Professor Christine DeLucia Speaks On Slavery & Bondage in the Dawn Land of Colonial New England

Christine DeLucia, professor at Holyoke College, gave a lecture on April 26, 2018, sponsored by the South Berwick Historical Society; it was entitled Landscapes of Bondage, Refugee: Revisiting Enslavement, Resistance and Memory in the Native Colonial New England & Atlantic World.

DeLucia began by saying that she wanted to take a look at historical places in the region and how these places have been contested at various times in New England history.

One of DeLucia’s contemporaries (whose name I forgot) made reference to another ethos at play: “The opposite of bondage-being in a state of self-governance, safety and care.” This is one of those antagonistic symbols re and towards white, colonial, “take-over” mentality.

Her purpose for also observing the Atlantic World, is to connect bondage to enslavement. For example, in 15th Century Iberia (after Columbus’ first saw the multi-racial composition of the people he intiated contact with on his voyage), probably gave him a sense of legitimacy to rationalize slavery and bondage as a religious duty at the “point of origin” story, that’s completely the opposite of what you could find in textbooks.

Herstorically speaking, there was also a commingling of African slave-trade in tandem with Indigenous bondge.

Many factors most likely caused the cultural shift from slavery to bondage, but certainly the effects of European-birthed strains of diseases were huge. This was also possibly one of the reasons that, in the case of the Abernaki Tribe, led a semi-nomadic existence for the need to find relatives who may have already settled in other places; their treks were to find them to live in community & family.

It’s obvious as well, that another factor in this lifestyle, were the wars, battles, and military conflicts in which they found themselves in; this in addition to attacks by local whites.

At a certain point in this colonialization process, the lines between slavery & bondage began to blur; it’s the story of the unfolding/evolution of Dawn Land (from the Abernaki language with its residency name in the colonial New England region).

DeLucia also wishes to make us aware of something else that we may be unaware of presently: that “white-colonial” contact was “slow, halting, and coast-based process” (DeLucia’s Power Point); it’s a process, which has no limitations in a white, western worldview, that tends to view “events” and other linear-defined points, on a line moving forward in time, instead of a more Native American cosmology, which is more cyclical, guided by the earth, sky, and seasons, ever-changing & fluid.

What do the forces of “white industry,” and “white privilege” think about the captives who were taken away in bondage? Answers appear to be fairly close; “the powers that be” incarcerated/interred Native Americans to Deer Island in 1675, under the covering mists, with only what they needed to live, under all weather conditions, while most of what they promised went unreceived. As DeLucia noted, it was an act of murder, a mini-genocide to try to kill them.

Later, a sewage plant was erected on this Native American site of remembrance, as Christine DeLucia puts it, it was a “conscience site.” This gives you a little comparison to European-American values.

This gets me to thinking of white shame. There’s certainly a type of toxic shame, that one can get hooked into, that becomes a never-ending litany of complaints and grievances-OK, I agree, this is an unhealthy kind of shame. Yet, I also think that shame is an emotion (neutral not good or bad) that’s probably in most of us, and, if we’re aware of it, it helps us to change and become better human beings-it acting as a healthy force.

As I listened to Christine DeLucia speak (and afterwards), I felt shame, shame for what my white ancestors did to Colonial New England Native Americans (whether my actual ancestors lived in New England region or not-doesn’t matter, it simply was somewhere else), and to the succeeding generations of Native Americans who would come into being in time.

Yes, shame for being a white whose ancestors are bonded as Native Americans for their own egos’ purposes, for their skewed, religious ideologies, for fear, for “Manifest Destiny,” etc. These were only some of the agenda items used as a play book against, how they may term, “Injuns,” in order to beat them good-what? To show ’em who’s boss?

Sorry, my bad, but that’s just bull shit!

Hearing Professor DeLucia speak of “memory lands,” I, as a European-American male, can make that into some kind of “Hollywoodized,” sanitized view of past, present, and future, when it’s the stories of the People of the Land that tie so many of the “meta-threads” together.

Place is also extremely necessary for formation of one’s identity. When a normal sense of place is disrupted or disappears, when dislocation, death and oppression occurs, then the results of trauma are always more readily seen.

It’s my hope that there are Mental Health services for Native Americans (I’m a relatively “young” Mainer of only a year and some months) and their children’s generations who bare the brunt of trauma, even as it has been assimilated by their descendants, who weren’t living at the time the trauma happened. If there aren’t enough services and facilities for some sort of PTSD therapy, then a dissenting, protesting, and holistic move ought to be started (maybe it already has), where this may be made a reality.

copyright: christopherbearbeam April 26, 2018

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