Letter: No more 'white washing' of Native history here

Posted 5/17/23

Why does the Little Compton Historical Society need until 2025 to give a report on the abysmal history of the area’s Native population? We have the town records right at the Brownell Library, …

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Letter: No more 'white washing' of Native history here

Posted

Why does the Little Compton Historical Society need until 2025 to give a report on the abysmal history of the area’s Native population? We have the town records right at the Brownell Library, along with a raft of fine books on the subject. Two of the best are "Mayflower" by Nathaniel Philbrick, and "This Land is Their Land" by David Silverman.

In Marjory O’Toole’s recent talk, she spoke about the “sale” of land by the Natives to the settlers. These were under no circumstances sales. The Natives of course did not speak the “King’s English,” nor did they have any concept of land ownership — or gunpowder.

They learned the hard way how the white men were greedy to grab their land by any means. Thus, they were duped, deceived, and tricked into giving up their land — every inch of it. This land grab continued west until the white men had stolen all the Native land in this country. Recall the esteemed Andrew Jackson and his policy of “Indian Removal,” and whose motto, admired by many — “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.” This was the prevailing philosophy in the country. The white Christian settlers believed in “manifest destiny.” They believed that the Natives were savages and worse, heathens, and that their god wanted them to have the land — so they took it.

Manifest destiny ensured the removal and genocide of the country’s Native population. At the conclusion of Marjory’s talk, she correctly said that there were no Natives or relatives of Native tribes to ensure the true story. We find in our town records that the Natives who weren’t killed were relegated to an area in Little Compton where “they died of disease, or were dispossessed.” Dispossessed meant that they were taken to Bristol, where they were sold into slavery right here in Rhode Island or sent to the Caribbean as part of what was called in Bristol, “the perfect triangle.” The rum barrels were made in Bristol, and slaves were loaded onto ships and unloaded in the Caribbean, where the barrels were filled with rum, and then sailed to Africa to pick up more slaves. They then returned to Bristol with the African slaves and the barrels filled with rum — the perfect triangle. No one knows exactly how many ships sailed from Bristol in this manner, but it was a thriving business.

As they say, history is written by the victors, so we are often privy only to a biased history perpetuated by the white settlers.

There should be no more “white washing” of the truth.

Denise Lyons
Little Compton

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