Built on Broken Families

One of the earliest stories of white-Indian interaction in North America is that of Squanto, a Patuxet Indian taken captive by English explorer Thomas Hunt in 1614 and sold as a slave in Spain. Tisquantum—his real name—escaped and made his way back to Cape Cod through England. He had picked up English along the way, a skill that would prove valuable when the Mayflower landed and the newcomers needed help with agriculture and the ways of the new world. Unfortunately, Squanto, whose tribe had completely succumbed to diseases brought ashore by European fishermen, who was valued and praised by Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford, did not live long, just long enough to show the colony food caches, seeds, fertilizer and fields.

The violence in Squanto’s capture and demise was caused by slavery and disease, harbingers of continuing interrelationships between the misnamed Indians and the European newcomers from that day forward. A third tool of dismemberment of the native societies was Read The Article

Desperation

At the Fishtrap Gathering this weekend, writer Luis Alberto Urrea talked about the border. He’d written a non-fiction book, The Devil’s Highway, about 26 from Vera Cruz who crossed the border in 2001—twelve made it, and fourteen died in the trying. The book was a Pulitzer finalist and has just been reprinted in a tenth anniversary edition. The story is lauded by many, even by border patrollers, but there is no political purchase or acknowledgement.
He’s followed it with a novel called Into the Beautiful North, which deals somewhat playfully with Mexican villages where mass exoduses of men have left villages of women, young children, and oldsters. Is it an easier way of looking at things?
In seriousness, in a panel on the multi-cultural future, Luis asked the audience to imagine how desperate parents in El Salvador or Honduras must be to gather last resources, give them to a smuggler, and hope that a child makes it to
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Indentured servants and other old world influences on the new

1738 Indenture contract signed with an X


I was looking for information on Scottish indentured workers in America—remembering something from Charles Mann’s book, 1491, about indentured Scotsmen dying of malaria on southern plantations  so quickly that owners turned to African slaves. Googling around, I realized that my memories had simplified the story, but, as always, I bumped into other facts and ideas that, meshed with current interests and reading and rereading Josephy, have me relearning U.S. history.
I didn’t remember learning much about indentured workers at all on my first, school-time run through American history. Certainly not that as many as 80 percent of white immigrants to North America—those from the British Isles and the Continent—from the early 1600s to the Revolution, were indentured. Feeding and keeping the laborers shipboard cost more than a year’s plowman’s wages in England, some workers did not survive the long voyage, and there was
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