Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: HBO Films re-examines a tragic chapter in 19th Century American history

Note: Part I of my series on the 400-year commemoration of Jamestown (Virginia) was posted to Jewels in the Jungle on May 11th. The second installment, New Perspectives on Anglo-America’s birth in the 17th Century, was posted on May 17th.

For the history buffs and readers who stop by “Jewels” to get the lowdown on stuff they didn’t bother to teach us at school about world history, let’s fast-forward through American (U.S.) history by 283 years from the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to the year 1890. I am doing this in order to highlight a groundbreaking HBO Films TV movie based upon the well known book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Alexander Brown. Even some of my German friends and readers know about this book although people generally know little about the true stories of the battles between the U.S. government and the Lakota and Dakota Sioux after the American Civil War. The German public has a romantic, nostalgic attachment to the myths about European expansion into the American West as do many people across Europe. This is partly due to a profusion of Hollywood westerns and American TV films imported into the European market since the end of WWII, and of course the beloved stories by the famous German author Karl May converted to German film and TV productions about the American West. It would be interesting to learn how German and other European educators have taught the history of the contact and conflicts between Europeans and Native Americans during the settlement of North America between 1600-1900.

The HBO Films’ website for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee offers more insight into this important chapter of 19th century American history. Pay particular attention to the interview with the actor Adam Beach (a descendent of the Saulteux-Ojibwa nation in Canada) who portrays the young Dartmouth university-educated doctor Charles Eastman (Lakota name: nĂ© Ohiyesa), and you should also visit the HBO multimedia feature ‘The Road to Wounded Knee’. The documentary film Spirit Rider (18 min.) narrated by leading elders and scholars from the Lakota Nation is an excellent insight into the lives of the Lakota Sioux today. As a young man I had the privilege to spend considerable time out on their ancestral lands and that experience has been with me ever since. The Sacred Hoop of the Lakota and Dakota may be coming together again after more than 100 years of being broken… at Wounded Knee.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – main website home
The Road to Wounded Knee – a special multimedia feature on the history of the events that led up to the massacre of the Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee on Dec. 29, 1890
Interview with actor Adam Beach (native-American film actor and TV star) and other cast members, film producer, and script writer
Photos and Video – trailers
Spirit Rider documentary and additional resources on native-American people

Excerpt from interview with actor Adam Beach – HBO FILMS

HBO: What were your first impressions about your character?

Adam Beach: Well, I play Charles Eastman. And the first thing I did was hire a voice coach who could help me with the details of this era, 'cause man, that was the toughest thing for me, was just to explore that world of being a distinguished Victorian gentleman, and walking and talking a certain way. And the way they saw things, their values, how they wore their clothes. There were so many details. So that was really exciting learning about all that.

I learned that Charles Eastman was a product of assimilation by the government. He did succeed in becoming an educated man, but what he came to realize is that if you lose your culture and traditions, you lose your identity not only as an Indian, but as a part of society. He learned that in the end it didn't matter how educated he was if he was not helping his people. It didn't matter at all. And in the story you see how much he loses of himself because there's nothing he can do to help his people move forward when there's a government pushing them and killing them off.

HBO: What do you think the government was trying to accomplish through assimilation, and what do you think actually happened?

Adam Beach: The idea was to help motivate the Indian people by molding them into becoming part of white society. But what they didn't realize is that you can't get rid of the Indian. You can't take away their identity to make them a part of another society. And that's where the conflict was: they didn't realize that as Indian people, they already embodied a tradition that connected to Mother Earth and there was a spiritual guidance; everything was already laid down in stone. The Indians didn't want to change. So there was this idea being forced onto a people that had been living this valued life for generations. And that's where it went wrong. The government didn't want to understand the lifestyle and culture and traditions of the Indian.

HBO: And the legacy of this assimilation has had a lasting impact on American Indian peoples to this day, hasn't it?

Adam Beach: Absolutely. One of the things I want people to understand with this film is that the tragedy of Indian people across North America still exists. You know, everybody wonders why we are the way we are today. There's so much that comes from this story. I want people to understand how in the late 1800s, the government and the churches established residential schools, boarding schools to rid the Indian, to bring them into society, and to destroy their culture and tradition.

And if you can imagine people trying to tell you being Indian is bad, is wrong - your culture, your tradition is dealing with the devil. It affects my generation, why is my world so much more of a struggle? It's because after a hundred years of this manipulation of 'you're not a good person,' it really affects us.

Our generation is starting to understand that we have to rid ourselves of this subconscious mentality that you're a bad person. That's gonna take time. But I've come to understand where the pain comes from in living on a reservation, at being corralled onto a little piece of land. A lot of the generation that I speak for now are just starting to come out of it, to say, we are proud, we are a strong people. We have traditions that could teach the world how to relate with Mother Earth, how to relate with themselves, to the animals, to plants, to a stone, to the trees. I could go on.

HBO: How did your own personal experiences feed into your work on this role?

Adam Beach: Charles Eastman has to see a lot of his people die. And for me, when I was eight years old, my mother was hit by a drunk driver and she was eight months pregnant and she died in front of my house in a ditch. And then two months later, my dad, he drowned. He was drinking a lot and under medication for depression.

And after those two experiences, I've had to grow up with this loss. Once you lose your parents, you get this numbness, this feeling of having to really be able to connect yourself with someone. I depended on my brothers for that connection, but to have that feeling of being taken care of...I lost it when my parents passed away.

So with Charles Eastman having to see his people die, there's an easy connection with having to hold in all those feeling of loss. And the thing I want people to learn with Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is that this incident is just one of many. They chose "Wounded Knee" as the story to tell, but this has happened throughout history with many different tribes across North America. And I hope people understand that these stories have to be told truthfully from a perspective where you get to feel what these people have gone through.

End excerpt

Update May 30th: Additional reading, viewing, and listening about this important subject in American History and the HBO Film "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"

American Indians in Childrens Literature by Debbie Reese of the University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign. Critical discussion(s) of American Indians in childrens books, school curriculum, and popular culture

Hanay Geiogamah, Director UCLA American Indian Studies Center
Indian Country Diaries (a 2006 PBS special report about the challenges facing Native Americans in the 21st Century plus a great history roundup)
The End of the Hollywood Trail (Press release about the HBO Films release of Wounded Knee, Hat Tip to Debbie Reese)

The Long Now Foundation
The Political History of North America from 25,000 BC to 2100 AD
A riveting 1 hour lecture by Roger Kennedy (Harvard University, The Smithsonian National Museum of American History, U.S. National Park Service) - Hat Tip to Michael Fisher
Long Now seminars archive: assorted media downloads of Roger Kennedy's Nov. 2005 lecture

Press Reviews of HBO Films ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’

Argus Media (Sioux Falls, South Dakota)

The Unresolved Story of Wounded Knee, 05/27/07

TIME Magazine blogs - Tuned In
Weekend TV: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, 05/25/07

New York Times, May 25, 2007
TV Review 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee'
There’s an Allegory in Those Hills by Virginia Heffernan

Indian Country Today (Native American national newspaper)
‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’ Debuts on HBO, 05/18/07

Native Unity Digest (blog)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, 05/15/07

Related articles and resources on Native-American history 1670-1900

Smithsonian Institute – Encyclopedia Smithsonian
American Indian History and Culture

University of Washington Libraries – Native American History

U.S. Library of Congress
American Memory – Native American History collections

Lakota people, Lakota mythology (Wikipedia)

Lakota da Dakota Wowapi Oti Kin: Lakota Dakota Information website

HBO Films – Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Resources on national Indian organizations incl. National Congress of American Indians

And what does all of this have to do with Africa and Africans you ask? Check this out..

Buffalo Soldier (Wikipedia)
Buffalo Soldiers & The Indian Wars by Stanford L. Davis
The Buffalo Soldier Story - the proud history of the 9th and 10th Calvary
Buffalo Soldiers National Museum

As you can imagine, the Lakota Sioux and African-Americans may still have some "open issues" that need resolving in the 21st Century.

More stuff on the settlement of Jamestown, VA. in 1607

Jamestown, from the Powhatan’s perspective by Helen C. Rountree
Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough: Three Indian Lives Changed by Jamestown by Helen C. Rountree, Virginia University Press 2005
June 2006 review of book “Pochanontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough” - History Cooperative

Indian Country Today

The True Story of Pocahontas – the other side of history (book review), 05/02/07

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Debating (and blogging) Darfur: a Reuters Live Newsmakers event

Important (updated) post about the Darfur Crisis

Reuters News Service and Reuters AlertNet is holding a LIVE Newsmaker Event “Debating Darfur” at 15:30 Central European Time (09:30 Eastern North America Time). If I have understood correctly online video of the event will be available for viewing later in case you missed the LIVE webcast. Featured on the Reuters Debating Darfur expert panel will be the following personalities:

Ann Curry, NBC News anchorwoman (U.S.A.)

Mia Farrow, ex-actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador (U.S.A.)

Heidi Annabi, Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations (U.N.)

Lauren Landis, Senior Representative to Sudan, U.S. Department of State

Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, Sudanese Ambassador to the U.N. (Sudan)

John Prendergast, Senior Advisor International Crisis Group, ENOUGH Project to Abolish Genocide and Mass Atrocities (U.S.A., Belgium)

Read more about this LIVE web event at the Reuters Newsmakers website:
Dealing with Darfur – what’s next?

O.K., what’s wrong with this lineup of international personalities? Well for one thing, it is not international in scope. Where are all of the journalists and diplomats and politicians and crisis experts and TV & film stars from the rest of the world? Isn’t the Crisis in Sudan an international problem and not just a U.S.A. vs. the Republic of Sudan problem? Where is Germany’s representative, China, Pakistan, The U.K., Malaysia, the Arab League representatives, and so on and so forth?

Let’s see what happens. At least the participation from CJ’s (Citizen Journalists) and online media publishers and blog authors and readers from around the globe should give some international perspective to this debate. In the meantime the refugees trying to survive in the desert heat, filth and squalor, and fear in the camps of Darfur and Chad keep waiting and waiting and waiting and dying and dying and dying while we debate the topic. Ich bitte Dich! Wirklich. Muss dass sein?

It’s been a (very) long time since I have written anything about the ongoing genocide and humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan but today I read this important notice on Darfur at a fellow author’s blog, Grandiose Parlor II. Why have I stopped writing about Darfur? Because I’ve given up on the idea that the so-called “International Community” will actually do anything useful to end the conflict and do what has been so obvious to many people for the three long years of misery and suffering and death:








Remember, in the last century alone more than 100 million people died in violent conflicts worldwide, 60 million died at the hands of their own governments. And you know what people said? “If I had only known it was going on. I didn’t know. I feel so helpless and sad.” Well guess what, we know today, and we can stop it. Now!

BTW: What’s the deal on those Pakistani UN Peacekeepers trading “Gold for Guns” down in the Democratic Republic of Congo? Has anybody posed a question about this latest U.N. "Scandal in the Jungle" to Ms. Heidi Annabi of the U.N. Peacekeeping Ops Department? Non? Where is Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon on this scandal? Hiding under his desk, again?

Additional Resources and Related Stuff:

Reuters Darfur Newsmaker

Council on Foreign Relations
Crisis Guide to Darfur (a powerful six-part multimedia special report)

Global Voices Online – African Voices

The Reuters/GVO LIVE Darfur Debate
Ndesanjo's LIVE blogging transcript of the Darfur Debate (Jikomboe blog)
Darfur: The Reality, The Agenda, and the Proposed Solution
Global Voices - Sudan posts (articles by global blog authors)

Black Looks
Blogging for Darfur (with perspectives from African scholars), 05/24/07

BBC News
China says Olympic boycott calls 'will fail', 05/18/07 (Reporters without Borders - Paris)
Boycott Beijing in 2008 Campaign
(RSF is not focusing on the Sudan-China-Darfur connection, yet...)

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jamestown at 400 Years - Part II: New perspectives on Anglo-America's birth in the 17th Century

Note: Part I of this series on the 400-year commemoration of Jamestown (Virginia) was posted to Jewels in the Jungle on May 11th. The story continues…

The Harvard University Press blog wrote on March 26th about an AP article and quote from NYU Professor Karen Ordahl Kupperman’s new book “The Jamestown Project”. Much of the information contained in this post is taken from Professor Kupperman’s book and from selected essays written by leading U.S. scholars who participated in the NEH Summer 2000 Institute at the Folger Institute/Folger Shakespeare Library: Texts of Imagination and Empire: The Founding of Jamestown in its Atlantic Context.

The research on the subject of America’s first permanent English settlement published to the Net by historians, archeologists, educators, and other scholars is so interesting and comprehensive that it would be a distraction for our readers to say (write) anything more at this stage in the series. Without any further ado, here is the latest historical re-mix on colonial America’s early ‘birthing pains’. Professor Kupperman writes in the introduction to her book “The Jamestown Project”:

Introduction - Creation Myths (selected excerpts)

“In May 1607 a party of just over a hundred men and boys landed on the James River in Virginia and planted the colony they named Jamestown in honor of the English king. The little colony struggled through a horrible first decade in which it barely held on before the settlers began to find their footing on the path that would lead to stability and, eventually, success. Jamestown has always occupied an equivocal position in American history. It is celebrated as the first permanent English settlement in the territory that would become the United States. These colonists planted the tiny seed from which would grow a powerful nation where all [of] the world’s people would mingle.

And yet Jamestown makes us uncomfortable. The portrait of it that has come down to us depicts greedy, grasping colonists in America and their arrogant backers in England. The settlement’s first years were marked by belligerent intrusions on the Chesapeake Algonquians which manifested mainly the ignorance of the English. Within Jamestown, life degenerated into a shambles of death and despair. When John Rolfe finally developed a marketable crop—tobacco--the colonists exploited the land and one another in the scramble for profits. Ultimately they would institute slavery for imported Africans in their insatiable search for profits. This is the creation story from Hell.

England was a laggard in overseas ventures. By 1606, when the Virginia Company was organized and plans for the colony were laid, English merchants in collaboration with political leaders had begun to establish a role for their nation in the newly opening trades around the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and in the East. In these endeavors they were attempting to emulate, and often intrude on, the Spanish and Portuguese, united under the Spanish crown since 1580, who were the pioneers in creating the connections and bases through which trading operations were carried on.

New Spain was almost a century old when Jamestown was founded, and French traders had established firm partnerships with Indian nations in the fur trade along the St. Lawrence [river] to the north. Spanish ships had scouted Chesapeake Bay repeatedly before concluding that the region would not repay the effort required to sustain settlement. The Spanish had planted St. Augustine on the Florida coast, and this, not Jamestown, was actually the first permanent European colony within the future Untied States; it was settled in 1565, almost half a century before Jamestown. And Santa Fe in New Mexico* was founded shortly after Jamestown.

*Blog author's note: Recent historical findings indicates that Juan Martinez de Montoya founded Santa Fe between 1601-1602. Also read the article An Uncertain Founding: Santa Fe by New Mexico research historian James Ivey at Common Place Vol. 3 Issue 4, July 2003.

By 1607 English fishermen had been visiting the Newfoundland Banks [off the eastern coast of Canada] and the New England coast for a century or more, and they built temporary settlements there, but no permanent English presence existed. In the last decades of the sixteenth century, a time when England and Spain were at war [Anglo-Spanish War 1585], English ships participated enthusiastically in privateering—licensed piracy against Spanish fleets traveling from the Caribbean to Seville. In the 1580’s Sir Walter Raleigh’s colony at Roanoke [Roanoke Island or Lost Colony], within the Outer Banks of North Carolina, was initially designed to serve as a base for those patriotic privateers.

The first group of settlers sent to Roanoke in 1585 conformed to the classic model: a group of young men under military authority. Their governor was Captain Ralph Lane. As always with such a design, Lane found the settlers, whom he characterized as the “wylde menn of myne owene nacione,” hard to control and motivate. By the end of the colony’s first winter, relationships with the coastal Carolina Algonquians [Pamlico], on whom they depended for food, had broken down completely. They deserted the site early the next summer, and Lane scorned the whole enterprise, writing that “the discovery of good mine by the goodnesse of God, or a passage to the Southsea, or someway to it, and nothing els can bring this country in request to be inhabited by our nation.”

English venturers were very conscious of being newcomers in all these places where they sought a foothold, and the keynote of their activities was improvisation. Everywhere they went, they necessarily employed trial and error—and error often predominated. Promoters laid plans, but the ordinary people who carried them out, often very young men and women, were the ones who had to deal with realities on the ground and who ultimately founded a successful colony. Many involved in early-seventeenth-century America—Indians, Europeans, and Africans—had had experience of other Atlantic and Mediterranean regions before they came together on the James River. Often their experience was as captives or as individuals left behind when the ships on which they had arrived departed hurriedly in the face of dangers ranging from armed resistance to violent Atlantic storms. Those who could improvise were the ones who survived. And the knowledge of transatlantic others gained from these people informed planning and responses on all sides when Europeans attempted to create bases in America. All players brought vast experience, some relevant and some irrelevant, to the changed situations that Europeans ventures created; and they drew on this experience, for good or ill, when confronted by the necessity of making choices.

END of excerpts from “The Jamestown Project”
Note: Links to Wikipedia sources have been added to the original text for clarification and to provide resources for further reading.

In a May 13th opinion article for The Washington Post online titled “America’s Founding Fictions” Professor Kupperman contrasts the two popular historical versions of colonial America’s early beginnings (Plymouth vs. Jamestown).

America's Founding Fictions
By Karen Ordahl Kupperman

Sunday, May 13, 2007; B02

The colonists landed, short of food and supplies, after a long and harrowing transatlantic voyage. The initial exploring party stole a large quantity of corn that the Indians had carefully stored away for the hard winter. They then dug up some graves, looted items that had been buried with the dead and ransacked Indian houses. Furious fighting with the natives soon ensued. Once they had selected a site for their settlement, the migrants endured a winter of death in which they lost more than half their number.

Ah, of course, you're thinking -- Jamestown. All that looting and fighting and stealing and death. It's the creation story from hell. But think again.

That description is not of the troubled Virginia colony settled by a group of men popularly derided, then and now, as the scum of the Earth. Rather, it depicts the arduous first days of Massachusetts's Plymouth colony, our favorite myth of the nation's founding.

These aren't the kinds of events we remember the Pilgrims by, even though the description is drawn from their own words. Instead, our national mythmakers have accentuated the positive to carve the story of the pious Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving out of Plymouth's more complicated, less pure beginnings. In contrast, the earlier Jamestown colony, whose 400th anniversary we commemorate tomorrow, is depicted as a saga of unrelieved degradation and failure, relegated to second-tier status in the history books. But it shouldn't be.

American history today begins with the Pilgrims because their experience in Plymouth has been molded to offer a more acceptable foundation story than the exploitative dog-eat-dog world of the early Chesapeake. The Puritans' arrival in Boston, where they built John Winthrop's "city on a hill," clinched it for Massachusetts.

The Pilgrim story took over as our founding fiction after the Revolutionary War, when New England and the South began to pull in different directions. The Massachusetts colonists were labeled the Pilgrim Fathers in the 1790s, and the agreement they signed on arrival became the Mayflower Compact about the same time. Because Puritanism had come to be seen as repressive (think of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter"), early American leaders such as Daniel Webster brought the Plymouth colonists forward as the kinder, gentler Puritans.

This is the origins story we prefer and the one we promote. We prefer it because we like to think that we are descended from a humble and saintly band, religiously motivated and communal in organization, who wanted nothing more than the freedom to worship God. The individualistic, grasping capitalists of Virginia offer much less appealing antecedents.

Encasing our national founding in a myth of immaculate conception feeds the assumption that the United States is unlike other nations, that it acts in the world only to serve the greater good…

But America's true founding story is much more interesting and much more real. All early colonies had tremendous difficulties becoming established. The reports sent home from Jamestown were overwhelmingly dismal; it was all harder than anyone had expected, and everyone had different ideas about how to proceed.

Dismayed by the high death rate and the disorder of Jamestown's first couple of years, the colony's London sponsor, the Virginia Company -- a kind of early venture-capital outfit -- decided to compel the settlers to be virtuous. It imposed the most severe martial law, regulating every aspect of life to force the men to work for the collective interest. The death penalty was ordered for almost any infraction. If civic virtue could be achieved by force, the Virginia Company was going to do it. (Read more at the Washington Post)

End of excerpt from article “America’s Founding Fictions” by Karen O. Kupperman

Resources used for this post and additional online resources:

Karen Ordahl Kupperman “
The Jamestown Project” ( and (Powell’s Books)
Plymouth vs. Jamestown: America’s Founding Fictions (Washington Post, 05/13/07)

Virtual Jamestown Project by Crandall Shifflett (Virginia Tech University) - Jamestown Interpretive Essays
Women in Early Jamestown by Kathleen M. Brown (University of Pennsylvania)
First Hand Accounts (documents from 1570-1705)

The Folger Institute / Folger Shakespeare Library Washington, D.C.
Texts of Imagination and Empire: The Founding of Jamestown in its Atlantic Context
Introduction by Professor Karen Ordahl Kupperman (Includes references to arrival of first African slaves to Jamestown in 1619)
Forced Afro-Atlantic Migration and the Middle Passage by Phyllis Peres (University of Maryland, 2000)
The Shadow of the ‘Black Legend’ in John Smith’s General History of Virginia by Eric Griffin, Milsaps College
The Three Turks’ Heads: Travels in the Middle East before Jamestown by Karen Ordahl Kupperman (profiles of Capt. John Smith and George Sandys)
Bibliographies - primary sources and web resources

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Jamestown at 400-years: What is the true story of this early American settlement?

"Sometimes I choose these really difficult subjects to write about. This is one of them."

America commemorates the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement on the North American continent, Jamestown (Virginia) this weekend with a great deal of fanfare, pomp and ceremony___ and cost (zillions of $$$). After all, there are not many 400 year-old birthdays in the United States of America to celebrate in 2007 and this one is important from a historical perspective not only for the multi-ethnic and multi-national immigrant population of the U.S.A. but it is just as important for the (remaining) Native-American tribes of the U.S. and Canada and for Africans and Europeans too.

The “Black and African History in Europe” project launched in February 2007 was the most successful series of posts ever published to Jewels in the Jungle since its inception in May 2004 (Yep, we’re 3 years old today!) so it is a special pleasure for me to be able to return to the subject of history and focus on the difficult beginnings (birthing pains) of the country of my birth and of my recent ancestral heritage for over 250 years.

Note: see my archives for February and March 2007 for a list of all the posts re: the Black and African History in Europe group project. New posts are coming soon.

I like many people from around the world am very proud and loving of my country as this is a learned behavior developed from information we receive from family and friends, our formal and informal education, and our respective national press and media such as films, television and radio programming___ and of course today the Internet. But I want my own personal feelings of patriotism and allegiance to my country to be based upon the knowledge of the hard facts about our past and the belief that we as Americans have a shared responsibility and national commitment to overcome the many errors and even atrocities against one another (and “others”) as we move forward into the 21st Century.

The diligent research carried out for my own contributions to the Black and African History in Europe project over many weeks helped me to better understand the real value of solid academic research and analysis by leading historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, and various scholars that were referenced for that project. All of the project team members are deeply indebted to the scholars and fellow blog authors who helped us launch the series in February 2007 and create a renewed interest and excitement for history both in ourselves and for our readers around the world.

Some of you may have read or seen news reports about Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the United States in May for the 400th Anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement. The international press and TV news focused on everything from the Queen’s hats to the White House “white tie” dinner reception for the Queen or the “special friendship” between Great Britain and the United States or some other aspect of her visit. These news angles have nothing to do with the real significance of the Queen’s historic visit, the founding of the Jamestown Settlement in 1607. Jamestown is a story from 400 years ago that could challenge today’s best historical fiction, tragedies, mysteries, and adventure stories__ Jamestown was, in the words of New York University’s Professor Karen Ordahl Kupperman, “…the creation story from Hell.”.

In this short series of posts about the founding of Jamestown I will focus primarily on the work recently published by leading U.S. historians and writers which sheds new light on a story that has been so heaped in myth, outright lies, romantic literary excesses, and general bullshit for so long that the true history was in danger of being lost forever___ as is the case about the national history of some people who may be reading these words right now. Who are we, where did we come from, and what is the truth about how we got to where we are today? What the Hell really happened way back then?


The renowned ethno-historian and scholar on Native-American peoples, Professor J. Frederick Fausz of the University of Missouri – St. Louis, wrote a scathing article for the History News Network titled ‘Jamestown at 400: Caught between a rock and a slippery slope’. Dr. Fausz chastises his fellow historians and literary scholars, the press and film and TV networks, promoters and politicians and a host of other folks for having done a potentially great injustice to the true story of the Jamestown Settlement. We’ll get to the Professor’s article(s) at the HNN in a bit but first I would like to quote from a quote in the year 1622 that Dr. Fred Fausz used in his introduction:

Readers seldom take the pain to gather together all that hath been written on any subject but usually content themselves with one or two books and some former treatises, whereby they gain but a lame and partial knowledge, and so prejudice the Truth. -- Edward Waterhouse, Virginia Company Secretary, 1622

Edward Waterhouse was the secretary of the Virginia Company of London setup in 1606 by King James I of England to establish settlements on the eastern coast of North America. TIME Magazine explains in its April 2007 Jamestown at 400 commemorative feature article ‘Inventing America’:

The Virginia colony had John Smith, Pocahontas, slavery, famine, battles and a great Indian chief. So how come Plymouth Rock gets all the press? An in-depth look at the place where our nation began to take shape They thought they were lost. The Susan Constant, the Godspeed and the Discovery had sailed from London on Dec. 20, 1606, carrying 144 passengers and crew, bound for Virginia. Howling winds pinned them to the coast of England for six weeks. After crossing the Atlantic by a southerly route and reprovisioning in the West Indies, they headed north, expecting landfall in the third week of April 1607. Instead they found a tempest. For four days they sounded, seeking offshore shallows in vain. Then, at 4 a.m. on April 26, they saw land. The three ships sailed into Chesapeake Bay and found, in the words of one voyager, "fair meadows and goodly tall trees, with such fresh waters running through the woods, as I was almost ravished at the first sight thereof." They picked an island in a river for a fortified outpost and named it after their king, James. ………………..

But it's worth remembering that Jamestown was a giant gamble. The trials were severe, the errors numerous, the losses colossal, the gains, eventually, great. Life in Jamestown was a three-way tug-of-war between daily survival, the settlers' own preconceptions and the need to adapt to a new world. Jamestown did not invent America, but in its will to survive, its quest for democracy, its exploitation of both Indians and slaves, it created the template for so many of the struggles--and achievements--that have made us who we are. It contained in embryo the same contradictions that still resonate in America today--the tension between freedom and authority, between public purpose and private initiative, between our hopes and our fears.

Jamestown spawned four centuries of myths….In reality, Jamestown was a hardheaded business proposition. The 104 English settlers who stayed when the ships went home--gentlemen, soldiers, privateers, artisans, laborers, boys (no women yet)--were late entrants in the New World sweepstakes. Spain had conquered Mexico by 1521, Peru by 1534. The mines disgorged silver, and by the end of the 16th century, Mexico City and Lima had universities, printing presses and tens of thousands of inhabitants. The Portuguese were harvesting dyewood in Brazil, and the French were trading for furs in Canada.

Note: for more information on African slaves who worked in the silver and gold mines of Mexico during the 16th-17th Century see the writing by Daniel Hernandez at Intersections (Los Angeles CA.). Also see Daniel’s Jan 14th post “But you don’t look Mexican…”

…the England of James I and his predecessor, Elizabeth I, suffered from overpopulation and poverty. Pushing people into other lands could solve both problems and even have a side benefit. As the Rev. Richard Hakluyt, England's premier geographer, put it, "Valiant youths rusting [from] lack of employment" would flourish in America and produce goods and crops that would enrich their homeland. The notion was so prevalent that it inspired a blowhard character in the 1605 play Eastward Ho! to declare that all Virginia colonists had chamber pots of "pure gold."

That would have surprised the Jamestown settlers, who faced an array of challenges, all of them together crushing…..

End of Excerpt from TIME Magazine

End of Jamestown at 400 years - Part I

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