Don’t Slander

Rowlandson’s narrative certainly adds to the complexity of still prevalent issues between colonialist invaders and indigenous peoples. Often history portrays the past very one dimensionally. In certain instances almost akin to Dryden’s “Indian Emperor”, the leadership and guiding motivation of imperialist powers is portrayed as a noble and honorable venture, such as President Trump’s efforts and all too infamous slogan “Make America Great Again” being propagandized to reinforce discrimination towards minority groups and incessant efforts to promote a very nationalistic and nativist climate. Inversely, the equally modern villainization of Christopher Columbus and the rebranding of his namesake holiday is a consequence of enveloping the entire character of Columbus as a herald of mass genocide. Although relegated to 17th century history, Rowlandson’s journal still provides pertinent insight on conflicts and treatment between indigenous and minority groups and colonists alike. Rather than emphasize the scope of these conflicts as a whole, Rowlandson exhibits insight into how these conflicts were shaped at an individual level.

All throughout the narrative it is present that the violence and conflict between natives and colonists were not solely black and white. Some natives murdered her daughter and brother- in-law, whereas others shared their limited rations with her despite being on the brink of starvation themselves. At an individual level, natives had different perspectives and priorities on matters of the guerrilla war. Similarly, combat that occurred between natives and colonists was not necessarily one-sided. Although the native population in what became the United States was completely decimated, this was a consequence of foreign disease more than immediate bloodshed. Were it not for smallpox the world would look astronomically different today. This is not to trivialize nor justify any of the atrocities committed on either side, but rather reevaluate that the purpose behind colonial conflict, both past and modern, was not entirely one-dimensional. The history of intolerance has never been justified, but as Rowlandson shows, it is more nuanced than most people tend to believe, and in the modern world these strictly polarizing perspectives will only continue to reinforce this history and climate of intolerance.

-Kevin Martinez

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