Jaylen Minefield

The foundation of the United States of America is one of the most emphasized subjects in the modern American education system; however, the curriculum we study tends to exclude details and manipulate the story when instances of wrongdoing are either committed, approved or ignored by the U.S. government.

This is true for the 'history' taught regarding the relationship between the indigenous Native Americans and the United States and its leaders. As a country, we are known for regularly intervening in international affairs on behalf of oppressed and mistreated populations, but we still refuse to come to grips with our own failings by manipulating the story into something more palatable, something that still promotes the idea of exceptionalism.

Public education curriculum provided to teach paramount events around Native American and new American settlers lack the critical and disappointing details that are essential in understanding the truth of America’s troubled past. Often times, the history is heavily censored or sometimes even completely kept out of the curriculum. This eventually allows the actual truth of the situation to lose value, while a false narrative is delivered to the masses.

For example, a textbook produced in Canada made for American schools garnered criticism after gaining traction on social media. The book portrayed Native Americans being pushed westward out of their homes as part of a peaceful agreements that both sides settled on. After receiving heavy attention on Twitter, Instagram and other social media applications, the publisher was forced to recall the entire book. While this particular case of whitewashing was thwarted, there are undeniably many more cases of the alteration of history in order to maintain the view of having a strong moral consciousness since our settling in the Americas.

The majority of students just briefly get to examine the first Pilgrim and Native American interactions, the history of the first Thanksgiving and the forced migration of indigenous people. Unfortunately, the history is not that simple and not that clean. Native Americans suffered harsh and violent treatment at the hands of both settlers and the U.S. government. Many of these acts are unknown to many today, and they span from well before American independence and happened well after.

In the early 1760s, after tensions rose between Natives being pushed further and further from their homes, the American Indians led a siege of Fort Pitt. After days of fighting, the colonial military forces were met by American Indians who were hoping to find a peaceful resolution to the ongoing struggle for control of this fort. Instead of attempting to reach an agreement that day, colonial forces denied to speak about settling the conflict but gifted the departing Natives blankets and handkerchiefs from the infirmary that were infested with the deadly smallpox virus.

Approximately a week later, Jeffrey Amherst, a commander of North American forces, wrote a letter to a colonel. Referring to the blankets and handkerchiefs, Commander Amherst wrote, "You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race."

The significance of this quote is derived from the language used here. Amherst casually states to stop at nothing to ensure the annihilation of an entire race of people. He was condoning, sanctioning and ordering the genocide of indigenous people. Unfortunately, this is just of one of many acts of barbarity faced by Native indigenous people in America.

Despite thorough teachings of America’s involvement in ending the other countries’ genocides, the United States deliberately prevents this and other events from entering the education system in an attempt to write these events out of history completely. In order to reach our claimed level of moral standing, the United States must end the censorship of its own history. The successes and failures must be embraced and acknowledged if we ever wish to reach the level of exceptionalism that we project.

Jaylen Minefield is a junior majoring in sociology. He can be reached at jminefie@vols.utk.edu.

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