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Wétiko, Jamestown styley (vs. New England)

May 2, 2013

And another thing that inevitably came up in response to the first post:





This might be the first specimen that provides evidence for cannibalism, but Owsley is pretty sure there are more to come. Percy’s letter also describes how, as president of the colony, he tortured and burned alive a man who had confessed to killing, salting and eating his pregnant wife—so the remains of this woman, along with other victims of cannibalism, may…



one day, when enough truth is unearthed in all the right yards, more people will understand why the statement “[May] God shed his grace on thee” is a threat, and why that threat is the US anthem.

Keep in mind that the Pilgrims were religious fanatics from the get-go. The reason they were being “persecuted” in England was they were pretty much trying to start a civil war so they could replace the Church of England as the state church, and they were doing THAT because they believed the CoE was too moderate. They came to America for the specific purpose of forming a church-state theocracy in which there would be zero tolerance of beliefs other than their own.

(The formatting there got fouled up at some point in reblogging, so I put attributions back in and stuck most of the OP behind a cut.)

Good point, in New England. Virginia was a whole other kettle of fish, starting out totally from a profit motive. (Public-private partnership, no less.) Lebensraum and a place to send prisoners and other undesirables away from the tiny little British Isles came later, but none of it was particularly religiously motivated further south. Beyond the usual Doctrine of Discovery excuse for trying to grab other people’s stuff. They wanted money and other resources however they could get them, and mostly didn’t even bother to try to look like they wanted to “save souls”. It was more like the Anglo-Carribean colonies that way. There were actually pretty close ties between the Chesapeake and the “British” Caribbean.

I’m actually pretty glad that the weirdo separatist Puritans got blown off course and ended up in Massachusetts instead of in the already existing Virginia colony where they were trying to go, though. (If not so glad for the people who did end up with them…) Purer greed is maybe easier to deal with in some ways than the kind of “Pilgrim” theocratic approach that assumes you’re the freaking Antichrist. (Seriously. Native people partly embodied the Antichrist.)

That’s another problem with the commonly presented founding myth: the slave-based cash cropping economy was already beginning in Virginia by the time any “Pilgrims” made it across the Atlantic. Beyond the “religious freedom” idea that gets pushed there as part of the national mythology, which really had way too much in common with the kind of theocratic nightmare some evangelicals want now in the US. As you point out. 🙂

ETA more about some history the official mythology erases:

In 1619, one year before the Mayflower landed, about 20 Africans traveling aboard a Spanish ship were captured by a privateer, either a  Dutch ship or an English ship flying a  Dutch flag. When the pirates ran out of food they stopped at Pt. Comfort, now Ft. Monroe (“Freedom’s Fort”) in Hampton, Virginia, then sailed up what is now the James River. The pirates sold the Africans into indentured servitude to Jamestown’s Governor Yeardley, who supplied them with food and water.

Knowing that he was acting against regulations forbidding trafficking with pirates, Yeardley hid the Africans away on his tobacco plantation across the Chickahominy River at Weyanoke, a few miles from where the Weyanoke Indians lived in what is now Charles City County, Virginia. “Weyanoke,” in the Algonquin-related language of the Weyanokes, meant “sassafras,” and referred to a tree commonly found in the area. The root of the sassafras tree was (and still is) used to make a deliciously aromatic tea with medicinal properties. Sassafras was the Jamestown settlers’ first cash crop, and was marketed in Europe as a cure-all.

Thus was formed, at Weyanoke, the first African community in an English-speaking colony in North America. While these were not the first Africans in the colony, they are the first now known to have lived together in a community.

I can totally understand why some people would rather erase that kind of history. But, it’s kind of late now to act embarrassed, rather than try to learn from horrible fuckery that people got up to 400 years ago. And try to do better in the future.


Going to add explicitly: neocolonialism and neoliberal policies don’t really pass for doing better.

Also, I get tired of hearing the oversimplification of “America’s Puritan heritage” used to explain any number of trends. (This seems very popular in the UK, where you’d really have to be a historian to keep all the colonial history straight…) At least as important to understanding what is still going on in the world is the heritage of unbridled exploitative greed. Not to mention the variety of other religious influences you get from stocking some colonies with an astounding assortment of nutballs you want to get rid of, but yeah.

Greed is crucial there. It’s also harder for the rest of the world to separate itself from than some weirdos trying to set up their own “New Israel” on the Massachusetts coast.

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