THE TRIBES AND THE STATES

W. J. Sidis

 Unpublished manuscript, 620 pages, by John W. Shattuck (pseud.), ca.1935

  1982  by Wampanoag Nation 

 

EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION

        This history of "The Tribes and the States" is not to be regarded as the work of any individual. There runs through the entire history, as a continuous thread, the mention of the Tribe of the Okamakammessets, whose version of  American history this claims to be. This organization is supposed, according to the version of history described in this work, to have been originally an actual tribe of Indians inhabiting Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and forming an important unit of the Penacook Federation; and later, without losing its continuity of organization, gradually becoming a sort of group working quietly, and without showing its hand, for the restoration in modern America of the same principles for which the Penacook federation once stood. Whether, and to what extent, such a society is acting as a nucleus in modern America, or whether it has any claim to continuity with the old Indian tribe whose name it bears, is, for the reader's purpose, irrelevant: it is of interest to see the new point of view towards America that can be presented from that angle.

        The function of the editor of this history is merely that of a compiler. The material is partly the legends and traditions of the tribe itself, some of which are embodied in its poems, which are freely quoted throughout this history; partly well-known historical facts and dates, as interpreted from this different point of view; partly facts which are definitely known but which the ordinary history fails to bring out because varying from the standard "patriotic" point of view―all originally presented by the "tribe" as isolated material, but in this history for the first time woven into continuous whole.

        There are certain definite departures from the common and well-known points of view regarding America and its past that the reader will notice. At the opening, it is obvious that the beginnings of American history are sought not in Europe but here in America, among the peoples who originally inhabited this country, and the characteristics of the various parts of the country are treated as directly traceable to the varying characteristics and customs of the early tribes in the same regions. The tribes of Indians are considered, not as savages or barbarians who created nothing of importance, but as the real founders of the best and most important parts of modern American institutions: federation, democracy, postal service, written constitutions, the idea of individual rights, are among the many things which, according to this version of history, modern America owes to its red predecessors. And, as a corollary, the coming of the white people to America, which, from the standard point of view, starting American history in Europe, was a series of discoveries, is here treated as a series of invasions from Europe by a barbarous people who understood nothing of American institutions, but who, in the very process of overrunning the continent, acquired, at least partially, many of the ways of doing things that they found on this side of the ocean, and civilized themselves, and even their original home countries, in the process.

        On account of this point of view of the origin of American history, it might seem to the reader at first that he is dealing with a history of the Indian tribes; but nothing could be further from the truth. There is no attempt to deal with Indians as such, but rather a history of the American people from early times down to the present―that is, Indians when they were inhabiting America, then following the invasions and the consequent changing nature of America's population, but at all times dealing specifically with the people of America. The history is thus not a history from the point of view of ancestry, but rather of locality. The idea developed is that in each locality there is a certain continuity of tradition that persists in spite of the changing character of its population―not that the geographical characteristics compel this, as some have supposed, but rather that each successive wave of invasion or immigration acquires the traditions from the previous inhabitants of the region.

        To those who have been used to reading into American history the idea that the administration is always right, or that the people always follow the governing power, or that it is un-American for the people to take the law into their own hands, this version of American history might prove somewhat of a shock. And yet the compiler of this "tribal version of American history feels that this version is more truly American than that which promotes governmental versions of patriotism, in that it revives and represents much more nearly the principles of the Declaration of Independence in which lie the real foundations of the world's greatest Federation. And it can surely be no disparagement to trace this federation to the world's first federation, and to the first democratic federation, both of which originated within the very same country.

        There are other points of difference from the established text-book view of history, such as: picturing America as a country where popular revolts have been the rule rather than the exception, and even as the origin and inspiration of such revolts throughout the world; describing George Washington, not as the hero of the American Revolution, as he is ordinarily considered, but rather as one who had little sympathy with democracy, and finally overthrew by conspiracy the republic the Revolution established; the existence of a First Republic (John Hancock being its first president) representing the American Revolution, and a Second Republic representing a political counter-revolution; the pre-revolutionary co-operative factory and civil disobedience systems in Massachusetts; or the various peculiar theories of economic and political functions and development as presented here. All these will doubtless be difficult for the average reader to swallow. And to this, let it merely be said, that what is being presented here is merely a new version of what happened, partly based on legends and traditions of what claims to be the continuation in modern America of the tribal organization of a nation of the old Indians of New England; so that even the existence of contradictions in the story as here presented would not be at all surprising. But let us also hope that the new point of view will make the reader "think it over"―that it will excite his interest, and make him reconsider much that he has taken for granted about his country.

        Even in the local spirit shown throughout this work, glorifying New England as against New York and the South, the point of view is by no means that of supporting or justifying the various acts which authorities have committed in that section, but rather to bring out the resistance which those same authorities have so frequently provoked. The Puritans and the Pilgrims are presented neither as the heroic pioneer spirits we read about in New England versions of history, nor as the villains and intolerant bigots that New York and Southern versions present to us, but rather, from the point of view of those working among them as representatives of the older Indian civilization, as well-meaning but slow-witted pupils of the Indians, sometimes enemies, sometimes friends, but still the best that the new invading civilization had to offer, largely because of their contact with the best part of the old Indian culture. And it would also be natural for an organization which claims to have its roots in Middlesex to center its story about that part of the country.

        The tribe, whose account of American history this is, wishes to present its version of past events on this continent, not as a result of painstaking research on the part of any individual or group of individuals, but as a sort of story based on its own traditions, in which verified facts and dates are merely used to weld the whole together into a continuity; and it is at least hoped that it will constitute an interesting alternative version of history, and be read as such.