Voices of Native Youth

The Shocking Truth about the Pilgrim Story

Have you ever read the Pilgrim story, The History of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford? What you read might shock you because it doesn’t line up with the Thanksgiving story we’ve all heard from childhood.

Everyone thinks of the Pilgrim story as one of heroic people. After all, they escaped religious intolerance in England and came to the New World. They survived storms, sickness, leaky boats, and still managed to make it across the ocean. Once they arrived, they survived bitter cold, starvation, and even more sickness (183). And everyone knows the story of how a nice Native, Squanto, helped keep them alive and everyone celebrated together the next fall after the harvest. But people might not realize that that story only has a grain of truth. The Pilgrims didn’t treat Indians very nicely at all. 

The Pilgrim Story isn’t Very Christian

If you've ever taken the time to read William Bradford's account of the Pilgrim story, you might be shocked. It's not at all the Thanksgiving tale we know. #ownvoices #ushistory #myth #thanksgiving

Even though they were Christians, the Pilgrims treated the Indians unfairly. The pilgrims took part of their goods, like corn, which the Natives had buried (171). They knew that the corn belonged to the Indians, but still took it. Pilgrims also walked into Native homes without permission. The Pilgrims found two of their matt-covered houses with food and tools inside. When the Pilgrims thought that the Indians had run away, they decided to take what they wanted—including corn, beans, and tools. The Pilgrims saw that they were just a bunch of nobodies and treated them horrible by taking important things from them.

The Pilgrims were unfair to the Indians, they didn’t treat them very well. They took advantage of the Indians by learning their ways from Squanto. Squanto spoke English because slavers had captured him when he was a child and taken him to Europe. When Squanto returned, his people had all died. He befriended the Pilgrims and directed them how to plant their corn, where to take fish, and helped them to ‘procure other commodities.’ He also acted as ‘their pilot to bring them to unknown places for their profit’ (172). Squanto stayed with the Pilgrims until he died. 

The Pilgrims left no record of doing anything for Squanto, and they just took advantage of him. Squanto helped them survive, but they did nothing for him. The Pilgrims stole from the Natives and never returned it back. The Natives did steal from the pilgrims once, but they returned the things they stole back to the Pilgrims (187).

The Original Thieves

The Natives acted fairly by returning what they had taken, but the Pilgrims didn’t have the same courtesy. What the Pilgrims did wasn’t right, they had used Squanto for his skills to guide to them until his death. Pilgrims were greedy and stole much from the Indians and never returned anything.

The Pilgrim found land occupied and decided to call it theirs. Even though the land was cleared, just because the Pilgrams didn’t see anyone they called it a “Divine Providence” and moved in. The Pilgrims did not care to ask anybody whose land it was. The Indians saw the Pilgrims on their land and felt confused. When the Pilgrims saw the Indians, the Pilgrims didn’t care who’s land it was and decided to use force against the Indians for their land. They killed Indians, and scared them away by shooting their guns.

Stealing from someone and calling it 'Divine Providence' doesn't make it right. #pilgrims #thanksgiving #nativeamerican Click To Tweet

The Pilgrims stole from the Indians without returning what they stole. Pilgrims saw that the Indians had no records that they could understand and used this as an excuse to treat them unfairly. The Pilgrims used the Indians for support and used them to survive without keeping any record of their help. The Pilgrims took land from the Indians using force and didn’t acknowledge the way they did it. People think the Pilgrims were nice and good to the Indians, but clearly they were not.

Jorge hates snow but loves snowboarding. He’s proud of his Navajo heritage

Native Americans in U.S. History Textbooks

Did you know history books give false information about Native Americans? Thousands of children open their history books and learn that Native Americans are “savages” (according to the textbook authors).

Native Americans are portrayed as outcasts and should advocate to make their history known because history books are not reliable, people think we are what history books call us, and at one point everybody was a savage.

A Lack of Education

History books are not reliable because they do not give enough information about Natives. According to a survey of the U.S. history books used in my classroom, there are 307 pages and only 10 pages talk about Natives. For example, the majority of the references talk about Native Americans being victims of the government, such as the time when Navajo people were forced to go on the Long Walk. The textbook fails to include about how the Navajo successfully regained their land.

Of course, there is no background information about the ‘savages’ nor about Native Americans. Children learn and are told that Natives were victims. Consequently, history books should provide more information about the culture of Native Americans before Columbus.

For instance, history books should be rewritten to provide more information and details about Native Americans so students can learn more. History books need to quit only portraying Native Americans as victims and giving false information. 

We aren’t Indians

People keep calling us ‘Indians,’ all because Columbus made a mistake. According to what I found in history books, Native Americans were the people Columbus found during his voyage. But because Columbus thought that he reached India, he called Native Americans  “Indians.” Therefore, people nowadays call Native Americans “Indians” as if we were from India.

People have called us all kinds of names, such as savages, Indians, outlaws, redskins, squaws, and braves. If people researched the meanings behind those names for Native Americans, they would discover that the names are not complimentary.

Schoolchildren learn about us by the names we are called, not about who we are as humans. #socialjustice #native Click To Tweet

As a result, children are learning about us by the names we’ve been called and not about who we are as humans. History books need to stop calling Native Americans by offensive names that people didn’t know the meaning of.

Savage or Civilized?

It might be time to take a hard look at your history books to evaluate them for one-sided history-telling. Native Americans were civilized. #socialjustice #nativeamerican #history

At one point in civilization, everyone acted savagely. The Bible gives evidence of people fighting, killing babies, and stealing from each other. Therefore, the Bible shows that characters acted savagely and acted the way they thought was right, but no one fills history books full of the savage acts of ancient cultures..

In general, it’s not fair that textbook authors call a group of people, such as Native Americans, savages while ignoring the evidences of civilization found among Native cultures. Likewise textbook authors shouldn’t ignore evidence of savagry among the so-called civilized cultures.

Chinampas are an example of Native Americans having more advanced technology than Europeans in the 1500s. Chinampas, which are floating gardens, showed that Native Americans problem solved and thought about their future to make it better.

Thus, Native Americans did not deserve to be called savages because they were more advanced than other civilizations. In other words, don’t call a civilization savage until you know its complete history.

End the Misinformation

Native Americans are not outcasts and should let their history be known. For example, history books only portray Native Americans as victims and give false information. This misinformation allows others to call Native Americans offensive names and make Natives feel as if they can’t speak up for themselves.

It’s time to include information about Native American civilizations and European savagery in history textbooks so that schoolchildren learn a balanced history. It isn’t right to go around spreading false information and name-calling without knowing the background of Native Americans.

Shawnewa Dahozy is a sixteen-year-old junior in high school. She is part Navajo and part Hopi. Her interests include blogging, reading books, journaling, coloring, and hanging out with other people. She wants to let her voice to be heard through writing because sometimes it’s not always easy saying it out loud. Her biggest peeve is when people talk nonstop even when you ask them to stop.

A Call to Action: Revealing the Truth about Native American History

by Jolina Barron

The history of Native Americans that students find in their history textbooks is distortedly inaccurate to today’s standards and should be revised and edited. In most history textbooks, Native American history is often misconstrued and brief. New studies from archeologists and researchers suggests that our previous understanding of pre-Columbian Native American civilizations is far from accurate. Textbooks often only cover one particular era of Native American history, their interactions with early settlers, whilst completely ignoring other historical eras. History is a field of study that should always be revisited and revised to meet the available information attained in our modern day.

The Lie of the Savage in American History

The general visualization of Native American civilizations in the pre-Colombian era is one of complete savagery and brutality. But, pre-Colombian Native Americans were not as chaotically uncivilized as previously believed.

Native Americans had advanced civilizations with large populations organized by a system of government. In 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus Charles Mann explains that the large amounts of elaborate pottery found in large midden mounds show evidence that Native American civilizations were well-populated.

To also support this belief, the eyewitness account of Giovanni da Varrazzano describes the Portuguese’s interactions with the Native American as mostly civil and their civilizations as organized and even grand. Throughout da Varrazzano’s voyage they traded and communicated with the Native Americans.

In one instance, he describes one settlement with a great fishing community with boats, and da Varrazanno interacts with their king. Most of the Native Americans helped the Portuguese on their travels; providing food, medicine and sometimes shelter.

The misconception in American history is that Native Americans were merely savage people, but there is substantial evidence to disprove this theory.

What Happens When We Only Tell One Side?

The average American’s view of Native Americans is largely dependent upon what information is found in history textbooks. But, the most covered topic (and sometimes the only topic) of Native Americans in textbooks is their interactions with early European settlers.

If everything you think you know about Native Americans comes from a history textbook, you might want to check your source. Textbooks don't have the final answer. #nativeyouth #nativeamerican #history

When the colonists came to the Americas, most Native American tribes were still recovering from a pandemic that had struck and had greatly diminished the Native American population. The settlers victimized the Native Americans, much like the British had victimized the Scottish. Because of the massacres and the forced slavery of Native Americans by the Europeans, the Native American tribes defended themselves against and attacked the settlers to protect their people.

History textbooks seem to only focus on these events in Native American history, which has enforced the “savage” stereotype in the minds of Americans over the years. In most textbooks, Native Americans are painted as aggressively brutal and out-of-control.

Textbooks often disregard the positive relations between the colonists and Native Americans. For example, in William Bradford’s written account, Squanto and multiple other Native Americans helped the colonists survive in the Americas and attempted to mediate their conflicts with other Native tribes.

Because history textbooks have perpetuated these false truths, generations of American youth believe that Native Americans were nothing more than uncivilized savages.

American history textbooks have perpetuated the lie that Native Americans were nothing more than uncivilized savages. #nativeyouth #history Click To Tweet

History Needs Inspection

History, as a study, should always be revisited and revised. Our knowledge of past history is always changing because nothing in history is completely definite.

New discoveries are found which historians use to form new theories of the past. When strong, new theories are found to be the most accurate to our understanding, that changes our perception of history. Textbooks should be edited and revised frequently to accommodate these new theories.

Because most textbooks have stayed true to the “Indians were savages” lie, today’s people are completely unaware of the truth. There are other sources on the subject of Native American history that are being ignored and excluded from textbooks. Textbooks should be revised to meet the new understanding of Native American history.

Include Native American History in American History Textbooks

Native American history found in history textbooks should be revisited and edited. New evidences show that Native Americans lived in advanced civilizations in large populations and thrived in pre-Columbian era. Most of our knowledge of Native Americans in the pre-Columbian era is misconstrued.

The early aggressive interactions between colonists and Native Americans make up most of the written history and creates the “savage” stereotype. History is a field of study that should be constantly revisited and revised to meet today’s understanding.

native americans in history
Jolina is a college-bound high school senior. She comes from a multiracial family that consists of mainly Hispanic and Yaqui heritage. When she isn’t dancing to 80s music, she is working to combine her passions for writing and photography by becoming a photojournalist.
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