book report: A Great and Noble Scheme (4) by Faragher
Any history of the Americas that touches on the Indians cannot ignore the issue of land ownership. It comes up over and over again as Europeans overtake lands that, in their view, are not properly subdued and, therefore, not properly managed, thus, not properly owned. After a French capitulation to England in Europe, England asserted it's new "ownership" of Acadia. J. M. Faragher records the subsequent Anglo-Míkmaq interaction in A Great and Noble Scheme.
They presented a letter from two men identifying themselves as the Míkmaw chiefs of Minas. "We believe that this land God gave us," the chiefs declared, and "on it we reckon we have lived since before the trees were born." Why had they attacked the British? "We tell you that you are teh cause. It is you who have taken Canso." Before the British came, there had been peace. Now there was war because the British threatened to seize lands bequeathed to them by their fathers. "If we wished to go to England to live, what would we be told, if not that we should withdraw?" The Míkmaq felt the same way about the British invaders. "We are masters, and dependents of no one," they concluded. "We wish to have our country free."This "method" of legal land sales was perpetrated in the United States for the next 150 years. First settle the lands as squatters until the native owners are fed up and raise an outcry. Then find any member who will declare himself a leader, coerce or entice him or his party to "sell" the nation's land, then evict the entire nation, which never agreed to it collectively. That's how the Cherokee ended up evicted from the Southeast and sent on the deadly "Trail of Tears" to Oklahoma. See my blog post on that atrocity. The United States is an Anglo nation started by unethical, expansionist Brits and retained those characteristics long after it's own rebellion from England. The Spanish who invaded further south didn't even try to maintain a pretense of rightful transfer of real property, see my book reports on their invasions.
This remarkable letter expressed sentiments widely shared by native people throughout the region. In 1714, Paul Mascarene had negotiated a treaty with the Abenakis, Maliseets, and Míkmaq of the Wabanaki Confederacy which obligated both sides to live peacefully. But in the intervening years the British had fortified sites on tribal land in Maine, just as the fortified Canso, and soon thereafter settlers crowded in, cutting forests and samming rivers. In the summer of 1721 Abenaki leaders sent a warning to the governor of Massachusetts. "Is it living peacefully with me to take my land away from me against my will?" Their lands had been given to them by God, and no one could take them without the collective agreement of the nation. "The king of France, sayst thou, gave thee it. Could a few savages who thou caughtest by surprise by getting them drunk give thee it to the detriment of their entire nation?" If the British did not pull back in Maine, they would be burned out, just as they had been at Canso. pp. 158-9