More than 300 years after Europeans first arrived on these shores, America is still dealing with the legacy of slavery. This month Scholastic pulled its children’s book “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” because of concerns that it depicted happy slaves baking a cake for the president.
For the most part, our knowledge of slavery in the Americas deals with the story of African Americans – millions of whom were enslaved before the U.S. Civil War. But one author reports that a growing area of research is into the enslavement of Native Americans during the time of colonization in the U.S.
On slavery in native tribes before the Europeans arrived:
“Tribes in North America would take captives from after war and use them, broadly speaking, to replace who might have been lost in that war. Or take captives as a matter of honor, as a way of building up the tribe. This was a common practice in some places before the advent of the Europeans. But there’s a difference between the way that native people would have enslaved someone and the way that Europeans enslaved them.”
On the overlap of Native-American and African slavery:
“In the 17th century in the colonies, there were a lot of ways in which native and black slaves were working alongside each other and formed society of their own in some ways. There were instances in which escaped, enslaved workers from colonies would join with… tribes who were living in the wilderness. But there are also ways that the European desire to enslave Indians translated into a way of thinking that then accommodated the enslavement of Africans.”
On how Native-American enslavement shaped Texas and the southwest:
“Enslavement of Indians in the Southwest went on well into the 19th century because that area was so out of the control of the national government. And so, there was a local economy of captivity…. There’s instances you can find of Indians being enslaved in the southwest until after the Civil War.”
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.