2.18 The Good Settlers

My daughter and many other children are assigned to read a book by Howard Zinn called A Young People's History of the United States.  That book portrays the settlers as ruthless barbarians who cruelly stole the United States from the generally nice Indians.  Not all the settlers were bad and not all the Indians were nice either.  Mary Grabar in her book Debunking Howard Zinn includes some of what Howard Zinn left out.  She points out that one reason the settlers fought against the Indians was because some Indians attacked the settlers and when they had the opportunity killed everyone, men, women and children.  In 1622 Indians killed 347 colonists including women and children.  Howard Zinn wrote that the massacre was reasonable because the Indians were alarmed at the growth of the English population.  When the British launched a counterattack Howard Zinn wrote that it was because they wanted to exterminate the Indians.  If the English wanted to exterminate the Indians why didn't they do that before the Indians massacred their fellow colonists? 

Mary Grabar writes about other Indian attacks on settlers as well.  The Tuscaroras tribe killed hundreds of settlers in North Carolina.  The Yamasee and their allies killed 400 traders and settlers in South Carolina in 1715.  An Indian tribe called the Pequots attacked settlers and other tribes in the Connecticut valley.  Some tribes actually encouraged the English settlers to settle there to stop the Pequot invasion. 

English settlers made war with the Pequot Indians after the Pequots killed several Europeans.  They demanded that the Pequot turn over the killers of those Englishmen.  Howard Zinn wrote that the English made war to seize Indian land. The Mohegans and the Narragansetts helped the English attack the main Pequot fort on the Mystic River in 1637 because the Pequot invaders were their enemies.  Some genuine friendships developed between whites and their Indian allies. 

Howard Zinn blames the fighting all on the British settlers desire for private property because he believes that private property and capitalism is bad.  He makes a fundamental mistake when he does this.  Just because you desire something and are willing to do something bad to get it doesn't mean it is wrong to desire it.  The wrong comes from being willing to do something bad to get it.  The same applies to capitalism which Howard Zinn opposes.  There is nothing wrong with the desire to make money as long as you don't steal it from someone else.

The behavior of white people toward native Americans improved in the 1830s when in a series of Supreme Court decisions known as the Marshall Trilogy, former Supreme Court Justice John Marshall established several important principles of Native American law. One was the federal Native American trust responsibility, whereby the government charged itself with "moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust" toward Native American tribes. It became the responsibility of the U.S. government to protect Native American assets and resources. Another was the principle that tribes are sovereign, which is inherent to them as the original governing bodies of what is now the United States.  When children are taught that the United States is terrible because of the way it treated the Indians we need to consider how the United States today is treating the Indians, not just the bad things settlers did in the past.

Here is a video about the first Thanksgiving which was celebrated by the Puritans and the Indians.  Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds us that there was a time when there was friendship between the settlers and the Indians.


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America is a nation of immigrants.  Is it racist when Americans keep immigrants out?


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