who has written numerous books on both his tribe and other indigenous tribes, tells in his book "Bowman's Store A Journey to Myself" how his grandfather and great grandfather told everyone that they were French instead of Native American .Many Abanaki people tried to blend in with the white culture and denied their culture in order to survive.
The first Abanaki Heritage Festival only took place in 1993 mainly because the beat of their drums would always draw the police and the threat of harassment and or jail time which is really no different than the ghost dancers who were massacured at Wounded Knee over a hundred years ago. (If anyone is interested in this subject the book that Castleton suggested is an excellent one "Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee". There are many other great books out there as well.)
There are few Abanakis that know their native language anymore as like the rest of their culture it was suppressed and much of it lost. Joseph Brauchac's son, whom I've spoken with on a couple of occasions, has learned the language of his people and is trying to preseve it before it is gone forever. Unfortunately because their numbers are so few now the U.S. government will not recognize them as a tribe and thus provide funding for a program to teach the Abanaki children. Fortunately there are some like Mr. Bruchac who are volunteering to teach the young themselves.
The relationship between whites and Native peoples have only been just in the eyes of whites. Ask the majority of Native people their feelings and perspectives and a different story emerges.
We in the white world must be careful not to fall into the same trap our forefathers did and assume that the Natives are content with the way things are, that we know what they want or what is best for them. Although government monies are necessary to help Native tribes out of poverty such as found on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations in So. Dakota indigenous people do not want handouts and a free ride but simply to be treated and respected as our equals.
Noreen Maloney LaTour