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Friday, September 25, 2020

History I Shouldn't Write - Vol. V

I've been having a discussion on the History I Shouldn't Write - Vol IHistory I Shouldn't Write - Vol II, History I Shouldn't Write - Vol III, and History I Shouldn't Write - Vol IV. I've talked about how research unveils truths that may not be popular or palatable in our modern culture.

As I discussed in Vol. IV, the British stopped the practice of supplying the native tribes with all the guns, ammunition, and rum that they were accustomed to getting from the French. Why was that so infuriating to the Native Americans? They'd survived for thousands of years without such things, proof that they didn't really need them, right?

Pontiac's RebellionI thought that was a good question, so I went looking for answers.

What I found was more conjecture than solid fact, but it also made sense. Think of where the Native Americans were when the first Europeans landed on these shores. Their tools were stone, bone, clay, and maybe some soft metals that didn't need a forge. They had arrows, lances, clubs, and slings for weapons. Their clothing was almost all animal hides, although some had learned to spin and weave a bit of cloth from plants. For all intents and purposes, they were still in the stone age.

Along come the Europeans with metal cooking pots, steel knives, wool blankets, and guns. Guns! Can you imagine what those must have looked like to the first Native Americans who saw them fired? Like Alice through the looking glass, these things transported the native tribes into a whole new era. And make no mistake - they wanted it.

Pontiac wasn't about to let that go.

Who can blame him? Don't most of us want the latest technology? How many homes these days don't have a dishwasher? Or a microwave oven? Or even the new Instant Pot? Don't even get me started on the latest and greatest thousand-dollar smartphone. Or cars that drive themselves. See what I mean? It's human nature that was driving Pontiac and his followers. They didn't want to go backward.

Yet this once again falls short of the history "everybody knows." We haven't been taught that the Native Americans were the same as everyone else. That they wanted the new stuff of their era. That they liked cooking in metal pots and cutting meat with steel knives and wearing soft cloth. Or having the firepower of a gun that gave them the advantage over warring tribes as well as brought down a deer for supper.

The truth is - as I've hit upon throughout this series - that the Native Americans were just like people everywhere. That's neither good or bad ... it's just human nature. The challenge in writing about this era and these people is showing them in a balanced and historically accurate way.


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