Royal Americans

There were once kings in America—at least according to the British. In an ironic twist of cultural misunderstanding, the English in the New World, not understanding Indian ways, assumed them into an English mold, modeled on still older, classical names and lines of royalty.  
Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoags, who shared resources, knowledge, and a legendary feast with the Pilgrims, had two sons, who were known to the settlers as Alexander and Philip. The old chief had ceded lands and compromised much with the settlers, who, by the time of his death outnumbered Indians almost two to one in “New England.”  The older son, Alexander, who ascended to leadership on Massasoit’s death, was outspoken at growing English prohibitions on his people—Indians were punished for hunting and fishing on the Sabbath, marrying without Christian sanction, etc.—and, after a year of leading his people, was imprisoned by his white neighbors.
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The romantic side of assimilation


Relationships between European immigrants and indigenous people in the Americas have been complicated from the beginning.  Columbus and his henchmen squeezed the Caribbeans of gold, enslaved them, annihilated some tribes, and took the case of indigenous people’s “humanity” back to the Old World, where churchmen determined that the Americans had souls and were in need of Christian conversion.

The northern Europeans, coming out of the little ice age, started to get well on American potatoes, and the ones who made it to “New England” shores, still often scrawny and unfit, found corn and squash and beans and big strong looking Indians—the Indians who had escaped the diseases which had decimated the coast before the arrival of actual settlers.

A few of these strong good looking Indians were brought back to Europe, and they and stories of the Iroquois Confederation –the “civilized tribes”—reached philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau and others to fuel a vision of “noble savages” and feed the Enlightenment.
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