Ellie Kahn, GBP Student
The history of our city is well-known to all who have studied it: the desperation to detach from an unforgiving nation, a suspenseful and painful revolution, and ultimately, bittersweet independence. The stories we hear about dodging whizzing bullets, surviving cold winters, and other acts of strength sketch for us a portrait of our ancestors as heros, paving the way for us to live in safety and security. We are taught the valor of those who settled this country, portrayed through Thanksgiving arts and crafts in preschool, plays in elementary school, projects in middle school, and documentaries in high school. And of course, not to forget the abundance of gleaming statues and plaques located around the city of Boston itself, a reminder to praise those who settled it. After all, we owe our “land of the free and the home of the brave” to those who won that perilous fight we all know so well. But underneath the red, white and blue, the glimmer of the statues around Boston, and the Thanksgiving arts and crafts lurks a darker, more hidden past. It is a past that isn’t talked about as much as it should be.
The past few weeks in the Greater Boston Project have been dedicated to researching and learning about the different Native American tribes whose lives were transformed when the settlers came over from England. We have read primary source after primary source detailing the horrors, ignorance, and general disrespect that the Puritans offered to them, as if they were gifts. For example, the Nauset Tribe, who, despite being known as the colonist’s greatest “allies,” were decimated by disease and abduction as a result of the the colonist’s introduction. Or the Paugussett Tribe, the first group to help the settlers after they arrived, as well as the first group herded onto a reservation, leaving their land to be taken by the settler’s. Or the Quinnipiac tribe, who could not no longer sustain themselves because of the environmental changes caused by the colonists. The list of Native American tribes who were profoundly affected by the arrival of the colonists is shamefully long.
The point of that list: our history is not untainted. It is okay to want to celebrate our nation; there is a lot to be celebrated. We fought brutal battles to break away from a powerful country that aimed to control every aspect of our lives, and when the dust settled and we were finally free, we were left to pick up the pieces and establish our own nation. Our history is important to remember and commemorate, but we cannot just pick and choose the stories of which we are proud. Along with the tales of sacrifice and glory, of passion and of victory, we must not forget those who were made to suffer through trials of despair and pain in the cause of our history, the terror and disruption we caused to the Native American tribes. We cannot acknowledge our fight for freedom without first acknowledging those whose freedom we took away.
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