Opinion

Gyasi Ross: Native and African people share long history of resistance






A portrait believed to be of Crispus Attucks, a Wampanoag and African man who was the first person killed in the American Revolutionary War in 1770. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Did you know the first casualty of the American Revolution was a man of Wampanoag and African descent? Gyasi Ross (Blackfeet), the editor at large for Indian Country Today, looks back to Crispus Attucks to examine the shared history of struggle among the Native and African peoples:
Since white colonization of this continent, Black and Native lives have always been valued less than other people. The story of Crispus Attucks was an early illustration of how there seems to always be a reason why black and Native people get killed that somehow exonerates the authorities of guilt when they harm us. “Self-defense.” But, perhaps most importantly, the story of Crispus Attucks is about combined Native and black lineages that resisted, suffered, but through that resistance caused a revolution.

The year was 1770 and the scene was the Massachusetts Colony. Boston was hot with anger and resentment toward England. 150 years after Pilgrims originally occupied the homelands of the Wampanoag people, the descendants of those Pilgrims felt like they were losing control of the land they called “home.” At that time slavery was legal in the Massachusetts Colony—white colonists enslaved Natives and blacks alike in Massachusetts. For example, in 1638 during the so-called “Pequot Wars,” white colonists enslaved a group of Pequot women and children. However, most of the men and boys, deemed too dangerous to keep in the colony. Therefore white colonists transported them to the West Indies on the ship Desire and exchanged them for African slaves.

Read More on the Story:
Crispus Attucks: A Black and Native Shared Narrative That Changed the World (Indian Country Today 2/15)