U. Mass Professor Lectures On New England Indians

Drawing attention to the stereotypes faced by early Native Americans, University of Massachusetts Lowell Professor Ronald Dale Karr delivered a presentation Tuesday entitled “Encountering the New England Indians: English Attitude in Early Massachusetts Bay.” Dr. Karr said that all evidence pertaining to the early relations between New World Settlers and Native Americans is based on European literary sources and is therefore prejudiced and biased. “Despite the amount of negative stereotypical baggage brought over from England prior to settling in New England, English settlers were indeed quite sympathetic and understanding in dealing with their new neighbors,” he said. However, Dr. Karr said that through increased interaction with the many surrounding Natives, settlers began to discover that contrary to such descriptions as ‘wild and savage,’ ‘worshippers of the devil,’ and ‘murders of children,’ American Indians were not the people that they were depicted as. Beginning an immediate and exponential turn for the negative however, settlers slowly began to infringe upon Indian rights’ and in the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company, settlers were explicitly instructed to “never be confident of the loyalty and fidelity of the Indian” and furthermore, “to never let their guard down,” Dr. Karr said. “Bearing an Indian with the words ‘come over and help me’ as the centerpiece on the seal of the Massachusetts Bay Company, it was clear that at the very least, those in positions of authority intended to exercise the same oppressive stance used in initial England settlements south of New England,” he continued. Providing a variety of entries from various forms of preserved documentation, Karr shared the view of a 1629 Salem reverend in that “Native Americans were viewed as having lived an ideal life in which all day the men would hunt and fish whereas the wife would be left with all the work,” he said. Presenting to the audience what is regarded as “the most extensive account of initial Indian contact,” Karr read several entries from the diary of Governor John Winthrop. These entries included intense descriptions of several incidents in which the chiefs of Indian tribes would meet with the Governor for not only an evening of dinner, but for most of time, several days. “This validates that during initial contact, settlers from England were willing to coexist peacefully with the Indians,” he said. “Although there exists much evidence that during the first few years in which English settled New England they viewed Indians as friends in a new community,” he said, “There is no doubt that settlers from England always viewed Indians as subordinate to themselves.”