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?

2 thoughts on “Here’s Your Head, What’s Your Hurry?

  1. Rob,Regarding Native Americans and cannibalism as an effective deterent to invasion and occupation: Author, Robert Moss in his novel of frontier life in the Mohawk valley, “The Firekeeper”, describes scenes of Iroquois wariors who when capturing English invaders would indeed commit acts of cannibalism. They would single out one captive, and with the other captives as witnesses they would cut out the man’s liver or large hunk of flesh and eat it as they all, including the main victim looked on. Then they would kill most of the captives but they would make sure at least some of them made it back to Schenectady or Fort Orange to tell the tale. It doesn’t take a lot of Native American DNA (I do have a little) to have some sympathy with the “Terrorist/Savages” who were well aware of the horrors they were committing in their ultimately unsuccessful attempt to rid their world of an invader that clearly aimed to destroy them. If our streets today were filled with Chinese soldiers bringing us a “Better economic model”, where would you draw the line when dealing with the invaders, or the locals who might collaborate with them?

  2. Bob, thanks for checking in —I’d be very interested in reading that book. I’ll put it on my list along with this other Mohawk Valley tale:

    As for repelling an invasion, history’s full of stories about mighty armies turned back by “primitive” people. Look what happened to the British and Soviets in Afghanistan.

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