A cast of about 70 local residents from all across southern West Virginia are spending the next several weeks under the guidance of director Bill France, a press release from The Aracoma Story Inc., said.
The Aracoma Story
The story asserts that Princess Aracoma and Boling Baker moved into this valley sometime close to the year 1760 and lived in peace on the island (today's City of Logan) until 1780.
"The Aracoma Story" blends tales of the Shawnee Indians with the story of young love. Boling Baker, a scout from General Braddock's Army, is captured by the Shawnee who are led by Chief Cornstalk. He is rescued from death by Cornstalk's daughter, Aracoma, and adopted into the tribe that moved to the island in the Guyandotte Valley. The drama tells how Baker and Aracoma's people were weakened by disease and how a raid, led by Baker to steal horses, ended in the destruction of this adoptive tribe.
I hope we're not supposed to believe any of these stories. Forget the obvious fact that few if any tribes had royalty such as "princesses." How is it that every legend involves a beautiful young chief's daughter saving a handsome young white man? What about all the times when the chief's grandmother or uncle or brother-in-law saved someone? What about all the times the person saved was a little girl, an old man, or a runaway slave? Did the Indians forget to record these legends?
Is Aracoma's story helpful?
I suspect the producers think they're helping Indians by telling this probably phony tale. But have they thought about the message they're sending? I'm guessing not.
Let's recap how the legend goes: Savage Indians capture civilized white man who's minding his own business. Indians look like monsters because they're willing to kill an "innocent." Only the intervention of a princess (more noble and honorable than the cutthroats around her) saves the princely white man.
And how does the story end? Judging by the summary, Baker's horse raid led to a deadly reprisal by settlers. So the virtuous white men simply overreacted to a nasty Indian attack. They weren't out to dispossess the Indians by hook or crook. They were minding their own business when the villainous Indians stole their property. Then they had to fight back.
In short, the Indians brought their misfortune on themselves. If they had just lived in peace like their white neighbors, they'd still dominate West Virginia. But they got greedy and suffered for it.
Life in Aracoma's land
I'm not sure if Aracoma and her people died in 1780. But Tecumseh, the famed Shawnee freedom fighter, was born in 1768 in nearby Ohio. He and the semi-historical Aracoma were contemporaries.
We don't know much about Aracoma's life, but here's what Tecumseh's early life was like:
Violence continued unabated on the American frontier after the American Revolution as the Northwest Indian War. A large tribal confederacy, known as the Wabash Confederacy that included all the major tribes of the Ohio and Illinois country, joined together to repel the American settlers from the region. As the war between the confederacy and the Americans grew, Tecumseh became a warrior and took an active part fighting along with his older brother Cheeseekua beginning at age fifteen. Tecumseh participated in several battles, including the 1794 Fallen Timbers, which ended the war in favor of the American settlers.
What Aracoma tells us
The message of the
Despite all this effort to save the savages from oblivion, they were doomed to fade away. Why? Because of diseases, misunderstandings, and a few overzealous white settlers. Federal and state policies, not to mention a culture of greed and entitlement, had nothing to do with it. It was an accident of fate that destroyed the Indians, not an avaricious Euro-American philosophy of conquest and genocide.
In short, the good whites and good Indians tried to save the bad Indians from the bad whites, but failed. The important thing to remember is they tried. Good Christian Euro-Americans did and do the right thing when given half a chance. Any failure on their part isn't their fault.
For more on the subject, see Pocahontas Bastardizes Real People and Tonto and the "Good Indian."
Below: Non-Indian Laura Hatfield plays Princess Aracoma, further cementing the idea that Aracoma was as noble and pure as a white woman.