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Popular historical texts and history text books provided to high school students often give a shallow account of events surrounding the colonization of North America by Europeans. James Loewen authored a book that debunked myths that have been entrenched in American folklore known as Lies my teacher told me: everything your American history text book got wrong. The following essay will use material from the book to analyze another history book. The book under analysis will be Alan Taylor’s American Colonies: the settling of North America. By reviewing this book, this paper aims to establish if Taylor depicted European interaction with American Indians accurately.
Loewen asserted that most history textbooks gave a wrong account of the origin of thanks giving and the animosity that European settlers showed American Indians. In the third chapter, Loewen is of the opinion that most history authors viewed pre-colonial America as virgin land and its inhabitants as savage primitives. Moreover, he believed that they also viewed the pilgrims as pious and wise people who had sailed towards North America with the sole intent of finding a new society. He believed that the pilgrims gad ulterior motives such as greed and profit making. Loewen further stated that in truth, the American Indians were helped the pilgrims for the sole reason that they did not know that the pilgrims had brought the infectious malady that had decimated their population (Loewen). He claimed that popular historian spread the false notion that the American Indians helped the pilgrims out of the own volition. Another lie that Loewen believes that historians spread is the case of Squanto. As these historians claim, Squanto had picked up the English language from European fishermen and found their way of life to be admirable. For this reason, Squanto thereby helped the pilgrims to survive in the hostile North American wilderness by showing them how to plant crops and navigate the foreign land. However, as he clearly shows, Squanto had been a former slave who escaped captivity in Spain and stowed away in the pilgrims’ ship to get back to his ancestral land. Upon reaching Plymouth, he found that his entire tribesmen were dead and thus joined the pilgrims in desperation (Loewen).
When comparing the two books on the issue of Indian and pilgrim relationship, one can deduce that Alan Taylor did not fall victim to the accusation that Loewen makes about historians. This is because Alan respects the fact that Indians only helped the pilgrims because they had nowhere to go after most of their population was wiped out by smallpox and other infectious diseases. Ne moreover acknowledges the fact that Europeans expansion to North America was to blame for the deaths of most American Indians. He additionally makes a similar speculation to Loewen’s that had the Indians know that the Europeans were to blame for the mass death of their keen they would not have helped the pilgrims to set camp in Plymouth and the first Thanksgiving could have happened. Based on this evidence, it is safe to conclude that Alan Taylor did not make the distortion to the real history as many text books did (Taylor). This is because Taylor does not glorify the actions of pilgrims and does not even Thanksgiving as a glorious holiday as it is popularly depicted. However, in contrast to Loewen, Taylor believes that the Thanksgiving has a significance since it choose to focus on the positive aspects of a largely brutal era. He gives the Native Americans the same moral standing that English settlers had given themselves. This is a stack contrast with how most historians had distorted the events of the era. Alan Taylor moreover, debunks the popular myth that English settlers starved from working hard on firms to grow crop. He proves that these settlers were so driven in trying to look for gold that they did not produce food which consequently led to their starvation. In this light, he recounts the same story provided by Loewen and is therefore above castigation for manipulation of history. Taylor does not only refute the popular notion that the pilgrims were glorious but also fight for the rights of Native Americans to present the crimes that were perpetrated against them. He thereby paints the colonists as unscrupulous and the Indians as generous (Taylor). He enlightens the readers on the fact that colonists performed genocidal attack on several Native American’s tribes thereby dismantling the myth that the pilgrims viewed the natives as trustworthy and worth of respect.
Just as Loewen had done, Taylor showed that the relations between the colonists and natives were not as cordial as depicted in historical propaganda. He tries to show the full extent of brutality with which European settlers treated the Indians. For example, he writes about an event where colonists pretended to make a truce with the Indians but ended up poising an entire village consisting of hundreds of inhabitants. Alan, in Loewen’s fashion tells tales about how European settlers would behead Indians and cast their severed heads on a spike to warn other resisting natives. Moreover, he tells about how Indians were scalped and subjected to forced labor. According to him, the settlers were a lazy lot. In his estimation, he believes that they could not have cleared the wild bushes and cultivated the land as popular propaganda dictates. This deduction is similar to Loewen’s since he had said in his book that the settlers found tilled land on which crops already grow and simply annexed them. Loewen had provided evidence of this in the fact that the settlers named productive land with a suffix “field”. The towns of cornfield, Deerfield and Springfield were named after land that was grabbed from the Indians which already had corn, springs and deer to hunt. According to Alan, the glory that settlers thought they deserved about conquering North America was in truth attributable to the many tropical diseases that they brought with them that invariably decimated Indian population thereby driving them out of their lands as they tried to flee the infectious maladies (Taylor).
While a comparison of a historic text book based on myths would have been proper so as to see the differences between the actual account of the colonial era and that of the fabricated cover up that is commemorated by Thanksgiving holiday. Alan Taylor has also provided an effective means of corroborating Loewen’s story. The two authors have been similar in that they have not distorted history in order to cover up the crimes against humanity that were perpetrated by European settlers on the North American colony. Both books complement each other by providing different wordings to the actual history of colonial America. Thereby, it is safe to say that American Colonies: the settling of North America enable readers to view American history from Indians perspective just as Loewen’s asserted that a good history book should.
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