Ghostly sounds drifted across the valley, muffled by thick morning mist.
They could easily have been rifle or musket fire and I imagined myself transported back 260 years to the early days of Cambridge which was founded in 1761.
Having read the Eliot Pattison’s entire series of Inspector Shan Tao Yun books, I have progressed to the Bone Rattler series. The story opens in 1760 with the main character bound for New England having been transported as a prisoner.
His crime, sheltering an uncle who sang too loudly, the Scottish ballads that had been banned by the British following the devastating battle of Culloden and the Highland “purges”.
Particularly living where I do, it was impossible not to become engrossed in the story and the books offer so much in the way of history that I confess I was only peripherally aware of.
This is why, when I heard those sounds out there in the mist, I imagined the ghosts that must occupy this valley and many just like it throughout New England.
When I was very young, I read James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans and while over the years I’ve forgotten all the details, I have always retained a sense of sadness over the plight of Native Americans.
So much of history which is taught in schools, is sugar-coated, or filtered of the sticky details that no-one really wants anyone to remember.
Yet those are the very facts we need to know.
It shames me to realize how little I knew of the peoples who lived in the area of New England prior to the arrival of European settlers.
Somehow, I’d pictured Native Americans mostly living in the Midwest. Worse, maybe, I’d never really thought that much about it.
*Coincidentally, yesterday, it came to my attention that the Cambridge Central High School football team mascot is an “Indian” head. *(There’s that word again!)
John Kane, a Native American who graduated from the school in 1978 is petitioning to have the mascot changed:
“Indians” is not only an incorrect label for Native people; it’s a name whose origin begins with both the misidentification of Native people by Christopher Columbus and the Genocide that he began. But beyond the word is the practice of using and mocking Native people for mascots for the amusement and entertainment of predominantly a non-Native public. Native mascots are dehumanizing and promote a damaging racial stereotype of an extremely marginalized people. In fact, it’s worse than that. It treats Native people as mere relics of the past; as if they no longer exist. It is erasure. It is genocide.”
Enthusiastically, I signed the petition and I hope it will succeed, though I can’t guess the outcome.
There are such great parallels between what happened to the Native American population and what is currently happening to the Tibetan and other cultures in Asia.
We lament, as we should, over the loss of animal species, yet we are apparently indifferent to the loss of other cultures.
How nobly people of my kind went out, to educate people “in undeveloped countries”, and how devastatingly we destroyed so much that was good and wonderful in those cultures. “My kind” has a lot to account for.
It’s human nature, presumably, to feel threatened by those who are different, in case they are stronger and will take away what we need.
You would hope that we had evolved somewhat after so many thousands of years, but if 2020 is any indication, it would appear humanity is doomed to a never ending cycle.
Don’t mind me, I am a pessimist by nature. And a worrier.
Also a compulsive tidier. I am profoundly discomfited by the current untidiness of our planet. Everything is out of place and I ache to make it all neat and tidy.
And to make everyone happy.
I’m also completely unrealistic. Maybe I’m one of Jon Katz’ dreamers. That makes it sound better.