More than Surviving Week 1 – Elizabeth

Since our class last week, I’ve been reflecting on the responsibility that comes with signing on to a project designed by someone else, especially one as meaningful as Majel’s. It’s intimidating, especially this early on in my DH studies — I know that the point of this class is learning by doing, but it still feels strange to embark on a project like this knowing that I don’t yet have all the technical skills needed to pull my part off.

It’s not quite time to get into the technical details yet, so I’ve been focusing on gaining background knowledge. The bit of reading I’ve done this week — a book chapter Majel sent us on enslavement of Indigenous people in colonial New England, some background information on the Mashpee and Aquinnah tribes, some documents in the research folders Majel has already pulled together — has made me even more aware of how little I learned about Indigenous history in school, and how biased and deliberately narrow the education I did get was. This excerpt from a Smithsonian article about efforts to change the way American schools teach Native history aligns with my own experience:

Most students across the United States don’t get comprehensive, thoughtful or even accurate education in Native American history and culture. A 2015 study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that 87 percent of content taught about Native Americans includes only pre-1900 context. And 27 states did not name an individual Native American in their history standards. “When one looks at the larger picture painted by the quantitative data,” the study’s authors write, “it is easy to argue that the narrative of U.S. history is painfully one sided in its telling of the American narrative, especially with regard to Indigenous Peoples’ experiences.”

The linked study that mentions the lack of post-1900 content actually discusses how rare even post-1830s coverage is:

Few research studies, however, address the frequency and contexts of Indigenous Peoples’ histories, cultures, and current issues in U.S. history standards. First, Journell found that state standards halt their coverage of Indigenous cultures and histories after the implementation of forced relocation policies in the 1830s and prescribed “to a traditional version of history that identifies American Indians as victims and marginalizes them by failing to identify key individuals or examples of societal contributions”

It seems fitting that this project picks up where most state curriculum standards leave off, and that the focus on Wampanoag agency and activism deliberately counteracts the “traditional version of history” described here.  I’m excited to get started and to keep learning along the way.