Hell, No, I’m Not Apologizing for Stuff that Happened 400 Years Ago

Depiction of the Jamestown massacre. History is ugly. Get over it.

by James A. Bacon

I’ll make Delegate Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, a deal: I’ll apologize for the sins of my ancestors against indigenous Americans in the 17th century if indigenous Americans apologize for the sins of their ancestors against the English.

McQuinn introduced HR 7 with support from five other Democrats, that would “acknowledge with profound regret … the dispossession of lands and the racist and assimilationist policies designed to erase the identity, culture, and sovereignty of tribal nations in the Commonwealth.” The bill goes on to list a series of transgressions of the English colonists against indigenous Americans — “conflict, trauma, dispossession and failed treaties” — most of which occurred before the English colonies became the United States.

Ironically, it was was 400 years ago almost to the day — March 22, 1622 — that Chief Opechancanough, successor to Chief Powhatan, ordered a surprise attack on the English settlements in Virginia, massacring 347 men, women, and children. Had not an Indian servant notified his master of the impending slaughter, allowing him to alert the Jamestown settlement, the entire English colony might well have been wiped out. (The colonists got their revenge a year later by luring the Indians into a peace parley, poisoning their liquor, and slaying the survivors.)

This genocide — and, yes, when you try to exterminate an entire people, it is literally genocide — goes unmentioned in McQuinn’s list of horribles.

In the leftist version of history, only one set of people are bad guys — Europeans. The Englishmen and other northern Europeans who colonized North America in the 1600s are to be judged by 21st-century standards of morality, while indigenous peoples and Africans are exempt from those standards.

The world of 1619 (if you use the date of the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia as your frame of reference) or of 1607 (if you use the Englishmen’s first contact with the Powhatan federation) was an ugly time. It was an era of endemic warfare in which the strong preyed upon the weak, in which societies were ordered in rigid hierarchies of wealth and servitude, and in which kings and emperors conquered and plundered their neighbors. This was the universal condition of every society that had evolved beyond the simple bands of hunter gatherers.

So, yes, in the 1600s the Englishmen, supplemented by African slaves, did displace the indigenous peoples of Virginia. But HB 7 oversteps historical reality when it states, “for centuries prior to English colonization, Algonquian, Siouan, and Iroquoian speaking people flourished on these lands.” (My bold face.)

Historians and archaeologists have pieced together a picture of indigenous societies in the 16th and 17th centuries shortly before the English arrived, but the evidence is highly fragmentary and incomplete. If there’s one thing we know about indigenous societies in the western hemisphere that did leave a rich archaeological record, they, too had stratified societies, launched wars of conquest, rose and fell in power, and treated outsider groups with remarkable cruelty. Whom did the Powhatan federation “dispossess?” We don’t know. Those peoples didn’t survive to tell the tale.

Here’s one thing we do know: the Indian way of war could be brutally cruel. It is unlikely that the Jamestown settlers were victims of the first war of extermination. Trouble yourself to read about the so-called Beaver Wars in which the Iroquois tribes obliterated the Hurons, Eries, and Susquehannocks in competition for the fur trade. Learn how Iroquois war parties devastated the European settlers during the French and Indian War. Dip into the history of the Comanches, a tribe that mastered horse riding and revolutionized Plains warfare, depopulating vast territories in the southern Plains, inflicting terror upon Apache, Mexicans, and Texans alike.

(Similar patterns could be seen in the West African kingdoms that grew in power and wealth by enslaving weaker populations around them, selling their captives to the Europeans, and acquiring guns and luxuries in exchange. If you’re of a mind to absolve the Africans of this mass slaughter by blaming the evil Europeans who created a market for the slaves, then consider the rise of the Zulu after Shaka revolutionized African warfare with novel tactics, depopulating vast zones, and sending the peoples of weaker kingdoms into flight — all before any interaction with the Europeans.)

The critical change in the trajectory of history occurred with the European Enlightenment and the spread of the idea — unprecedented in humanity — that under natural law all men were entitled to unalienable rights, including, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Those principles animated the creation of the United States. Leftists condemn the U.S. for failing to perfect those principles overnight in their institutions — as if any other society on the face of the planet ever has. But Americans were among the first to articulate the ideals and then act upon them — after many trials and tribulations, to be sure — to achieve the system we have today.

That system is yet imperfect. We have not achieved utopia, and never will. Knowing that, we can do one of two things: look backwards and flagellate ourselves over injustices and perceived injustices that occurred decades and centuries ago, as the ironically self-styled “progressives” are inclined to do, or we can look clear-eyed to the future and ask ourselves, what must we do to create a better society?

I believe in looking forward. Building a better world means letting go of ancient grievances. So, I’m willing to let bygones be bygones and forget the evils perpetrated by Opechanconough if McQuinn and her ideological brethren are willing to let go the historical misdeeds they dwell upon. Let us set our sights upon building better lives for all Americans.

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25 responses to “Hell, No, I’m Not Apologizing for Stuff that Happened 400 Years Ago”

  1. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    I don’t see McQuinn taking the deal.

  2. Packer Fan Avatar
    Packer Fan

    Amen, JB!

  3. tmtfairfax Avatar

    Both former president Barack Obama and I, along with Dick and Liz Cheney, Harry Truman, John Tyler, Warren Buffet and Wallis Simpson, among countless others, are descended from Mareen The Emigrant Duvall. He came as an indentured servant and wound-up owning slaves. What apologies do we owe?

  4. So today’s Leftists want to memorialize the great and noble attributes of the Indian tribes which enslaved others yet lost the wars with the colonizers… but despises and attacks the same for Southerners who also lost. Interesting dichotomy. I guess headdress and moccasins trump grey shell jackets.

    1. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      OMG!!! Moral equivalencies to justify the Lost Cause. Which “war” initiated by which Native American nations was lost? Gah!!!

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    You shouldn’t apologize for Bacon’s Rebellion either. Well, not that one.

  6. Lefty665 Avatar

    She does not go back far enough. Diseases like smallpox and syphilis brought by Columbus and his boys reportedly killed in the neighborhood of 90% of the native americans. A hundred plus years later when the English showed up there were but remnants of the tribes left.

    I say blame the Spanish and Portugese and go after them for reparations.

  7. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    A heavy dive into history finds few (no?) countries or cultures that didn’t steal somebody else’s land, enslave people captured in war or raids, consider themselves superior in some way, and fail to practice the high ideals they preached. All wrap their history in myths to feed their young and ease their own sleep. But grievance politics is just as old and just as common. Look at all the new wounds being ripped open in the last week, wounds that will last a generation or longer.

    1. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      Not a justification to ignore the inexcusable history of colonial domination.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    It’s not about shame or blame or apologizing. It’s about acknowledging it and that it did and does advantage some and disadvantage others.

    It’s about kids understanding those facts and realities also – and they will as they grow up.

    I don’t know how many BRers are watching but have you noticed the commercials as of late? In terms of brown and black folks, mixed marriages, same-sez marriages, even transgender.

    The Corporations “get it”. They know which side of the bread their butter is so no matter they advertise cell phones or automobiles – they do it now to a VERY diverse market. They tout their “diversity” !

    Ditto with Higher Ed. Despite all the whining and “woke” blaming from Conservatives, most Higher ED “gets it”. If they want black/brown people to come attend, they better make sure those folks feel welcome.

    White guys are just gonna have to suck it up.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      Have you apologized yet? Here is your chance. I still love the Simpsons. The social commentary is priceless.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        hey, you must have missed this part: ” It’s not about shame or blame or apologizing”

        We talk about teaching the good, bad and ugly.

        Isn’t this it?

        1. tmtfairfax Avatar

          Wrong again. It’s about teaching everything. I think that slavery with all its ugliness should be taught in U.S. schools. But I bet what’s being taught does not include the fact that darn near every society had slavery, that Africans were involved in sending Africans to slavery in the Western Hemisphere, that African Americans and Native Americans held African slaves too. This is not to justify anything but to present the complete picture.

          Do you think the Woke want this taught?

          Students should also be taught that, during the 19th Century, public schools taught Protestant doctrine, such that mainly Irish and Italian Catholics established their own schools to avoid indoctrination and that the Blaine Amendments were designed to ensure that only Protestant teaching was funded. Thus, the push to keep public funding today has its roots in anti-Irish, anti-Italian and anti-Catholic bigotry. Half my great grandparents were raised Protestant, so I don’t have a bias.

          The current Woke movement in education is just as selective as what it is challenging.

          The trouble with the truth is that, sooner or later, it bites everyone.

          Democracy Dies in Darkness (except when we want Darkness to hide the truth).

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Not just slavery. Jim crow. right? Do you want to tell kids about Jim Crow, Tulsa, the Red Summer, etc… that blacks were denied jobs, the ability to own land, to vote, to drink at the same water fountains, etc.. isn’t that way more than just slavery?

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Not gonna suck it up. Larry. Not gonna give it back, which is what they really want. You are free to. Not the least bit bothered that corporations see only the color green and work to maximize sales — I’m probably invested in most of them! The fact that you think that would bother me says more about you than me, and your commitment to the race card in politics. Race is an imaginary concept, a cultural construct, with no biological reality.

    3. Merchantseamen Avatar

      We should learn about it. I learned what you speak of in 1972. However I was not made to feel GUILTY about it. I have U.S. Indian and German blood in these veins. Should I feel guilty for what the Germans did in WW I and II? No I don’t feel guilty at all. And I don’t apologize for things done some 500 years ago. We must teach history with all its warts. How do we know where we are going if we don’t know where we have been. Our Nation has as the old cigarette commercial said “come a long way baby”.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Hey did you go to a segregated school? Did you go to a school named for a white supremacist or ride on a highway named for one? We sent black kids to segregated schools in our lifetimes and even after we integrated, we sent them to schools named for white supremacists on roads named for them with statues of them in city squares and along the roads and what did we do about it – right on up to today?

        1. Merchantseamen Avatar

          No. Junior H.S. G.W. Clower George Washington Carver African American botanist and inventor (1864-1943) Non-segregated.

          Andrew Lewsi High School Non-segregated

          Andrew Lewis Continental Army general
          Andrew Lewis was an Irish-born American pioneer, surveyor, military officer
          and politician in Colonial Virginia and during the American Revolution.
          1720, County Donegal, Republic of Ireland
          1781, Bedford County, Virginia, United States

          So..whom are these White Supremacists you speak of?

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            The ones that schools and highways were named for… like Jeff Davis and Robert E Lee, etc…DAR statues of Confederates and others who advocated laws and regulations against blacks?

            you’re not familiar ?

            Are you not familiar with Jim Crow in Virginia ?

          2. Merchantseamen Avatar

            Oh Yeah. Highways and statues were erected to celebrate the military genius of these men. Not there personnel beliefs. BTW Jackson never owned slaves as most of the Confederate General officers. Fact: Jackson was very religious and tried not to do battle on the Sabbath. He preached sermons in free black and slave churches. Lee did own some slaves. His wife inherited them from her Grandfather. George Washington. Some 80% of the confederate soldiers did not own any slaves. Fact: My neighbors great great grandfather was a confederate soldier. Not a slave holder. He mustered out to fight when the Federals came through. They took his chickens and pigs. Fact: Some 80% of the general officers were West Point graduates. Many were roommates and fought against each other during the war. Lee taught many of them when he was Admin. at West Point. One case, a son in law (Confederate) fought his father in law in battle (Federal) Both Brigade commanders. I just learned that fact recently. Fact: Civil War tactics, Generals and battles are still studied at West Point, VMI, and Sandhurst (UK). If history is erased, you lose your culture and your nation. Been studying military history and politics for 50 years. You need to delve deep to find the truth. Your bloviating how evil I am because I have German and Indian blood in my veins does not carry any water or weight whatsoever. If you want to look in the mirror and diss the greatest country and the greatest form of government ever attempted be my guest. There are some really good books out there that reveal all the warts, back stabbing and such. A lot of these written in the 50’s and 60’s. This is the same thing that is happening to the history of WWII. Victory disease wrote immediate post war history. After Victory is tempered by time it does change and becomes quite revealing. As I have stated in the past. You cannot know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            The way that black people were treated during Jim Crow had nothing to do with military genius and everything to do with bigotry and racism, and it is relevant history to know and acknowledge.

            You also mention WWII. Are you familiar with the Red summer
            when black veterans returned home after WWI?


            I’m not advocating rubbing anyone’s face in it but it does need to be remembered
            for what it was – that part about
            remembering history you refer to.

  9. tmtfairfax Avatar

    If we could dig deep enough into our past, we would all find ancestors who were part of societies that inflicted evil on others and part of societies that had evil inflicted on them by others. I suspect that many of us would find ancestors who were enslaved by others. Given the realities of economics, few of us would likely find ancestors who were slaveholders. But what about ancestors who were conscripted to protect the society holding slaves?

    And part of the slavery fantasy was not only happy and well-fed slaves but also white people anchoring off the coast of Africa, coming ashore and grabbing people without resistance. A number of African nations have acknowledged their roles in American slavery. Without the participation of black people in Africa, American slavery would not be what it was.

    If we need to teach history correctly, let’s teach history correctly.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      In this country, it’s about who could own land , their work was for their own self and family, they could get educated, and what they “earned”, they could pass down to their kids and grandkids.

      Not everyone got that life. And those impacts carried forward through generations to today.

      I’m not advocating placing blame or apologizing or reparations – just acknowledging that reality.

      If you can show me how long before that , someone who was a slave in another country or timeframe – had similar impacts, then again, it’s an acknowledgement, not anything more than that.

      In this country, we not only had slavery, we had generations of Jim Crow even after people were “free”. We had people who purposely supported treating other people that way. Again – acknowledge it. It’s part of our history.

  10. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Y’all don’t need to apologize especially in behalf of Native Americans and their attitude toward the English. (Don’t get me started on the Irish-English relationship). As noted in a previous comment, what is due to the indigenous peoples of America is simple respect and appreciation that this nation of immigrants violated treaties and disenfranchised many from their homelands. Don’t let your stiff upper English lip get in the way. It’s not a matter of ideology except, perhaps, from your perspective. It is also not about apologies or reparations but acknowledgement that deep hurt and damage was caused by unbounded colonialism.

  11. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    BTW, the standard of morality with respect to slavery has not been made new in the 21st century.

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