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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Jamestown Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Jamestown Jubilee

Doug Phillips

WND Exclusive Commentary

Who speaks for the American Indian?
Posted: May 4, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

Apparently, the hatchet is not buried.

Savage philosophies are fighting for primacy this week in Jamestown. Not surprisingly, a war of words has been launched in conjunction with the arrival of the queen of England at Jamestown and the inauguration of America's 400th anniversary commemoration.

Chief Ann Richardson of the Rappahannock Tribe exclaimed: "I won't celebrate the destruction of my culture ... just because new people showed up in town."

Dr. Linwood "Little Bear" Custalow, author of "The True Story of Pocahontas," not only hopes to be personally introduced this week to the queen, but wants Her Majesty to formally apologize for the British role in Jamestown.

"She should definitely apologize," Custalow said.

Chief Ken Adams of the Upper Mattaponi Tribe was less charitable. He opined: "The word annihilation, the word holocaust, the word atrocity come to mind when I think of 1607."

Chief Adams is not talking about the unprovoked mass murder of 347 of men, women and children on March 22, 1622, by Opechancanough, half-brother to Wahunsonacock, commonly known as Chief Powhatan. Nor is he talking about Powhatan's ruthless policies towards fellow Indian tribes. Adams, like Custelow, is fudging on the facts.

He and others like him are capitalizing on America's birthday at Jamestown to train people to reject the last 400 years of historical interpretation in favor of what I call "the new mythology" of Jamestown.

This new mythology is "new" because it has recently been invented.

It's trendy. It's hip. It's also baloney.

And it's even more insidious than the absurd portrayal of a provocative Pocahontas and her environmentally conscious animal kingdom presented by Walt Disney.

The new mythology teaches that America was founded by ruthless Christians who, very much like Nazis, engaged in a "holocaust" against an innocent and peace-loving people. One "new mythology" exhibition in Jamestown portrays the Indians as "in harmony with the life that surrounds them." On the other hand, America's Founding Fathers, we are told, came from a land of "limited opportunity" ravaged by economic despair and governed by a "small elite."

Mythology Part I: Oral stories trump academic studies

The new mythology does not pretend to come from books, primary source documents, or traditional academic historiography. Such techniques, we are told, are mere propaganda from white European Christians. The mythology has even crept its way into the visitor centers of Jamestown where you can buy Dr. Custalow's book, "The True Story of Pocahontas," which begins with formal prayers to spirit demons and proceeds with a completely undocumented and unsupported revision of all that is known about Pocahontas. Apparently, we are expected to accept this on face value.

The bad guys in the story? You guessed it white European Christians.

Here is an experiment in oral history for you: Sit around a circle for 400 years whispering a story from ear to ear and person to person. Next, politicize the story-telling process and introduce a spoonful of old-fashioned bitterness. Finally, wait for the most strategically advantageous moment in history to reveal the alleged "true story."

Here is what you get: Pocahontas was abused, forcibly converted to Christianity and poisoned by the evil invaders.

At least that is the true story based on Custalow's confidence in tribal "oral tradition."

Mythology Part II: Who speaks for Jamestown's Indians?

The second part of the new mythology is the idea that certain individuals are the true, exclusive and authorized voice for the descendants of Chief Powhatan.

But this is entirely misleading for at least two reasons.

First, there are no "true" spokesmen for the descendants of Indian tribes that interacted with the Jamestown settlers. Furthermore, the idea that these Indian tribes have continued in a pure and unbroken line of descent from Jamestown to the present day is false.

By 1705, the Powhatan Empire had diminished to only six tribes. These remaining six would all but disappear in the years that followed. A distinctive Indian ethnicity largely ceased to exist.

In recent years, individuals claiming to represent the remnants of eight surviving Chickahominy tribes of the Powhatan confederacy have sought and been denied tribal recognition by the federal government. The federal government's denial is understandable. After four centuries of cultural assimilation through intermarriage, conversions to Christianity and more intermarriage, it is improper for individuals who cannot clearly prove their ancestry and distinct ethnicity to expect to be given a status that comes with significant financial benefits.

Because of a unique treaty dating to 1677, two tribes are recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia the Mattaponai and the Pamunkey. The Mattaponai retain 1,200 acres of land, and the Pamunkey 100. Approximately 45 to 50 individuals live on each property. But that's pretty much it.

Second, today's true descendants of Powhatan are businessmen, Christian pastors, electricians and homemakers who come in many different shapes, sizes and shades of skin color. They are fully integrated members of Americans society, with all of the benefits of being Americans, including the right to vote. These individuals largely do not look, act, or think like the Indians who populated the world of 1607, and it is certainly disingenuous to claim that "they" are the exclusive spokesmen for the history of "their" people.

They certainly are not.

The line of Pocahontas alone contains untold thousands of Americans direct descendants of the leadership of the Powhatan confederacy few of whom have gone on the warpath expressing disapproval for the arrival of Christianity or the establishment of Jamestown.

These American Indian descendants appear grateful. Their perspective is altogether different from those individuals who are seeking to hijack our national celebration and turn it into a year of mourning, guilt manipulation and self-loathing.

One of these descendants is Harrison Tyler, a great, great, great (add more greats) grandson of Princess Pocahontas. His story is featured in the recently aired television documentary from Vision Forum Ministries entitled "Jamestown: Ancient Landmark, Modern Battleground." Like thousands of other Americans who trace their lineage to Chief Powhatan, Tyler is not only grateful, but he will be celebrating the remarkable story of Jamestown during the week of June 11-16 when he serves as the grand marshall of the "Jamestown Quadricentennial: A Celebration of America's Providential History."

So what are we to make of the demands on the queen by self-appointed spokesmen for the heirs of Powhatan? What of the mournful claims of "holocaust" coming from the propagandists of the new mythology? What of the politically charged programs on environmental injustice or the displays dedicated to exposing the elitism of 17th century Christians coming from the officials behind the non-celebration? And what of the replacement of academic scholarship for highly politicized and historically unverifiable oral tradition?

Honestly, we are facing a massacre of our history. And the right response is an intelligent, thoughtful, de-politicized defense of the truth.

Rob's reply
Phillips's first "myth" is asinine since scholars have written hundreds or thousands of books reassessing Jamestown and other British colonizers. These reassessments are as solid as any academic studies. They have nothing to do with "oral traditions" whispered around a campfire.

Phillips's second myth is also asinine because the Indians who speak for Pocahontas aren't just doing it because they're her descendants. They're doing it because they're members of the tribe Pocahontas once belonged to. They understand and honor their tribal beliefs much more than other descendants who left the tribe and now know nothing about it.

See Virginia's Indians Tout "Mythology"? for a further deconstruction of this claptrap. Also see Indians Who Practiced Cannibalism, Torture Dominated America for more of Phillips's beliefs.

Related links
Pocahontas bastardizes real people
This ain't no party:  a Columbus Day rant
Those evil European invaders

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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