Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Taking of Indian Lands

1739 A Baptist minister in Rhode Island explains that, by driving out and killing the Indians as punishment for their sins, “God was pleased to make ready a Place prepared as an Asylum” for the early New England settlers.

This extract was of particular interest to me because of the assumption of rights felt by the early settlers in the Americas. Roger Williams was a supporter of Native American rights and so he found Rhode Island as a safe haven for religious refuge. However, it could be argued that instead of religious freedom, religious dictatorship was put in place.

It is as if this Baptist minister is declaring that God has given them permission to make a New World for the white Christian population, and that existing religions and traditions are simply in the way of God's plan. In order for the Baptist religion to move forward, it must remove those members of the population who are considered religiously 'impure' and in order to do so, this extract could be considered as propaganda against the Native Americans to sully their name.

The Indians in this Part of America appear to have been some of the least improved of the human Species,without any Learning or Knowledge in any of the politer Arts of Life, even without Iron and the Improvements which depend on that... Their insuperable Aversion to the English industry and Way of Life, the Alteration from the Indian Method of living, their Laziness, and their universal Love of Strong Drink, have swept them away, in a wonderful Manner.

The minister then revels in the fact that because of these flaws that he has depicted in the race's character, there were then only one Native American to every 20 English in the colony. The "miserable remainders" are then seen as a deterrent (as they are in the minority) for others who may have thought that they could go against an almighty and righteous God.

The Native way of life was considered as Heathenism and barbaric, and these values of America were not in compliance with the New World destiny that America was supposed to offer to other settlers. The land that the Europeans felt that they had "discovered" was overturned and those who had been living in America for vast longer than the settlers were almost completely wiped out.

It was because America had been so widely advertised as a New World, those who arrived there felt that they would be able to start afresh with a clean slate, and that this is what God wanted for them. It was their right, as Christians, to have a place of Asylum, and those who were not in accordance of this ideal were judged and, because of their sins, were punished.

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