False Representation Of Native Americans Essay, Research Paper
College Writing II
February 4, 2001
While researching the early relations between the American Indians, and the first European settlers, Jane Tompkins found that the way history was recorded seemed to mislead her. In her essay “ ‘ Indians’: Textualism, Morality, and the problem of History,” Tompkins found that the historians put prejudice facts, and looked down upon Native Americans. Clearly it is seen that even through time, historians are still this way. This dilemma must be illuminated to find out who and why this has happened.
Some of the historical cases that Tompkins read were of the time of the exploration. When first coming to America, the Europeans knew only the life that they lived, so when they saw what the Native Americans were doing, they were perplexed. Seeing what they did, puritans automatically came to the assumption that they were barbaric savages. Some of the earliest accounts often change views and could confuse people. One source says that they were loving people, the others tell of how they treated each other and captives. William Wood, a writer in London, wrote, “…they are loving people, but also win the love of those that never saw them, and wipe off that needless fear that is too deeply rooted in the conceits…”(272). On a contrary to this Alexander Whitaker, a minister, wrote “these naked slaves…serve the divell for feare, after a most base manner, sacrificing sometimes…their own children” (573). In this situation it is hard to tell what the American Indians were really like. Either they were too different tribes, or they felt like manipulating the prosperous settlers. Little did they realize that people would look back to this information hundreds of years later
Early writers, giving the perception of Native Americans as they did, “rectified” the more resent and not so recent historians. Historians of this era, such as Perry Miller, tend to view the American Indians the same way that the first discoverers did. He writes of how the United States was “vacant” when first explored. Perhaps he is missing the key element of the Native Americans. This view, or not one at all, of not associating American Indians as people has been passed down from generation to generation. When Tompkins was a child she remembered going to the park to see the Native Americans being shown off as if they were caged animals in a zoo, although she always thought that going to see them was a “disappointment.” This is how she was brought up to be, but her mind didn’t stay hooked on that and keep her feeling superior. There were many after the 1960’s that started to view the Native Americans as equals and people.
What is the reason for this happening? Not having an open mind, this is why this happened. The early puritans, and present day historians had no realization that other people live lives, and that their cultures are just as justified as theirs are. From the beginning the Native Americans were having their heads messed around with. In Francis Jennings’s “The Invasion of America” he talks about how they rape, murdered, scalped, tortured, burned their homes…the list goes on. From the beginning they were treated very poorly. The closed minded ways of the puritans established a uniform feeling about the Native Americans for centuries. This feeling has been kept in people to only come up with the wrong impression, and make others feel the same bad impression.
This attitude towards the American Indians is sad. What did they do to deserve this? In present day less people are feeling this way about the Native Americans. Though people are still forming bias’s against them, most people are trying to makeup for their losses that the colonial Americans caused.