Monacans and Miners: Native American and Coal Mining Communities in Appalachia

By Samuel R. Cook | Go to book overview

1

THE SEEDS OF COLONIALISM

The Monacan Alliance and Early European Contact

One of the pivotal elements of colonialism is the denigration of the culture and heritage of the colonized by the colonizer. The title of Eric Wolf's Europe and the People without History (1997 ed. ) succinctly describes the attitude that the first Europeans on this continent and their progeny extended toward Native Americans. Most often, Native communities were treated as static and inferior societies that were incapable of attaining any meaningful history—a process that Hill refers to as "historicide" (1996: p. 16). Many Europeans perceived them as having failed to evolve from the original state of nature in which it was believed that all human groups once lived (Berkhoffer, 1978). Subsequently, these Eurocentric notions diffused into much of the scholarly treatment of Indians. From a traditional Western perspective, then, American Indian history commenced when the aboriginal societies of this continent began to be transformed by contact with non-Indians.

Of course, it is absurd to deem any human group as devoid of history, for history is first of all an attempt to chronicle human activity, whether in written or oral form. Yet for the Monacan Indians of Amherst County, Virginia, the legacy of colonialism did not merely mean that their colonizers ignored their history. Through the various cycles of the colonial process, they themselves were nearly

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