Why can't Americans be grateful for the British colonies in Jamestown and elsewhere?

If we didn't colonise America in the first place then America wouldn't exist today.....

It's hardly Pocahontas: new exhibits portray Jamestown colonists as killers and rapists

By James Langton in New York, Sunday Telegraph


How the English colony of Jamestown, named after King James I, may have looked

England's first successful colonists in America have been branded as rapists and murderers who imported slavery and oppressed the local Indian population.

The controversial portrait of pioneer life in 17th-century Jamestown has become a central part of this year's 400th anniversary of the colony, whose settlement led directly to the birth of the world's most powerful nation.

When the Queen arrives in Virginia as guest of honour in early May, she will find that organisers have banned plans for a "celebration", instead calling the event a "commemoration" after black and Indian members of the organising committee branded Jamestown "an invasion".

An exhibition by the US National Park Service, which manages the land on which the original settlement was built, plays down the achievements of the first 107 settlers, who brought with them the English language and the traditions of English justice and common law that still underpin modern America.

A critic for The New York Times, who visited the exhibition this month, noted that the Queen would find "not the triumph of British influence, but the triumph of ambiguity, discomfort and vague multiculturalism". Edward Rothstein warned that the "overall impact" of the exhibition was "only to diminish a visitor's sense of English culture".

Organisers of the Jamestown 2007 events justify their decision to ban the word "celebration" by saying: "Many facets of Jamestown's history were not cause for celebration." Galleries at the exhibition place heavy emphasis on the local Indians, who are described as being "in harmony with the life that surrounds them" and living in an "advanced complex society".

By contrast, life in early 17th-century Britain is portrayed as offering "limited opportunity" thanks to a "small elite" of aristocrats who made sure "life was difficult" for most of the population.

The exhibition includes statues of two Indian chiefs and an African queen who fought Portuguese invaders in what is now part of Angola. In fact, the first Africans did not arrive at Jamestown until 1619 and were indentured servants, like many poor whites. Ironically, the first African slave was owned by a former black indentured servant in 1654.

After arriving on May 14 1607 in three small ships - the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery - the small group of men who were America's first English settlers suffered such disease and starvation that after a year only 38 were still alive. The expedition was organised by the Virginia Company, a commercial venture created under a charter from James I. The expedition's leaders included Capt John Smith, who was captured by Indians and claimed his life had been saved by the 10-year-old Pocahontas, a daughter of the local chief.

Pocahontas, who was portrayed in a Disney animated film, became friendly with the settlers and eventually married a widowed tobacco farmer, John Rolfe.

She had a son, Thomas, but she died suddenly at the end of a visit to England in 1617 and was buried at St George's Church in Gravesend. The True Story of Pocahontas, a book written to coincide with the anniversary, claims that she was raped by at least one leading member of the colony and was murdered in England, possibly to prevent her from telling her father what she had learnt during her visit.

The authors, Linwood "Little Bear" Custalow and Angela "Silver Star" Daniel, claim to be descended from Pocahontas's tribe and say the allegations of rape and murder come from "sacred Mattaponi oral traditions".

Among those who support the decision not to call the anniversary a celebration is Mary Wade, a member of the Virginia Council of Indians and the official Jamestown 2007 steering committee. She insists: "You can't celebrate an invasion - whole tribes were annihilated."

While relations between the settlers and local tribes were initially mixed, they broke down after the Jamestown Massacre on Good Friday 1622, when Powhatan warriors slaughtered about 400 men, women and children in a few hours. A further 20 English women were taken by the tribe as slaves.

Other events organised for Jamestown 2007 include a talk on the local ecology which brands the settlement "the origin of environmental injustice in America" and a recent conference looking at the influence of African Americans on the colony, at which speakers accused the settlers of creating "a holocaust".

However, Christian groups say the organisers are ignoring the strong religious faith of the first settlers. They are organising a rival event, in June, to celebrate the role Jamestown played in introducing Christian common law and America's first Protestant Christian worship and baptisms. Those involved will also celebrate the wedding between Pocahontas and Rolfe as America's first inter-racial marriage.

Doug Phillips, the president of Vision Forum Ministries, which is organising the rival event, said: "For America's 400th birthday, what should be a celebration of gratitude to the Lord is fast becoming homage to revisionist historiography and political -correctness."

He accused the Jamestown 2007 organisers of "belittling our nation's Christian past and painting the Jamestown settlers as bloodthirsty cannibals, environmental terrorists and worse."

Last edited by Blackleaf; Mar 18th, 2007 at 06:23 AM..