SAME SHIT, DIFFERENT CENTURIES
October 24, 2008
For the first 26 years of my life, I lived in a small Rhode Island town, Tiverton. All around me were odd-sounding names of ponds, streets, schools, rivers, and other locations: Nonquit, Pocasset, Conanicus, Sakonnet, Narragansett, Watuppa and others. Occasionally, the name Metacomet was seen, usually as the name of a used car lot or bar.
To me, these names were merely those designated to the area. There were hints that they originated from the Native American language of the Wampanoag Indians, but no in-depth explanation was given. In my 12 years of school in the area, the only Native American history we learned consisted of the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in which the Natives were portrayed as unkempt savages and the Pilgrims were depicted as very civilized.
A few years ago, I read a speech called "Eulogy on King Philip." It mesmerized me and upset me at the same time.
A Native American author, William Apes, of the Pequot tribe wrote the speech and delivered it in Boston in 1836 to a group of descendants of the original Pilgrims of 1620. It was about racism, deceit, slaughter and imperialism. King Philip was the Anglicized name of the Wampanoag chief, Metacomet.
I felt cheated with my education in the area when I realized that the first major resistance movement in the United States occurred right in my backyard. The conflict was called "King Philip’s War" and was fought in the years 1675 and 1676. Per combatant, it is the bloodiest war fought on U.S. soil. Metacomet won every battle, but when the Puritans were ready to return to England, the Natives ran out of food. In the end, the Wampanoag tribe, that had consisted of more than 30,000 people, was left with only 2,000 survivors. They were put into slavery. The tribe never rebounded and today consists of a few thousand, mostly impoverished, who inhabit southeastern Massachusetts.
One may think that "Eulogy on King Philip" is merely an historical account of the white man’s imperialism, but it is far more. Apes’ address in Boston was delivered in 1836 and he told of events that occurred from 1620 to 1676. But, his words are uncannily precise in describing the world today. One can change the dates and places and see an accurate view of today’s imperialistic aspirations of the U.S. with all the warts: racism, xenophobia, ethnocentrism, and Christian domination. Some events told by Apes are identical to those that occurred in the destruction of Iraq. Even the methods of demonizing and killing of adversaries are the same. For instance, Metacomet was betrayed by a Native. The Puritans paid an informant to find Metacomet’s location. He was killed in Bristol, Rhode Island and his body was dismembered. Metacomet’s body parts were displayed in various towns throughout southern New England. This was the white man’s way of displaying superiority.
In 2003, a distant family member of Saddam Hussein was paid by the U.S. military to disclose the whereabouts of Uday and Qusay Hussein. Several hundred "brave" U.S. soldiers loaded the house with thousands of rockets, missiles, bombs, mortars and bullets before they went in. The bodies of the Hussein brothers resembled the remnants of meat that had been put through a meat-grinder. Soon after, the U.S. showed the bodies to the world. This was the same method of showing superiority as the one used more than three centuries earlier.
This is the first of three parts of "Eulogy on King Philip. In my opinion, no finer piece has been written by anyone in describing the horrors of the imperialistic actions of a government. His words were uttered almost two centuries ago, yet they are precise today.
EULOGY ON KING PHILIP
I do not rise to spread before you the fame of a noted warrior, whose natural abilities shown like those of the great and mighty Phillip of Greece, or Alexander the Great, or like those of Washington — whose virtues and patriotism are engraven on the hearts of my audience. Neither do I approve of war as being the best method of bowing the haughty tyrant, MAN, and civilizing the world. No, far from me be such a thought. But it is to bring before you beings, made by the God of Nature, and in whose hearts and heads he has planted sympathies that shall live forever in the memory of the world, whose brilliant talents shone in the display of natural things, so that the most cultivated, whose powers shone with equal lustre, were not able to prepare mantles to cover the burning elements of an uncivilized world. What, then, shall we cease to mention the mighty of the Earth, the noble work of God?
Yet those purer virtues remain untold. Those noble traits that marked the wild man’s course lie buried in the shades of night; and who shall stand? I appeal to the lovers of liberty. But those few remaining descendants who now remain as the monument of the cruelty to those who came to improve our race and correct our errors; and as the immortal Washington lives endeared and engraven on the hearts of every white in America, never to be forgotten in time — even such is the immortal Philip honored, as held in memory by the degraded, but yet grateful descendants, who appreciate his character; so will every patriot, especially in this enlightened age, respect the rude yet all-accomplished son of the forest, that died a martyr to his cause, though unsuccessful, yet as glorious as the American Revolution. Where, then, shall we place the hero of the wilderness?
Justice and humanity for the remaining few prompt me to vindicate the character of him who yet lives in their hearts, and, if possible, melt the prejudice that exists in the hearts of those who are in the possession of his soil, and only by the right of conquest — is the aim of him who proudly tells you, the blood of a denominated savage runs in his veins. It is, however, true, that there were many who are said to be honorable warriors, who, in the wisdom of civilized legislation, think it no crime to reek their vengeance upon whole nations and communities, until the fields are covered with blood, and the rivers turned into purple fountains, while groans, like distant thunder, are heard from the wounded, and the tens of thousands of the dying, leaving helpless families depending on their cares and sympathies for life; while a loud response is heard floating through the air from the ten thousand Indian children and orphans, who are left to mourn the honorable acts of a few — civilized men.
Now, if we have common sense and ability to allow the differences between the civilized world and the uncivilized, we cannot but see that one mode of warfare is as just as the other; for, while one is sanctioned by authority of the enlightened and cultivated men, the other is an agreement according to the pure laws of nature, growing out of natural consequences; for nature always has her defence for every beast of the field; even the reptiles of the earth and the fishes of the sea have their weapons of war. But though frail man was made for a nobler purpose — to live, to love and adore his God, and do good to his brother; for this reason, and this alone, the God of heaven prepared ways and means to blast anger, man’s destroyer, and cause the Prince of Peace to rule, that man might swell those blessed notes. My image is of God, I am not a beast.
But as all men are governed by animal passions who are void of the true principles of God, whether cultivated or uncultivated, we shall now lay before you the true character of Philip, in relation to those hostilities between himself and the whites, and in so doing permit me to be plain and candid.
The first inquiry is, Who is Philip? He was the descendant of one of the most celebrated chiefs in the known world, for peace and universal benevolence towards all men; for injuries upon injuries, and the most daring robberies and barbarous deeds of death that were ever committed by the American Pilgrims, were with patience and resignation borne, in a manner that would do justice to any Christian nation or being in the world — especially when we realize that it was voluntary suffering on the part of the good old chief. His country extensive — his men numerous, so as the wilderness was enlivened by them, say a thousand to one of the white men, and they, also, sick and feeble — where, then, shall we find one nation submitting to tamely to another, with such a host at their command? For injuries of much less magnitude have the people called Christians slain their brethren, till they could sing, like Sampson. With the jaw bone of an ass have we slain our thousands, and laid them in heaps. It will be well for us to lay those deeds and depredations committed by whites upon Indians, before the civilized world, and then they can judge for themselves.
It appears from history that in 1614, "There came one Henry Harley unto me, bringing with him a native of the island of Capawick, a place in the south of Cape Cod, whose name was Epenuel. This man was taken upon the main by force, with some twenty-nine others," very probably good old Massasoit’s men — see Harlow’s Voyage, 1611, "by a ship, and carried to London, and from thence to be sold for slaves among the Spaniards; but the Indians being too shrewd, or, as they say, unapt for their use, they refused to traffic in Indians’ blood and bones." This inhuman act of the whites caused the Indians to be jealous forever afterwards, which the white man acknowledges upon the first pages of the history of his country. (See Drake’s Hist. Of the Indians, page 7.)
How inhuman it was in those wretches to come into a country where nature shown in beauty, spreading her wings over the vast continent, sheltering beneath her shades those natural sons of an Almighty Being, that shone in grandeur and lustre like stars of the first magnitude in the heavenly world; whose virtues far surpassed their more enlightened foes, notwithstanding their pretended seal for religion and virtue. How they could go to work to enslave a free people, and call it religion, is beyond the power of any imagination, and out-strips the revelation o God’s word. Oh, thou pretended hypocritical Christian, whoever thou art, to say it was the design of God, that we should murder and slay one another, because we have the power. Power was not given us to abuse each other, but a mere power delegated to us by the King of heaven, a weapon of defense against error and evil; and when abused, it will turn to our destruction. Mark, then, the history of nations throughout the world.
But notwithstanding the transgression of this power to destroy the Indians at their first discovery, yet it does appear that the Indians had a wish to be friendly. When the pilgrims came among them (Iyanough’s men), there appeared an old woman, breaking out in solemn lamentations, declaring one Capt. Hunt had carried off three of her children, and they would never return here. The pilgrims replied, that they were bad and wicked men, but they were going to do better, and would never injure them at all. And to pay the poor mother, gave her a few brass trinkets, to atone for her three sons, and appease her present feelings, a woman nearly one hundred years of age. Oh, white woman, what would you think, if some foreign nation, unknown to you, should come and carry away from you three lovely children, whom you had dandled on the knee, and at some future time you should behold them, and break forth in sorrow, with your heart broken, and merely ask, sirs, where are my little ones, and some one should reply, it was passion, great passion; what would you think of them? Should you not only think they were beings made more like rocks than men. Yet these same men came to these Indians for support, and acknowledge themselves, that no people could be used better than they were; that their treatment would do honor to any nation; that their provisions were in abundance; that they gave them venison, and sold them many hogsheads of corn to fill their stores, besides beans. This was in the year 1622. Had it not been for this humane act of the Indians, every white man would have been swept from the New England colonies. In their sickness too, the Indians were as tender to them as to their own children; and for all this, they were denounced as savages by those who had received all the acts of kindness they possibly could show them. After these social acts of the Indians towards those who were suffering, and those of their countrymen, who well knew the care their brethren had received of them; how were the Indians treated before that? Oh, hear! In the following manner, and their own words, we presume they will not deny.
December, (O.S.) 1620, the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, and without asking liberty from any one, they possessed themselves of a portion of the country and built themselves houses, and then made a treaty, and commanded them to accede to it. This, if now done, would be called an insult, and every white man would be called to go out and act the part of a patriot, to defend their country’s rights; and if every intruder were butchered, it would be sung from every hill-top in the Union, that victory and patriotism was the order of the day. And yet the Indians (though many were dissatisfied), without the shedding of blood, or imprisoning any one, bore it. And yet, for their kindness and resignation towards the whites, they were called savages, and made by God on purpose for them to destroy. We might say, God understood his work better than this. But to proceed, it appears that a treaty was kept during forty years; the young chiefs during this time, was showing the pilgrims how to live in their country , and find support for their wives and little ones; and for all this, they were receiving the applauses of being savages. The two gentlemen chiefs were Squanto and Samoset, that were so good to the pilgrims.
The next we present before you are things very appalling. We turn our attention to dates 1623, January and March, when Mr. Weston Colony, came very near starving to death; some of them were obligated to hire themselves to the Indians, to become their servants, in order that they might live. Their principal work was to bring wood and water; but not being contented with this, many of the whites sought to steal the Indian’s corn; and because the Indians complained of it, and through their complaint, some one of their number being punished, as they say, to appease the savages. Now let us see who the greatest savages were; the person that stole the corn was a stout athletic man, and because of this, they wished to spare him, and take an old man who was lame and sickly, and that used to get his living by weaving, and because they thought he would not be of so much use to them, he was, although innocent of any crime, hung in his stead. Oh, savage, where art thou, to weep over the Christian’s crimes? Another act of humanity for Christians, as they all themselves, that one Capt. Standish, gathering some fruit and provisions, goes forward with a black and hypocritical heart, and pretends to prepare a feast for the Indians; and when they sit down to eat, they seize the Indians’ knives hanging about their necks, and stab them to the heart. The white people call this stabbing, feasting the savages. We suppose it might well mean themselves, their conduct being more like savages than Christians. They took one Wittumumet, the Chief’s head, and put it upon a pole in their fort; and for aught we know, gave praise to their God for success in murdering a poor Indian; for we know it was their usual course to give praise to God for this kind of victory, believing it was God’s will and command, for them to do so. We wonder if those same Christians do not think it the command of God, that they should lie, steal, and get drunk, commit fornication and adultery. The one is as consistent as the other. What say you, judges, is it not so, and was it not according as they did? Indians think it is.
But we will proceed to show another inhuman act. The whites robbed the Indian graves, and their corn, about the year 1632, which caused Chicataubut to be displeased, who was chief, and also a son to the woman that was dead. And according to the Indian custom it was a righteous act to be avenged of the dead. Accordingly he called all his men together, and addressed them thus: "When last the glorious light of the sky was underneath this globe, and birds grew silent, I began to settle, as is my custom, to take repose. Before my eyes were fast closed, methought I saw a vision, at which my spirit was much troubled. A spirit cried aloud, Behold, my son, whom I have cherished, she the paps that gave thee suck, the hands that clasped thee warm, and fed thee oft. Can thou forget to take revenge of those wild people that have my monument defaced in a despiteful manner, disdaining our ancient antiquities and honorable customs? See, now, the Sachem’s grave lies, like unto the common people of ignoble race, defaced. Thy mother doth complain, and implores thy aid against these thievish people, now come hither. If this be suffered, I shall not rest quiet within my everlasting habitation." War was the result. And where is there a people in the world that would see their friends robbed of their common property, their nearest and dearest friends; robbed, after their last respects to them? I appeal to you, who value your friends, and affectionate mothers, if you would have them robbed of their fine marble, and your storehouses broken open, without calling those to account, who did it? I trow not; and if another nation should come to these regions, and begin to rob and plunder all that came in their way, would not the orators of the day be called to address the people and arouse them to war, for such insults? And, for all this, would they not be called Christians and patriots? Yes, it would be rung from Georgia to Maine, from the Ocean to the lakes, what fine men and Christians there were in the land. But when a few red children attempt to defend their rights, they are condemned as savages, by those, if possible, who have indulged in wrongs more cruel than the Indians.
But there is still more. In 1619 a number of Indians went on board of a ship, by order of their chief, and the whites set upon them, and murdered them without mercy; says Mr. Dermer, "without the Indians giving them the least provocation whatsoever." Is this insult to be borne, and not a word to be said? Truly, Christians would never bear it; why, then, think it strange that the denominated savages to not? Oh, thou white Christian, look at acts that honored your countrymen, to the destruction of thousands, for much less insults than that. And who, my dear sirs, were wanting of the name of savage — whites or Indians? Let justice answer.
But we have more to present; and that is, the violation of a treaty that the Pilgrims proposed for the Indians to subscribe to, and they the first to break it. The Pilgrims promised to deliver up every transgressor of the Indian treaty, to them, to be punished according to their laws, and the Indians were to do likewise. Not it appears that an Indian had committed treason, by conspiring against the king’s life, which is punishable by death; and Massasoit makes demand for the transgressor, and the Pilgrims refuse to give him up, although by their oath of alliance they had promised to do so. Their reasons were, he was beneficial to them. This shows how grateful they were to their former safeguard, and ancient protector. Now, who would have blamed this venerable old chief if he had declared war at once, and swept the whole colonies away? It was certainly in his power to do it, if he pleased; but no, he forbore, and forgave the whites. But where is there a people, called civilized, that would to it? We presume, none; and we doubt but not the Pilgrims would have exerted all their powers to be avenged, and to appease their ungodly passions. But it will be seen that this good old chief exercised more Christian forbearance than any of the governors of that age, or since. It might well be said he was a pattern for the Christians themselves; but by the Pilgrims he is denounced as being a savage.