TRAIL OF DEATH: after years of researching the Wicocomico Nation, it has led me to various other sources of study concerning the brutality that Native Americans suffered at the hands of the English and later the United States. These stories will not be found in our history books and if by some chance one is found in the history books, it will be written so that it would be difficult to realize it was the same story. Our children were brought up on the story of Pocohantas and how understanding the English were.
When stories of this nature are read, many people try to make excuses for the brutality that was imposed on the Native Americans. Many readers will mention the atrocities the Native Americans imposed on the English and citizens of the United States. KEEP IN MIND THIS LAND BELONGED TO THE NATIVE AMERICANS; they reacted just as any citizen would in defense of their land and family.
When Indians came in contact with the Europeans (Spanish, French, English) it was a disaster for the Indians in the form of out right slaughter, or through diseases which the Indians were not immune to. I believe that is sufficient enough to make the Indians wary of the Europeans.
When the English arrived to settle Jamestown, Chief Powhatan fed and kept the English alive, however after a short time it was evident the intent of the English was to steal the land in any manner possible.
During the summer of 1610 in Jamestown, the Governor, Thomas West De la Warr had directed Powhatan to return several runaway Englishman. It appears Powhatan did not respond in a satisfactory manner. De la Warr felt this was sufficient reason to conduct a military campaign against Powhatan. George Percy, brother to the Earl of Northumberland and De la Warr's second in command headed up the military action against Powhatan. The following is Percy's description of the actions that took place:
Drawing my soldiers into battle, placing a Captain or Lieutenant at every file, we marched towards the Indian Town...and then we fell upon them, put some fifteen or sixteen to the sword and almost the rest to flight...My Lieutenant brought with him the Queen and her children and one Indian prisoner for which I taxed him because he had spared them. His answer was that having them now in custody I might do with them what I pleased. Upon the same I caused the Indians head to be cut off, then dispersed my files, appointing my soldiers to burn their houses and to cut down their corn growing about the town. With the Indians dead or dispersed, their village destroyed, and their food supplies laid to waste, Percy sent out another raiding party to the the same to another Indian Town and then marched to his boats with the Queen and her children in tow. There, however his soldiers "did begin to murmur because the Queen and her children were spared." This seemed a reasonable complaint to Percy, so he called a council together and "it was agreed upon to put the children to death THE WHICH WAS EFFECTED BY THROWING THEM OVERBOARD, SHOOTING OUT THEIR BRAINS IN THE WATER." Upon his return to Jamestown, however, Percy was informed that Governor De la Warr was unhappy with him because he had not yet killed the Queen. Advised by his chief Lieutenant that it would be best to burn her alive, Perry instead decided to end his day of "so much bloodshed" with a final act of mercy: instead of burning her, he had the queen quickly killed by stabbing her to death.
In 1623, the Jamestown Colonists passed legislation that indicated their hostility toward the Indians. The following acts are those that deal with the Indians:
Finally in 1655 the legislatures first act for that session was to pass an Act in the Indians favor. The Assembly admitted they were harsh on the Indians and they had attacked the white man to protect their land and way of life. The first Act: for every eight wolves heads the Indian brought in, the Great Man would receive a cow. The second Act: if the Indian families would bring in their children to live with a white family, the children would be educated and civilized and not be used as slaves. The third Act: it addressed the Indians land in that he could not bargin away his land to an Englishman without the permission of the Assembly, and his land was protected from unfair seizure.
Based on the treatment the English inflicted on the Powhatans when they arrived in 1608,the colonists, after the Revolutionary War continued the same methods that had served the English so well as indicated in the following stories as the United States moved west.
In 1864 Col Chivington (a former clergyman that had political ambitions) was appointed the territorial military commander in Colorado. After some isolated incidents with the Indians, Chivington sent out detachments to burn and destroy Indian villages, the Cheyenne, Arapahos, Sioux, Kiowa's, and Comanches's struck back. this give Chivington the opportunity that he was looking for, to launch a full scale attack on the Indians.
On November 29, 1864, Chivington deployed his command, about seven hundred solders with howitzers around Black Kettle's village on Sand Creek. Black Kettle was under the impression that he was at peace with the Americans; he ran up the American Flag and assured his people that all was well. the troops opened fire and charged. The Indians scattered in all directions. Chivington had made it clear that he wanted no prisoners, hie policy was "to kill and scalp all, little and big". Nits make lice he was fond of saying. Interpreter John Smith later testified: they were scalped, their brains knocked out; the men used their knives, ripped open women, clubbed little children, knocked them in the head with their guns, beat their brains out, mutilated their bodies in every sense of the word. Two hundred Cheyenne's, two thirds of them women and children perished. Nine chiefs died, however Chief Black Kettle escaped. (Only to be murdered later by Custer.)
About a week prior to the slaughter at Wounded Knee, L. Frank Baum, editor of South Dakota's Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer newspaper advocated the extermination of all America's Indians:
The nobility of the Redskin is extinguished and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The whites by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians.(WHY NOT ANNIHILATION?) Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced, better they should die than live the miserable wretches that they are. -- L. FRANK BAUM (LATER BECOMES FAMOUS AS THE AUTHOR OF "THE WIZARD OF OZ")
An Indian named American Horse, who had been friendly to the American troops for years gave this narrative of the slaughter at Wounded Knee:
...they turned their guns, Hotchkiss guns upon the women who were in the lodges standing there under a flag of truce, and of course as soon as they were fired upon they fled...There was a women with an infant in her arms who was killed as she almost touched the flag of truce, and the women and children of course were strewn all along the circular village until they were dispatched. Right near the flag of truce a mother was shot down with her infant; the child not knowing that its mother was dead was still nursing, and that especially was a very sad sight. The women as they were fleeing with their babies were killed together, shot right through, and the women who were heavy with child were also killed...After most of them had been killed a cry was made that all those who were not killed or wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys who were not wounded came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight, a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there... Of course it would have been alright if only the men were killed; we would feel almost grateful for it. But the fact of the killing of the women and more especially of the of the young boys and girls who are to go to make up the future of the Indian people, is the saddest part of the whole affair and we feel it very sorely.
Shortly after the massacre, L. Frank Baum stated his approval, in the "Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer's paper stating that: "we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth."
On May 26th 1635 in Connecticut, Captain John Mason with his Massachusetts-Connecticut force of ninty men and eighty Mohegans and 500 Narragansett Indians planned to attack the Pequot with the intent to completly wipe the town out. Mason and his militia struck in the predawn. Mason instructed his men to not take any prisoners. When the Mohegans and Narragansett found out about the no prisoner order they refused to participate and left. Thus left to his own devices, Mason ordered his miltiamen to set fire to the entire town, burning alive as many as 900 "women, children, and helpless old men. Those who tried to escape the blaze were cut down with swords and axes. As Plymouth Governor William Bradford later described the scene, paraphrasing Mason's own exultant account:
It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy.
The new England Colony made the Virginia Colonists look like a group of saints. Indians normally fought out of revenge, to steal women or slaves, but very seldom slaughtered women and children and old men for land.
What has been disclosed on this site is only the tip of the iceberg, broken treaties and promises are part of the Native Americans everyday vocabulary.
I'm sure some folks that read this page will feel uncomfortable, however that was not the intent. If we forget the past, it will make a circle and repeat it's self. It's also important for people to know the truth not only one side, but both. I believe a reader will now understand why the Native American feels strongly about their reservations and treaties with the government. In some parts of the country the Native American did not have voting privileges as late as the 1960s, so for them the past is not in the 1800s, but just a few short years ago.
The Native American is not looking for sympathy, but justice; if any one wants to keep informed of Native American problems, you can go on the internet www.indiancountry.com. It's a well written paper. Also any comments or questions may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*References: Stannard, David E. "American Holocaust" 1992 Oxford University Press Inc.