Last Real Indians | History Snobs ask Why Now? #SlaveryPublicHistory

By LT (wearing my heavy history hat)

My cousin Charlie is saying he’s in the fourth stage of grief – “If we can laugh it means we are in the Kubler-Ross 4th stage.”

I do think we need to laugh and cry.

Last weekend I watched a live feed history symposium at Brown University in Rhode Island. First, I was overwhelmed and overcome with information. I took copious notes. I was very pleased how Native American Slavery was talked about, too.  I was happy to see people of color from around the world giving presentations on their own history truths. (I even posted a few photos on Instagram since this was historic!) Then I got so angry. Several things hit me like bricks!

Last Real Indians published my op-ed on Tuesday.


Here it is:

History Snobs ask Why Now? #SlaveryPublicHistory

“The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” ― James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985

By Trace Lara Hentz for Last Real Indians

This Snobs headline ought to get me a few gasps and new readers. No, I’m not a history snob. I’m a lover. I can’t get enough of what I call His-Story: where/there, when/then, what/that.

I watched (with baited breath) the live feed of the history symposium at Brown University.  Official title: SLAVERY AND GLOBAL PUBLIC HISTORY: New Challenges. It’s about: Universities across the United States and the world have been forced to confront connections to slavery throughout their histories. From Brown to Yale, Oxford and in South Africa, students, faculty, and administrations wrestle with how to expose, conceal, honor, or memorialize the legacies of slavery. LINK:

Esteemed historians, I’ve met quite a few of them. I remember Yale at a similar symposium in 2000. I asked David Brion Davis an elderly Yale history professor about evidence of Native American slavery – he looked right through me. He turned away – no response at all.  Why? Was I invisible? I introduced myself as editor of the Pequot Times. I think it was the question, not me, that stunned him silent.

History snobs?  Oh yeah.  Typically old white guys give their decades of purported research in their lengthy presentations. (Yawn.) Their expansive expensive exhausting history books, several hundred pages, of course, cost way too much time and money. (Other historians buy them, sure.) They talk to each other, not us. They owned all history but not anymore.


After that Yale symposium in 2000, I asked Mashantucket Pequot Museum Research Center Director Kevin McBride for his paper Genocide and Enslavement of the Pequots. I planned to publish it in the Pequot Times (in parts) and I did.  Let’s say that history of New England Indians was pretty much unknown-unwritten, except for Kevin’s work and the museum. I was on a mission to publish local tribal history, as much as I could get my hands on, every month.

Years later in 2013, Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center had another symposium, Indigenous Enslavement and Incarceration in North American History. (I was there!) They said it was the most attended symposium in their history. (Wonder why?)

The auditorium was packed with New England Indians, all ages, all ethnicities, and New Englanders too.

a project has recorded slave names (highlighted in circles)
a project has recorded slave names (highlighted in circles)

Many of us had lost interest in “his-story” when we were in grade school, age 10, 11 and 12, when we didn’t see ourselves “within” history. Without that, we didn’t trust it. Their version clashed with our family story or there was no history at all.  Textbooks bored us, historians failed us miserably, and for that reason, many people today won’t crack open a history book, period. (Unless you have that Ivy League education.)


At Brown University in December, they gathered some of the world’s best and most brilliant scholars, museum curators and academics.  I heard Yale’s David Blight ask panelists, “Why Now?”

I’d ask, “What took you so long?  Why did you make history so white, so tainted, so discriminatory, so one-sided, so racist, so colonized?  You expect us to care about you now?  You were/are the purveyors of one-sided fallacies.  You built the racial divide that exists in America and you lost many of us long ago.”

webcast-photoI wonder if they realize how much they suppressed and oppressed history by keeping it theirs, locked up in academia archives, in costly books, in their versions.

(Oh, our Indian bones are still locked up in their dusty drawers too in those same Ivy League Schools.  To them Indians are the distant past, relics, disappeared. Some of these schools are sweating the revelations how they profited from the slave trade, too, of course.)

So, how DO you keep violence alive in a museum exhibit or book but not make people throw up or pass out? Very carefully.

early map of new england territories

In the past 20 years, there has been an EXPLOSION of books on slavery and the slave trade.  New movies and historical documentaries are in the works.  Digital websites and online exhibits are popping up worldwide. (see below)  Things are changing in a big way, at least concerning the African slave trade. (Finally!)

I learned there is a new industry called “MEMORY TOURISM” and “Dark Tourism” when people want to see torture, murder, death, suffering, cemeteries, insane asylums and crimes of humanity/inhumanity.  Some of the new Haunted Slavery Ghost Tours are worse than erasure – they are making a mockery of the slave experience, making money off it.  These tour guides are teaching children dehumanized worthless bloody crafted-fictions!

But we are hungry for history, one participant said. The significance of story creates a hunger and longing in us for truth, to find our own ancestral past.

So who does the job of teaching history?  America is filled with small and big history museums and historical societies.  This symposium at Brown was about finding new ways to reach the broader public.  Panelists talked about “Truth Plans” and agreed the public (you and me) make sense of the past with artifacts and story.  A Brazilian presenter even talked about decolonizing their museums, showing slaves and owners in a truthful way.

David Blight
David Blight is Director, The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University

Memory Studies are a new big thing. Memory is emotional, so history done right is capable of invoking a wide range of emotions.  PTSD, coined in 1983, is concerning them, conceptual in therapeutic public intervention, to create empathy but not traumatize.

Truth Plans? Confronting Traumatic History? It’s going global via new heritage tourism.

Why Now? Are we now in the place of long-term reckoning (on the horrific and catastrophic reality of people trapped in the global slave trade)?” Yale panel moderator David Blight asked.

I still wonder who invented slavery. They didn’t answer that.


Guilt by DNA illustrationSlavery in historical perspective:  Slavery was the cornerstone of the colonization of the Americas. Of the ten million or so people who crossed the Atlantic before 1800, about eight and a half million – roughly six of every seven people – were enslaved Africans.  By the time the transatlantic trade was finally suppressed in the 1860s, a total of 10 million to 12 million Africans had been carried into New World slavery, while an estimated two million more had died in the passage.

 Check out: (mind blowing good)

PODCAST: Brown on “Designing Histories of Slavery for the Database Age”

TOP PHOTO:  Slavery Conference sponsored by Brown University and The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University.

I’m sure plenty of you are aware that history snobs have controlled the narratives a long long time and created divisions in the way we think.  You’d guess right that they did do this on purpose.

Roxanne and her colleagues in Indian Country are changing that…


Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz: “The Miseducation of Native American Students”

Turtle Talk blog

In Education Week, here.  An excerpt:  While distortions and myths of Native American culture plague many schools, textbooks often fail to mention Native history after the 19th century. In a 2015 study, scholars Antonio Castro, Ryan Knowles, Sarah Shear, and Gregory Soden examined the state standards for teaching Native American history and culture in all 50 states and found that 87 percent of references to American Indians are in a pre-1900s context.

 P.S. I will be taking off the rest of this month. No blogging here. Laughing more, heck yeah.

See you in 2017. xoxox


  1. Happy happy New Year Lara. I will try not to fear it but rather walk stealthily while connecting to the Earth. Always my goal. This was a very good essay on history. I have been questioning historical “fact” since 11th grade whne I had an actual History teacher who chose to teach us (some) truths aboit actual history, beginning with the way the colonists were able to defeat the British in the Revolutionary war. They fought like gentlemen, the colonists like wild dogs. But wars aren’t won by gentlemen usually, nor are they waged by such. He was a good teacher and we all hung on his words. There were more truths he wanted to reveal, we could tell. I have a percentage of indigenous genetics in my own bloodline, but I was born feeling this connection to indigenous peoples. Since I was around five I would look at my feet and think, “where are my moccasins?” I read Virginia Dare when I was 9 and it struck me very profoundly. Whenever slavery, prejudice, equal rights, etc., comes up and I speak out about the very covered up, unspoken horrors of what was done by the people who founded this country to the indigenous peoples of the land, I usually get that blank stare, a mild nod or an,”Oh yeah well…” as they turn away. It is mind-boggling to me. I did a charcoal piece called “death of the buffalo” when I read a true account of the methodical way in which American industrialists were commissioned to build a railroad across the country and to wipe out the buffalo in the process, also trying to ‘eradicate’ much of the indigenous population in the process. So many American children have grown up with the fairy tale history and have not been raised with the resilience to bear the truth of things, like cancer being a big money maker, so big that medicine will never let a cure be known. Their minds and hearts won’t allow the pain of truth to enter. Why do you think there is now a deplorable president elect waiting to infest the White House, cheered on by masses of people who don’t want to think for themselves, don’t want to be true warriors, don’t want to feel anything but lust, hatred and revenge? I feel these are truly dark times but it is because the light of truth is burning so brightly, spreading so widely and threatening the dark veil of the forgotten and unknown. The puppets have have closed around the hand of deceit, the voice of Wisdom grows louder and nudges others to awaken.
    You know, these days, even when I look at photos of ancient ruins like those in Egypt and Greece, I can only think of the slaves that were forced to build them and the multitudes that lost their lives in the process, like watching ants building a nest for their queen until along comes a foot to kick them out of line or to squash that nest. They scatter for a time but then line right back up to keep working, always working…
    I always chuckle to myself when historians try to defend the actions of the Europeans to destroy and/or disassemble the Indian Nations because of their “savage and brutal” killing of the settlers. How hypocritical can a race be, knowing full well its view towards “Aliens” and the fact that we would fight anything unknown that tried to ‘invade’ its homeland. I will stop this dissertation. My apologies for such a long response. I am going to meditate now, then go watch my gecko friends outside, maybe bake some holiday cookies. I hope you have a peaceful and joyous holiday Lara. Namaste. Hugs my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Somehow Jay I was gullible to “believe” in historians as a whole, for too long, for too many years. Brain blown, yup. One thing Blight did say was… in Curating America, “Slavery has to be Mourned before it can be Learned.” What a guy.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think that’s probably true, but I also think there’s guilt from some parties and denial from others, and both can obscure grief, not to mention acceptance and\or healing. Still a long way to go… (and slavery is only one example of events in our not-so-distant past we need to learn from).

        Liked by 2 people

  2. “Slavery was the cornerstone of the colonization of the Americas” – and also of its economic growth; and a major funder of the Industrial Revolution in Britain . . . and hence their emergence as the world’s superpower in the 19th century. History? Don’t stop asking those questions!

    Liked by 2 people

      • I trust Malcolm X.
        He has a lot of history about this fact, and, an African America professor of history was fired for teaching about it, he wrote a book about his ordeal.
        I think the book is called: The Jewish Onslaught.
        He was forbidden to teach anywhere after 25 years of teaching history at a prestigious university, it was all well and fine to teach the history of slavery, until he began teaching the roots of who began the slave trade… Jews. “Freedom of speech, unless you say too much.”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sadly, Revisionism is a natural extension of misremembering unpleasant truths… And by golly we worked hard to construct our images of “extinct” Native Peoples….What a pleasant surprise when groups like the Sioux rise up to remind us now and again that they are very much alive and thinking! It also shocks me that so many don’t know about Carlisle and the Indian School fiasco that destroyed so much Native culture and identity, just as it shocks me that the average American doesn’t “get” that certain sports team names and images are horridly insulting and some of the words hurtled at game venues were once said prior to the click of a rifle hammer or the slip of a noose. This is why we don’t heal as a melting pot nation: we have to be honest and honestly sorry for misjudging each other — that is not the same as castigating noble pioneers or founding fathers. We do have to move on and forgive each other our sins…Until then I am reminded of the recent episode of Black-ish where everyone was blaming each other for electing Trump, “Now,” said the main character, you know what it feels like to wake up every day like a black man…” It’s time we gave that some thought.


  4. Lara, keep fighting and insisting your words must be heard–a few of my Irish ancestors were sent (as slaves) to the Caribbean when Cromwell ruled, in an attempt to break up the strong Irish/Welsh pagan culture. He failed but did dilute our herd. You asked the Uni professors about slavery’s origins. Some scholars claim it was a byproduct of domesticating animals. It’s mentioned in Hammurabi’s Code and other ancient texts. The more perverse question is when did humans become so cruel, stupid, greedy, unempathetic? I wish I had an answer; do try to solve the question in my stories and provide working solutions. I also read and share with others the marvelous immortal histories of the indigenous people that were invaded and tortured by those greedy, thoughtless raiders. Some of my favorite books are Seven Arrows (Storm), History/Myths of the Cherokee (Mooney), Native American History (Nies), Tales of the Great Turtle, Ancient Earthworks ….

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well this message made my day! THANK YOU! I have done one book series and plan to complete the work I started with my cousin Dr. Charles Bland about the 1000 wars here in the US. How did this happen? We deserve to know everything!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very in-depth and concise forthright view you give to these haunting questions! I’m no expert by any means, but, I have to say I logically consider that pointing fingers would be an exercise in futility with more negative repercussions than the alternative of accepting reality as it unfolds with ample further concise research, while searching for as many facts as possibly can be found; the whole truth and nothing but the truth will suffice ma’am. I don’t try to make light, for this is a serious subject, but, being an intense guy I am awakening to the fact that my feelings of intensity won’t help in the process or will take too much out of my hide one way or another, so then, I must find some mechanism that is useful in keeping it real but maintaining a respectful appreciation of the mission; which should be to enhance our lives with the truth in a non-combative or the least stressful manner possible. So for now, I hope this helps in some minute way in saying that I believe slavery has been around as long as people have been on the face of the earth in one form or another, even long before the Egyptian Pyramids were constructed. We humans have our foibles and some much worse than others, so perhaps a guy in ancient times who found some other guys were smaller or not too bright; in his estimation had a light flash in his imagination, a brainchild of an idea, thinking what if I can get these guys to do some or all of this hard labor stuff, while I spend more time with the girls or something like that? Lots of guys would like that gig wouldn’t you say! Hardee ha ha, I’m a goofball at times; what can I say.
    Love your blog and this article really got me thinking for sure and not just silly stuff! I’m actually a decent Christian minded man who thinks it is totally wrong to exploit or abuse another’s God given inalienable rights as a human being. We all tend to make mistakes but the idea is to learn from them and not repeat!
    Won’t it be grand to get to heaven and not have to be troubled with such arduous and even dangerous tasks at hand; life can be very scary too. Keep the faith!
    You have a great insight and writing ability! Thank you for this opportunity.
    Oh, BTW; I tend to talk too much, always have and I figure I’ll die talking!~
    You know the old adage, how he died with his boots on, that’s not me; Larry is the name and talking is my game! OK, time to put a plug in it, just in a manner of speaking of course! Ciao, or hasta la vista, whichever suits your fancy.

    Liked by 3 people

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