Sunday, June 27, 2004


People once called savage butchery and enslavement what it was. Sorry! No longer correct

"They are etched in stone, memories from battles pitched here 300 years ago. But, with words like "savages" and praise for "patriots" who attacked noncombatants, they only tell one side of the story - and no one is arguing that.

Proud descendants of Deerfield's white settlers erected historical markers by the dozens here back in the days when the battleground with American Indian tribes had shifted west to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

But now, some say, the markers have become a modern embarrassment in this museum village that for centuries has been consumed with preserving history. So, in an exhibit, unabashedly called "Covering Up History," historians have hung removable banners over some of the marble plaques in Memorial Hall Museum commemorating the attacks on Deerfield during the French and Indian Wars. Visitors are invited to comment on the rewrite.

The aim is to drape the rhetoric of the 1870s and 1880s, when the museum was established, with a more modern version of events in the late 1600s and early 1700s that no longer denigrates one-time foes. "It was hard for me and other members of the staff to rationalize the words. Phrases like 'bloodthirsty savages' are hurtful to people," said Suzanne Flynt, a curator at the museum operated by the Pocumtuck Valley Historical Society.

Visitors can still lift the banners to view original inscriptions, such as "Mary Field, adopted by an Indian. Was named WALAHOWEY. She married a savage and became one." The covering version reads: "Mary, adopted by a Kanien'kehaka (Mohawk). Was named WALAHOWEY (WELAHAWI). She married a Kanien'kehaka and adopted the culture, customs and language of her new community in Kahanawake."

Mary was 6 when a combined force of Mohawks, Hurons, Abenakis and French Canadians attacked Deerfield in 1704 killing 50 residents and marching more than 100 others, nearly half of them children, off to captivity in Quebec... "

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