Here’s Your Head, What’s Your Hurry?

cannibalsMaybe you heard about the recent event where the “spiritual ancestors” of New York’s first Dutch settlers apologized for screwing over the Native Americans. A representative of the Lenape people was on hand to “Whole-heartedly accept this apology.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, Erromango islanders held a ceremony to apologize for killing and eating the Reverend John Williams in 1839. You can watch a hilarious video of the re-enactment in this BBC story.

These apologies got me wondering: what if the Native Americans had made it very clear to the Europeans that they were not welcome here. And what could make people feel less welcomed than eating them? Maybe if stories about cannibalism spread through Europe people might have had second thoughts about the New World:

“Perilous voyage? I can deal with that. Risk of disease and starvation? Bring it on. Cannibals? Have a good time over there.”

It’s not likely that eating Henry Hudson would have made a difference in the long run. Sooner or later the Europeans would have shown up with enough fire power to take what they wanted —but it’s interesting to consider what would have happened if they’d made a powerful statement right up front: come here and we will eat you.

So why didn’t the Native Americans fight off the Europeans? Hard to say, but it probably didn’t take long to figure out that trade with the whites was lucrative. And who could have imagined what lay ahead?

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