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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Jamestown Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

No apology required:  Celebrate Jamestown!

May 13, 2007 12:35 am

JAMESTOWN—One hundred years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt encouraged the people of America to celebrate the blessed providence of God through our founding as a nation at Jamestown in 1607.

He was joined by the great thinkers of his generation, including Booker T. Washington, William Jennings Bryan, and Mark Twain. One of every 29 Americans responded by traveling to the Jamestown Tercentenary.

Now for the quadricentennial of our founding as a nation, some officials are telling Americans that it is inappropriate to celebrate.

In fact, they've banned the use of the term "celebration" from the state-sanctioned remembrances. Rather than rejoice in our heritage on this—the anniversary weekend of the founding of Jamestown in 1607—we have been urged to "express regret" for the coming of Christianity to the New World.

Why this call for apologetic angst?

Leftist advocates such as Mary Wade of the Virginia Council of Indians have convinced the official Jamestown 2007 Committee that we "can't celebrate an invasion." And the political rhetoric is flying. Official quadricentennial event panelists, including speakers like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Otis Moss, have labeled our settlement as a nation a "holocaust" and a "lynching."

These sentiments have been repeated by other featured spokesmen like Ken Adams, chief of the Upper Mattaponi tribe, who characterized Jamestown's legacy as one of "annihilation [and] Holocaust"—an "atrocity."

For the first time in American history, our officials are embarrassed about our heritage on a landmark anniversary. For America's 400th birthday, the official Jamestown "commemoration" has become a homage to revisionist historiography and unsubstantiated "oral traditions."

The politically correct thought police have had their way.

And the revisionist message is clear: Christian settlers were vicious savages, genocidal murderers, and environmental terrorists. In contrast, native pagans were noble, civilized, and peace-loving. The providential history of America's founding is a national embarrassment. Children should hate their forefathers.

The Remarkable Men

But there is another Jamestown that American boys and girls can remember for their 400th birthday party. It is the same Jamestown that has been honored and remembered on historic jubilee and centennial celebrations spanning the last 200 years.

It is the real Jamestown—the story of imperfect but remarkable men who were instruments of a sovereign Creator to establish a nation of law and liberty under God.

That story really begins in the 16th century with a visionary named Richard Hakluyt. A prolific author, cartographer, and ordained minister, Hakluyt is the man primarily responsible for persuading the monarchy and a generation of explorers that Virginia was the best place for carrying out the Great Commission.

His vision of discipleship and dominion was formally enshrined in the Virginia Charter of 1606.

The men who arrived at Jamestown inaugurated their settlement with the planting of a cross, thanksgivings to God, and followed with daily prayers. They would build the first church in American history, disciple the first Indian converts, and perform the first Christian baptisms.

Jamestown is the spot of America's first "interracial" marriage based on the Christian faith. In his eloquent letter to the governor of Jamestown, John Rolfe would argue for the legitimacy of marriage, regardless of skin color or national origin, where the couple was united by faith in Christ. His theological argument won the day and established a legal precedent that endured for more than half a century.

The Jamestown settlers gave the Holy Scriptures a permanent home in America. This is perhaps the most enduring legacy of Jamestown: The coming of the Bible to America fundamentally changed the history of the North American continent.

It was the Bible that communicated the hope of personal redemption and the basis for stable civilization.

This is one reason why Jamestown would become the first permanent settlement to establish a legal system based directly on the moral law of God and the applicable principles found in the case laws of Holy Scripture. This Christian "common law" was later incorporated by direct reference into our U.S. Constitution.

Jamestown also gave us our first experiment in republican representative government, a model that finds its origins in the Hebrew Republic of the Old Testament, and was formally adopted by the Founding Fathers of a later generation.

While the legacy of Christian Europeans at Jamestown is not without bumps and warts, the lasting influence of the settlement would change the world—and dramatically for the better!

Before the arrival of these Protestant Christians and the successful planting of the first permanent English settlement, North America was dominated by warring tribes engaged in activities such as paganism, cannibalism, and ritual torture.

Whether the sons and daughters of the 21st century experience a jihad of hatred against our Christian forebears—or whether they can rejoice in a jubilee of thanksgiving—largely depends on the messages we send them.

A real celebration

For the week of June 11-16, thousands of grateful families from across the United States of America will gather in Virginia's historic triangle for an unabashed celebration. In the grand tradition of great centennial events, The Jamestown Quadricentennial: A Celebration of America's Providential History will trumpet a message of hope.

Boys and girls will learn to defend their history. They will rejoice in dramatic presentations, tethered hot-air-balloon tours, boat rides, and period music. Children will recite poetry, wear vintage costumes, and listen to great orators of our day tell the true stories of 400 years of the providence of God and the perseverance of the American people. For details, visit jamestown400.org.

As others engage in self-loathing and angst over Jamestown's founding, we hope that Americans from sea to shining sea will join us in celebrating our nation's remarkable history on this, our 400th birthday.

Copyright 2007 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.

Douglas W. Phillips is executive producer of the WWII documentary "The League of Grateful Sons" and founder of the Jamestown Quadricentennial.

Truth, not truthiness
Some articles on Jamestown that address Phillips's claims:

The Jamestown Project
by Karen Ordahl Kupperman
Harvard University Press
March 2007, 360 pages, $29.95

Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America
by Benjamin Woolley
April 2007, 469 pages, $27.50

by Carlin Romano
The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

After 400 years, it's time to see Jamestown clearly

All nations need foundation tales. If they don't exist, it's necessary to invent them. And if the real story doesn't play well, foundation myths come in handy. At least until the real story comes back to bite.

Israel in its early days liked to recycle the stirring slogan of "a land without people for a people without land." Zionists or not, Israelis today don't buy the first part of that line. Taiwan for decades presented itself as the legitimate government of mainland China, sentenced to a kind of enforced sabbatical across the water. No more.

And France? It still can't look at itself in the mirror. As its new president Nicolas Sarkozy declared, France remains an egalitarian republic "at the side of the world's oppressed," ushered in by the French Revolution. Pay no attention to those smashed boutique windows in the Place de la Bastille the other night or the roll-call way back at the same Place during France's post-revolution Reign of Terror.

Philadelphians know better than most that the United States also trades in foundation myths, because the nation's birth continues as a prominent part of our present. For a long time, slavery's spot in the triumphalism of the American Revolution received hardly a nod, a distortion now receding even on Independence Mall.

NYU historian Karen Kupperman expertly articulates another traditional foundation tale in The Jamestown Project, a superb, clear-eyed history timed to the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Va., by 104 colonists. As the first permanent English settlement in America, Jamestown became a project marked by starvation, mass death, abuse of American Indians and despondency before the enterprise finally righted itself.

"Americans prefer to think of Plymouth colony in New England as our true foundation," Kupperman writes at the outset of her brisk study. In our "agreed-upon national story," she explains, we portray the Pilgrims, who arrived 13 years after Jamestown's start, as "the direct opposite of the Jamestown group. They were humble people who wanted only a place to worship God as they saw fit, and they lived on terms of amity with one another and with the neighboring Indians. ... They occupied family farms and were content with self-sufficiency. They are the forbears we prefer to acknowledge."

In contrast, Jamestown appeared a collection of "greedy, grasping colonists in America and their arrogant backers in England," a "shambles of death and despair" in which half of the original colonists died within four months, along with 75 percent of the 6,000 who came between 1607 and 1624. Killed by typhoid, dysentery and salt poisoning, and often at each other's throats, they also paid a price for their "belligerent intrusions" on the local Indians. That slowly turned the latter against them, culminating in a 1622 massacre of more than 300 Jamestown colonists. To make matters worse, Jamestown's legacy included the first North American use of African slaves in its scramble for tobacco profits to keep the colony alive.

Kupperman's accurate, balanced take on the relative roles of Jamestown and Plymouth in our collective memory acknowledges Jamestown's sins, yet credits the earlier colony with painfully forging the business and political model—capitalist, representative democracy—that permitted English civilization to endure in the New World. The Pilgrims, she notes, "studied Jamestown's record."

One result of our historical favoring of Plymouth is that most Americans remain ignorant of basic Jamestown facts, a lacuna that Kupperman fills, as does prizewinning British author and broadcaster Benjamin Woolley in his jazzier Savage Kingdom. The story of the Pilgrims comes back to us when we eat turkey at Thanksgiving. Since we don't annually eat rats or a salted, murdered, pregnant wife—both part of Jamestown's "creation story from hell," in Kupperman's phrase—we're foggy on details. For every American familiar with Capt. John Smith's supposed romance with the 10-year-old Indian princess Pocahontas—by all accounts apocryphal, though she did marry Smith's fellow colonist John Rolfe and die at 21—few know the miseries of Jamestown's "Starving Time."

The historical minutiae Kupperman and Woolley provide tell us much about America's ethos, then and now. Like almost all European ventures in the New World, Jamestown started as a business project by venture capitalists, meant to return quick profit to investors. It succeeded because the people involved in it—the "rank and file," according to Kupperman, rather than the elites—wouldn't let it fail. Yet an ugly part of Jamestown's survival is that it came only after colonists, following the 1622 massacre, dropped the Virginia Company's "policy of appeasing the Indians" (in Woolley's language) and decided to wreak whatever violence on them that they considered necessary, largely destroying them through superior numbers and arms.

Savage Kingdom narrates a popular, breathless, frequently shoot-'em-up version of this whole story right to what Woolley calls the "brutal autumn" of 1623, when Jamestown colonists attacked the Indians, and one young leader, Henry Spelman, had his severed head thrown back at his 26 men by the local Pawtuxunt tribe.

Savage Kingdom—note that title—offers a summer-blockbuster version of Jamestown, full of action tempo, and a tilt against Kupperman's credo that Jamestown remains best understood as a corporate project that evolved. Woolley's rhetoric booms as he writes of "flawed, dispossessed, desperate people trying to reinvent themselves ... caught in a dirty struggle to survive, haunted by failure, hungering for escape, dreaming of riches and hoping for redemption."

While both authors recognize that 17th-century claims of spreading Christianity west often camouflaged greed, Woolley more strongly interprets Jamestown as a patrician project usurped by ordinary colonists. That's symbolized most enduringly by John Smith, whose belief in an "abounding America" open for the taking ultimately overran every other force. Read Woolley for fun, Kupperman for sure-handed scholarly context.

Both, by the way, should be faulted for paying no attention to "a greene Country Towne" founded in 1681 to "always be wholsome," a place for the persecuted, a site of peace with the Indians, a city of brotherly love. That city also helps explain what the United States became.

One of America's many glories as the world's foremost free-expression society is that real stories eclipse foundation myths century by century, however tortuously. Proud of the beautiful ideals enshrined in our birth documents, well-educated Americans today nonetheless also understand the shameful elements of our history, from the assault on the Indians to the slavery that survived a Constitution aimed at ensuring individual freedom.

Anniversaries help in that regard—they focus the nation's attention and galvanize authors and publishers to take stock. Queen Elizabeth and President Bush dropped by Jamestown.

And truth, not truthiness, is on the way.

— 18 May 2007


The emperors have no clothes

Posted: May 10, 2007 by: Editors Report / Indian Country Today

Arriving on our shores on May 3, Queen Elizabeth II met with the kind of pomp and circumstance to which she is accustomed. The monarch enjoyed much fanfare as special guest at the 400th anniversary commemoration of Jamestown, the first permanent English colony. She was greeted by admiring well-wishers, including many Virginia tribal representatives. She celebrated the 104 Englishmen, boys and investors who landed on the shores of what we now call Virginia in 1607. She attended the Kentucky Derby and was the guest of honor at a lavish white-tie state dinner at the White House.

It was a lovely visit. That is, if one does not require that official denial be checked at customs. The queen expressed sympathy for those affected by the April 16 killings at Virginia Tech. But she issued a royal punt when acknowledging her kingdom's role in importing African slavery and conducting state-sponsored genocide of Native peoples following the establishment of the permanent Jamestown colony. "Human progress rarely comes without costs," she offered. It was a dismissal of the most regal sort, and it helped set the tone for the weeklong commemoration of the arrival of Europeans to the Virginia coast.

Queen Elizabeth II wasn't the only one who was affected by historical blindness. President Bush welcomed her to the White House on May 7 with choice words of his own. "The settlers at Jamestown planted the seeds of freedom and democracy on American soil," said the president, "and from those seeds sprung a nation ... " This ill-advised remark, although no doubt true in his mind, evokes an agricultural metaphor that is not just historically false but disingenuous, too.

In fact, it was the clan-based, longhouse-dwelling people who had knowledge of the land of the so-called New World. And after the colony's establishment, it was African slaves who tended the real "seed of freedom": tobacco. If the foreigners grew anything for themselves, it was the early model of American imperialism — exploiting shared resources to gain wealth for the state. This model flourishes today, the state's hypocrisy honed by consumer-citizens who generally feel no sense of responsibility for the original sins committed by their own ancestors. No doubt this would been a source of resentment for any Native people attending the White House gala, had any been invited.

Just as the legend of Pocahontas as Jamestown's princess heroine persists in the American psyche, so does the myth of the "founding" of an American society based on the rights and dignity of the individual. Pocahontas, the young daughter of Powhatan, is almost always depicted as a love-struck teen who willingly aided the hungry settlers. Rarely is she imagined as a child captive of an unhygienic man twice her age. She is one among the handful of internationally famous Native Americans because she helped the Europeans in their quest to tame the New World. The message is loud and clear: The only good Indian is one who can be honored as a symbol of colonization, of a better life through white "civilization."

The Virginia tribal representatives who attended the events commemorating Jamestown hoped they might raise awareness of their survival and contemporary struggle for federal recognition. Despite a few vague euphemisms regarding historical or modern relations with the tribes of the Chesapeake area by either the queen or President Bush, the Native peoples of Virginia were clearly not considered one of the nations that, as Bush said, "hold fundamental values in common."

Many of the Associated Press photos that week did not bother to identify the names, titles or tribes of the Native people, giving the strong impression that they were considered cultural entertainers and not fellow leaders. With all the planning it takes to develop an 18-month-long commemoration, it seems the Native people were allowed to contribute in an effort to stave off tribal protests during this brief but amply publicized period of high tea and white gloves. After all, in the upper crust where the British and American royalty reside, there is nothing more impolite than polluting rarified air with charges of racism or hypocrisy.

"We're frustrated by repetitions of the same story, given a PC stamp," said Gabrielle Tayac, Piscataway, a historian in the Office of Research at the National Museum of the American Indian. "There was a missed opportunity here, and a tentativeness to fully admit how dangerous the moment of Jamestown was."

The United States is engaging in its own form of long-distance nation-building these days, nurturing a strain of democracy that is not taking well to desert soil. In Iraq, modern-day American settlers are draining the native land of its natural and human resources with one hand while purporting to plant seeds of freedom with the other. The task of spreading liberty is not without sacrifice, as the Native survivors of Jamestown know. As Bush might say, you can't fry up an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Even for him, it is an arrogant dismissal of royal proportion.

Rob's reply
Phillips's wrongest and most stereotypical claim is this:

North America was dominated by warring tribes engaged in activities such as paganism, cannibalism, and ritual torture.

This is pretty ironic considering the Jamestown colonists are documented cannibals and their brethren in Salem stoned and burned witches.

See Indians as Cannibals and Scalping, Torture, and Mutilation by Indians for a refutation of these charges.

So Phillips thinks most Indians were warmongers, torturers, and cannibals? This makes him a racist.

As for the Bible, Phillips thinks we should be glad the colonists brought it to America? Even though it excused and justified slavery, conquest, and Manifest Destiny? Even though it was a source document for the genocide of the continent's inhabitants? With a holy book like that, who needs unholy books?

See Pocahontas Bastardizes Real People for more on Jamestown and Pocahontas. Also see Indians Invent "Mythology" About "Holocaust" Around Campfire for more of Phillips's beliefs.

Related links
What Jesus said
Victor or victim:  our new national anthem?
The myth of Western superiority

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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