Grateful to Those Who Taught Me How to Be an American This Year

Grateful to Those Who Taught Me How to Be an American This Year

 We, whose names are underwritten, do now solemnly and mutually covenant and combine ourselves into a civil body politic for our better order and preservation and furtherance of the ends above: And by virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general G

By making this pledge, some British religious dissenters agreed not to start killing each other once they arrived at Cape Cod. The Mayflower Society reports that there were a few passionate arguments on board the Mayflower during the voyage:

Those guys right there looked like loopholes, man. In any case, this led to everyone signing the document promising not to start killing one another, which, given the monotheism of the 17th century, was never a sure thing wherever Europeans found themselves.

The issue is that after coming to this arrangement, they killed everyone else, a practice that John Winthrop and his crew eagerly took part in after they arrived a few degrees north in the area that would become Boston. Catholics and Quakers were hanged. Everyone, even Arthur Miller, has noted that the Salem parsons and magistrates went berserk.

And the one thing they all agreed on was the need to exterminate all of the Native Americans who had initially arrived here. The Great Plains genocide is more well-known in popular culture than the genocide of the Native Americans in New England. Yet, it was just as violent and also particularly god-crazed.

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One of the factors that ignited King Philip’s War, a bloody struggle that is now all but forgotten in history, was the forced conversion of Native Americans to Christianity. Metacomet, the son of Massasoit and known to the English as King Philip, waged war on the English settlers in the northern part of Rhode Island in 1675.

The Narragansett people declined to follow him and negotiated with the Massachusetts and Connecticut governments. The Narragansett then ran into a large marsh, which they believed safe. It did not assist. Nevertheless, the militias from Massachusetts and Connecticut attacked them; their assault was made simpler by the frozen-over swamp.

The number of Narragansett people killed in the swamp is unknown; estimates range as high as 1,000. After Metacomet was later killed in another fight, his head was placed on a post at the Plimoth Colony’s entrance, where it remained for many years.

I want to express my gratitude to the Native Americans I’ve encountered this year. These include the late renowned activist and basketball aficionado Frank LaMere and the Ponca people who banded together with their white neighbours to block the Keystone XL pipeline from passing through Nebraska.

Aside from the Inupiat of Shishmaref in Alaska, who are battling valiantly to relocate their settlement before the island they have called home for 5,000 years gets devoured by the unfreezing sea, they also include the Native people of Rankin Inlet in Nunavut, up in arctic Canada.

The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone live in the large, mountainous Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, where I also spent a week. I stumbled onto a small cemetery while simply exploring. The graves were surrounded by tinted glass, each topped by a weathered wooden cross.

There were so many identical family names on the crosses, and so many of them belonged to children. One family name stood out to me in the small cemetery: Wallowing Bull. Crows perched atop the crosses and leaned out into the breeze.

More than from almost any other source or person, I learned more about what it means to be an American from all these places and all of these people—and many more like them. I recall the night that Congress convened in 2019. From the press gallery, I watched as Rep. Sharice Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe from Wisconsin, and then Rep.

Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo, embraced in a room where so much suffering for the continent’s indigenous people had its roots. This is where the Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830. This is where the Dawes Act was passed in 1887. The firearms used at Wounded Knee and Sand Creek were bought here. Despite all that history, two Native American ladies were still standing. I felt it at the time.

By the time my family arrived in this area in the early 1900s, much of the land had already been taken. But my grandmother used to tell me how “the Indians,” who were members of the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, saved the starving people affected by the Great Famine.

While residing on the family’s sheep farm in north Kerry, she had probably heard tales of it from her elders. The Choctaw arrived at the end of the Trail of Tears as the Famine broke out across the Atlantic. They were displaced people who had had their home culture and language cruelly battered out of them. My grandma used to remark, “Mother of God, wasn’t that an act of Heaven?”