Opinion

Julianne Jennings: Tools of conquest are still being used today






Benjamin Church, who led wars against tribes in New England in the 1600s. Photo in the public domain

Julianne Jennings reflects a chance meeting with a descendant of a military officer who led war against New England tribes in the 17th century:
In order to move forward, we cannot continue to rage against past transgressions, for it only leads to self-victimization. History tells us that Native American populations dramatically declined over the past centuries because of the myth that people with certain phenotypes are less human or “civilized.” Previous case studies on mixed-race groups for example, the Narragansett, Pequot, Wamapanoag as well as individual accounts echo the pervasiveness of discrimination. If we shift our focus from our rigid, narrow and habitual points of view, we will embrace situations in new ways so that they become more workable.

It is critical to understand that the conquest of the natives of this country was based on a chain of flawed thinking: first being religion, where 15th century documents, such as the papal bulls, show the papacy played a role in the genocidal onslaught that impacted millions of indigenous people. Early explorers and then conquerors brought diseases and then guns, enslavement, land-grabs, racial discrimination and re-education. Many of these tools of conquest were and still are, being used today.

When presenting this writing I was asked, “How come the voices of certain Elders were not present in the text?” My response was “the old regime was cloaked in anger and resentment and had to be overthrown.” An exhibit at Plimoth Plantation called “Irreconcilable Differences” is an example of the rage that perpetuates a “where-to-when” everybody got stuck. Another example comes from one of our communities most prominent Indian scholars “ If you don’t marry your own people you will disappear,” signifies they too have bought into classifying people by blood and not by culture. My grandmother’s reasons for remaining silent about her identity also exemplify a conquered mind, a path I was destined to walk.

Get the Story:
Julianne Jennings: 'I Have the Blood of Kings and Queens in My Veins' (Indian Country Today 6/16)