April 19, 2009

"Indians" at the Boston Tea Party

A few notes on the play-acting "Indians" at the original Tea Party:

Boston Tea PartyThis iconic 1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier was entitled "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor"; the phrase "Boston Tea Party" had not yet become standard. Contrary to Currier's depiction, few of the men dumping the tea were actually disguised as American Indians.

The Boston Tea Party, 1773[A] group of about 200 men, some disguised as Indians, assembled on a near-by hill. Whopping war chants, the crowd marched two-by-two to the wharf, descended upon the three ships and dumped their offending cargos of tea into the harbor waters.

Take your tea and shove it.

George Hewes was a member of the band of "Indians" that boarded the tea ships that evening. His recollection of the event was published some years later. We join his story as the group makes its way to the tea-laden ships:

"It was now evening, and I immediately dressed myself in the costume of an Indian, equipped with a small hatchet, which I and my associates denominated the tomahawk, with which, and a club, after having painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired to Griffin's wharf, where the ships lay that contained the tea. When I first appeared in the street after being thus disguised, I fell in with many who were dressed, equipped and painted as I was, and who fell in with me and marched in order to the place of our destination.
Boston Tea Party and 2009 Tea PartyIn fact, the colonists did not wear feathers and fringe. They colored their faces with ash and charcoal from the fire place and draped blankets on their shoulders, and they said they were Mohawks.(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 4/13/09.)

Comment:  So the original protesters were Mohawks in blackface? Nice.

Apparently everyone who dresses up as a anti-government "Indian" is doing it wrong. Everyone is stereotyping Indians.

For more on the subject, see Real Indian at Tax Protest and Teabaggers Misuse Indian Imagery. For more on Indians in the American Revolution, see The Political Uses of Stereotyping and Fun 4th of July Facts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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to replenish their herds depleted by severe droughts, diseases, raiding or other calamities.
Your harshness has caused people to lose faith in themselves and because of that
they have died on missions or have hurt their team's performances. Have the kids organize elements of costumes so they'll know where everything is when they decide it's time to play dress-up.

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