April 27, 2009

Outcome of After the Mayflower

Continuing the discussion of After the Mayflower, the first episode of PBS's We Shall Remain series:

The narrator concludes this documentary with something like, "It's hard to see how the conflict could've been avoided and outcome could've been different." No, actually, it's easy to see. If the Mohawks hadn't ambushed their fellow Indians, King Philip's confederacy might well have won the war.

We see this outcome again and again in American history. It's almost a truism. If rival Indian tribes had united against their common foe, they could've won. They almost won under Tecumseh using this strategy. Even without this strategy, they fought the US Army to a standstill in places like Florida, the Great Plains, and Arizona for years.

In King Philip's case, all it would've taken is a visionary leader to persuade other tribes to join him. Tecumseh managed to do this, and there's no reason other leaders couldn't have done it as well. As with Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin at Malta, all the Indians had to do was realize that they had a common enemy. That the Euro-Americans would betray them at every turn.

It's easy to imagine a science-fiction scenario in which this visionary leader existed. Perhaps it was an Indian youth who was accidentally cut down by a random arrow or snakebite. Many Indians who died prematurely probably could have filled the role.

In fact, sci-fi writers have imagined such a scenario. In Jake Page's Apacheria, the visionary leader was Juh the Apache. In 1812: The Rivers of War, it was Sam Houston speaking for his Cherokee brethren.

Still some colonization

Obviously, a united Indian front wouldn't have stopped the Europeans altogether. But note how the disappearance of Roanoke delayed the colonization of the Carolinas for 20 or 30 years. If the Aztecs had won over Cortés, or King Philip over the English, the Indians would've had several decades of breathing room. They would've gained some immunity to diseases, rebuilt their tribal strength, and obtained the guns and supplies they needed.

The result would have been an amalgamation of European and Indian nations in the Americas, in my opinion. No one would have considered the situation ideal, but no one would've loathed it either. It would have been a reasonable compromise between one race and another race owning and ruling the entire hemisphere.

Clearly I found After the Mayflower thought-provoking, which is a testament to its quality. It laid out how the Indians lost ground step-by-step until their cause was doomed. Most of the choices they made seemed sensible at the time, but cumulatively they were a mistake.

What New England's Indians needed was a paradigm shift in their thinking. They needed to see the Pilgrims and other "innocent" colonists as the first wave of a invading army of conquerors. A visionary leader such as Tecumseh could've provided that insight.

For more on the subject, see Was Native Defeat Inevitable? and Quality of After the Mayflower.

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