Monumental Dilemma

Roman: This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars.

Jack: So down at the bottom of the hill away from the highway and I’m about to cross a really old railroad bridge, not an active railroad anymore.

Roman: That’s Jack Rodolico wandering around the New Hampshire woods.

Jack: It’s a pretty view.

Roman: He’s about 10 miles north of the state capital off of Interstate 93. In a pretty out of the way place. There no signs or markers on the road indicating something special is there but he’s found something.

Jack: You get out to this little island and the railroad tracks go straight across, but what you really notice is this epic looking granite monument in the middle of the island.

Roman: It looks a lot like a monument you’d see in a city park, except it’s on a forested island in the middle of a river.

Jack: It is enormous.

Roman: It’s 30 feet tall.

Jack: Wow.

Roman: It’s all granite and on top of a tall pedestal, there is a woman.

Jack: She’s wearing this gown that’s falling off her shoulders. In her right hand she has a tomahawk. And in her left hand she has a fistful of scalps. And on the back of this thing, I’m gonna run around to the back here, is the inscription.

Roman: Now let’s pause for just a second here. If you are a regular listener to the show, you know how I feel about plaques and always reading them. The reason being that plaques tell stories. Sometimes they tell really amazing stories if you can decipher them.

Jack: March 15th-30th, 1697. The War Whoop Tomahawk Faggot & Infanticides Were at Haverhill The Ashes of Wigwam-Camp-Fires at Night & of Ten of the Tribe Are Here.

Roman: I got nothing from that.

Jack: Yeah, not a lot of detail there. Honestly, the whole island was strange to me, kind of creepy, actually. Not very well kept up this enormous imposing statue with the eerie plaque. The scalps? What’s crazy is this statue was erected in 1874 making it the oldest monument dedicated to a woman in the US. So you think someone would come out here and at least mow the grass, you know? Well, what I learned is that plaque does tell a story though not an obvious one. And I learned there’s a good reason why the grounds are neglected. In fact what to do with this historic site has become a bit of a problem. And it all has to do with the woman in the monument and what she did.
The story starts about 50 miles south of the monument in a town called Haverhill, Massachusetts. I went down there and met up with a local historian named Tom Spitalere in a parking lot of a Dunkin’ Donuts.

How you doin’?

Tom: Good.

Jack: Jack.

Tom: Tom. Nice to meet you.

Jack: Nice to meet you too. Tom is a die hard New Englander. I’ll tell you he’s wearing a Boston Red Sox jacket on top of a Boston Celtics jersey on top of a New England Patriots t-shirt.

Tom: The car’s gonna get a little noisy. It need a lot of work.

Jack: Sure. And everywhere we drive in Haverhill, Tom sees signs of New England’s past. Particularly from colonial times.

Tom: And to the time of Hannah Duston. During that time we were embroiled in what some historians are now calling World War I. Most people would know it as the French-Indian war or King Philip’s, King George’s and The Seven Years War.

Roman: In the 1600s, New England was a war zone between the French, the British and the Native Americans. By the end of that century, disease and war would wipe out most Native Americans in the northeast and Haverhill was….

Tom: -the wild west. I mean it sounds funny but putting it in today’s contents, we were the outpost. There was nothing north of us, that was it.

Roman: There was nothing but wilderness around making it an easy target for attacks by Native Americans. Bands of Native Americans had shifting alliances with the British and the French. The French paid Abenakis to abduct Brits and bring them to Quebec. Then the French would sell these captives back to the British. It was a slave trade.

Tom: So I mean, this area was constantly being raided, constantly.

Jack: In 1697, a woman named Hannah Duston was recovering from delivering her 8th child when Abenakis raided Haverhill. They killed and captured dozens of colonists and burned buildings.

Roman: That’s what the word faggots on the monument refers to. A faggot was a bundle of sticks used to fuel a fire.

Jack: During the raid, Hannah Duston’s husband was outside with seven of their kids defending the homestead and his children. But Abenakis entered the house and abducted Hannah, her newborn baby girl, and her nurse, Mary Neff.

Roman: The captives were marched north through the wilderness and shortly after leaving Haverhill, when Hannah’s baby wouldn’t stop crying, one of the Abanakis smashed it against a tree. That’s where you get the word infanticide from the monument’s plaque. They kept walking north.

Tom: Most likely they were heading to the outpost of Saint Francis.

Jack: That’s up in Quebec. At some point the war party handed Hannah Duston and Mary Neff to another group of Abenakis. A group made up of a couple families.

Tom: She was sold to those Native Americans as a slave.

Jack: So the group of Abenakis that ended up with Hannah was made up of two fathers, two mothers, a grandmother, and a bunch of children. And they already had a white boy with them, a kid named Samuel Lennardson who had been abducted from Worcester the previous year.

Roman: So that makes three white captives and twelve Abenakis. The whole crew crossed the Merrimack river to the island, the one that now has the monument on it. And they set up a camp for the night.

Jack: In the middle of the night, Hannah Duston made a decision. She rallied Mary and Samuel and led them around the sleeping Abenakis, one at a time, they brought a hatchet down on the Abenakis’ heads. They killed ten in total; two men, two women, six children. And then before making their getaway, they scalped each victim.

Roman: Two Abenakis made it out alive. The old woman who was injured and a little boy.

Jack: Hannah, Mary and Samuel left the island in a canoe. It was a dangerous time of year to be on the river. It would have been choked with ice and full of rapids. They traveled at night to avoid being seen.

Roman: And 15 days after vanishing, Hannah Duston and her companions landed in Haverhill to the total shock of her husband, her 7 children, and everyone who ever lost a family member to a raid. Hannah Duston is the woman memorialized in the monument. The scalps she is holding in the statue belonged to the 10 people including 6 children that she and her companions killed on the island.

Jack: And that statue isn’t the only Hannah Duston landmark in New England. Not by a long shot, there are others particularly in Haverhill where she’d lived. Tom Spiptalere took me on a tour.

Tom: Let me just pull off here real quick, this is the Hannah Duston rest area named after her. Is this the street? I always forget, yeah, this is it here. Here’s Hannah Duston street. The Hannah Duston nursing home. Obviously named after her. Now we’re at the Hannah Duston rock. Monument street got its name from the monument that’s there for Hannah Duston. Boscawen Avenue.

Jack: Boscawen is the town in New Hampshire where the island is. Tom even took me to an old Garrison house. A fort, essentially, where Hannah Duston lived after her captivity.

Tom: We do private tours in here.

Jack: In a glass case is a piece of Hannah Duston memorabilia I’ve seen on eBay. In the 1970s, the state of New Hampshire commissioned Jim Beam to make a Hannah Duston whiskey decanter. It’s an exact replica of the statue in New Hampshire down to the little bloody scalps in her hand. It’s made of porcelain.

Tom: Porcelain. Yeah, that hits the full of goodbye-goodnight.

Jack: It’s kinda sexy and provocative. I mean she got cleavage popping out.

Tom: Yeah, that would never have happened back in 1697. But you gotta remember this was in 1976, they did this. 1976 it was about selling.

Jack: You’re selling booze with a sexy woman with scalps and an ax in her hand?

Tom: Right. And we don’t even know what she really looked like ’cause there was no photographs of her.

Jack: That whiskey decanter is from 1976 but the New Hampshire Historical Society still sells a Hannah Duston bobblehead in it’s museum shop. On the base of that bobble head it says, “The Mother’s Revenge”. You can probably see how this kitsch-y collectors items might feel offensive. In fact, all the Hannah Duston stuff and Hannah Duston landmarks are a problem for some people who know the whole story. But the whole story, that’s a tricky thing to pin down.

Tom: You gotta understand something about the Hannah Duston story, there’s a lot of interpretation out there. And there’s a lot of New England folklore.

Roman: Hannah Duston’s kidnapping and escape happened more that 300 years ago. And the story has been told and retold a lot. And actually, the reason we know anything about it today has to do with the fact that she scalped her victims.

Jack: After Hannah came home, her husband took her and all those Abenaki scalps down to Boston to sell them. Now If you’re like me, when you heard she had scalped her victims, you may have thought she had some kind of blood lust. I thought scalping was something tribes did to white people, not the other way around. Turns out I was very, very wrong.

Roman: Colonial governments paid cash for Native Americans’ scalps, heads and even hands. They would pay most for man, less for woman, and least for a child. They would even pay Native Americans for the body parts of other Native Americans depending on who was war-ing with whom at the time.

Jack: So Duston had financial incentive for scalping her victims but here’s the reason we still know the story; when Hannah was in Boston selling her scalps, she sat down with Cotton Mather and he wrote her story down. His name might ring a bell. Cotton Mather was head of the protestant church in New England. He had ties to the Salem witch trials and he was a fire and brimstone minister who traveled around giving sermons.

Roman: These little frontier towns that Cotton Mather visited, they were filled with these shell shocked colonists who had missing family members from Native American raids. Mather told Duston’s story again and again to rapt church goers. Building Duston’s status as a heroine.

Barbara: I think the Hannah Duston’s story has endured for so long because it’s not just a story about a woman who killed people. It actually has become a story about the American Nation at different points of time.

Jack: This is Barbara Cutter, historian and professor at the University of Northern Iowa.

Barbara: It was a story about the colonial battle against Native Americans in the 17th century. It was a story justifying the westward expansion of the United Stated in the 19th century. And in more recent years, it has been used as a story domestically about culture wars, really.

Jack: Cutter has researched how and why the Hannah Duston monuments were built. And she said it really hit home just how far the story had traveled when…

Barbara: I happened to cross a Salt Lake city Mormon woman’s newspaper in the 1890s that started off by saying,”Who has not heard of Hannah Duston?” I mean, Hannah Duston was from Massachusetts.

Roman: After her captivity, Hannah Duston lived in colonial obscurity. She actually had seven more kids and died at age 84.

Jack: No one talked about her through the 1700s. She was forgotten until…

Barbara: In the 1800s and the 1820s, United States was a new nation and a lot of intellectuals at that point in time were trying to create a distinctly American culture. And so they started telling American stories. And then trying to uncover American heroes and heroines.

Jack: So the country’s literary elite dug around for some good old American stories and they found Hannah Duston. Cutter says if you were an American, in say 1865…

Barbara: Well the first place you might likely come across her would be when you opened your American history textbook in school. You would also come across her story if you read famous American writers like Hawthorne.

Jack: Or John Greenleaf Whittier? or Henry David Thoreau? Popular magazines, news papers, essay collections, children’s books, paintings. In the 1800s, Hannah Duston was a household name.

Roman: Johnny Appleseed, David Crockett, Hannah Duston.

Jack: But with each retelling of the story something happened. People changed the narrative to suit their purposes.

Barbara: It becomes a moral problem for Americans that Hannah Duston killed children. Especially since, I mean, they weren’t just children, they were sleeping children.

Jack: Writers omitted details, embellished others and sometimes just made things up. They completely left out the children she killed, replacing them with warriors. That Abenaki child that escaped? The writer said Duston spared him intentionally which there’s no evidence of. Most writers depicted Hannah Duston as a sympathetic heroine. This outraged mother seeking a justifiable revenge. This was the era of manifest destiny. As in, it is America’s destiny to inherit the land, to seize it from people abducted heathens and savages.

Barbara: That’s when, I think, New Englanders really started focusing on Hannah Duston more and more as the kind of heroine they should commemorate.

Roman: In the mid 1800s as headlines screamed about the wars in the west, monuments sprung up in the northeast. When the monument in the island was built in 1874, there were a thousand people present. Again, it was the first monument ever built to a woman in the US. But when the Indian wars died down around 1900, Hannah Duston dropped out of the national spotlight again.

Jack: But a subset of New Englanders held on to her story, in 1905, Hannah Duston’s descendants created the Duston Family Association.

Barbara: They sort of littered the landscape of Haverhill with memorial boulders and millstones in her honor at sites where she landed her canoe, across from where she was buried, apparently they put one up at one place where she turned around and looked back thinking that Indians might be following her on her way home.

Jack: Then all the way into the mid 1900s there was a whole other layer of things named after those rocks and statues, a nursing home, a school, streets. Overtime the namings petered out, but the names themselves stuck. And so did the Duston family.

Cedrick: Well, my name is Cedrick H. Duston, Jr. I’m the 10th generation form Hannah. So that’ll make her my 8th great grandmother. I’m not sure, I just haven’t counted. [laughs]

Jack: Something like that, yeah.

Jack: Cedrick is the vice president and formerly the president of the Duston Family Association. He’s 88 and he’s known about Hannah Duston since he was a boy. To Cedrick, Hannah was a heroine.

Cedrick: She was concerned about her own life and those of her companions. And as such, I thought she was quite a lady to have the plan that she did and do the things she did. But basically, I think it was self-preservation.

Jack: Just to make something clear, the Duston Family Association isn’t lobbying for statues anymore. They mostly spend time tracing their lineage and they get together for a barbecue every summer. And Cedrick Duston says he understands why some aren’t such a big fan of his grandmother, 8th generations removed. But he is disappointed the statue in the island are in disrepair. Hannah’s nose were shot off of the rifle. There’s graffiti and the grass hasn’t been mowed in years.

Cedrick: When I was a young man, I could go up there and cut the whole thing but right now, age won’t let me do that. But I think the state of New Hampshire should make good use of the fact that they have in their confines, the first statue ever erected to woman in this country. Perhaps a new sign should be put at that location indicating that, as opposed to the sign that’s there now indicating the deed that happened on that island.

Jack: So this is the island?

Paul: This is the island.

Jack: I went back to the island with the 30-foot tall Hannah Duston monument with someone who says he’s avoided going out there for years.

Paul: She doesn’t look very heroic. She looks more like an opportunist, angry opportunist that went back and then bragged about it and then history has become history.

Jack: This is Paul.

Paul: I’m Paul Puleo, I’m the Sagamo which roughly translated to principal speaker of the grand council of the Koasek band of the Penobscot and Abenaki people.

Jack: Paul doesn’t buy Cotton Mather’s version of the story. The one where the Abenakis smashed Duston’s newborn baby against the tree. He says it doesn’t mesh with other captivity stories of the era. We have many many accounts of captives saying that being taken by the Abenaki was not a death sentence. Many went to Canada, some of them were traded back. Paul think Hannah’s captors were probably treating her well.

Roman: Well, presumably as well as one can be treated in captivity.

Jack: And he says Abenakis revered children, so idea of a warrior bashing a baby against a tree as Cotton Mathers’ story portrays, sounds unlikely to him.

Roman: It’s impossible to know how the baby was killed or how Hannah Duston was treated by her captors. And I hesitate to judge from my 21st century vantage point what she should or shouldn’t have done in order to make her escape. But it’s clear that the Hannah Duston story is complicated.

Jack: Paul thinks the monument to her should just be forgotten.

Paul: I mean I really don’t think this monument should be preserved in any way. It’s gonna last here for a millennia so it’s unfortunate it’s here. It’s not going away.

Jack: And that’s the problem now. The Hannah Duston monuments, the one on the island and all the others are mostly fading relics in out of the way places. But every few years, some politician or history buff or native American point to one and says, “Tear this thing down!” or “Clean this thing up!”. And every time people argue, “Is she a heroine or is she a villain?” The same thing over and over and over.

Roman: Just in the last couple of months, there’s been renewed talk about the monument. People are suggesting putting up additional plaques that showed the Abenaki history or changing the name from the Hannah Duston Memorial State Historic Site to the Contoocook Island State Historic Site.

Jack: But even as small as cleaning up graffiti on the monument or mowing the grounds could be seen as taking a stance about whether Hannah Duston deserved a monument in the first place. About whether she was actually a hero or a villain. Before we left the island Paul Puleo said there was something he wanted to do off the record.

Jack: Sure. No recording? Okay.

Jack: He pulled out a drum and some tobacco. He paced around the monument twice. One time he scattered a little tobacco on four sides of the statue. The other time he beat the drum and sang. He didn’t want me to record the ceremony, but he talked about it afterwards.

Paul: We don’t want to forget our ancestors in the past. So we did a little honoring song and we made an offering of tobacco to purify the grounds, where we were walking around there.

Jack: And does it provide you with any relief or satisfaction to do that?

Paul: Well it was appropriate. You know, just asking earth mother, honing earth mother. Take him back and understanding, with some kind of closure they are now.

Jack: Spiritual closure if nothing else. In lieu of any public decision on how to include Paul’s ancestors in this history, this private ceremony would have to be enough. For now the statue with her shot off nose and vague haunting plaque remains neglected and crumbling, which actually is probably the most accurate symbol of how we feel about Hannah Duston today. Ambivalent about who she was but not quite ready to let her go.

Jack: March 15th-30th, 1697. The War Whoop Tomahawk Faggot & Infanticides Were at Haverhill The Ashes of Wigwam-Camp-Fires at Night & of Ten of the Tribe Are Here.

Roman: 99% Invisible was produced this week by Jack Rodolico with Katie Mingle, Sam Greens, Avery Truffleman, and me, Roman Mars. We are a project of 91.7 local public radio KALW in San Francisco. And produced are the offices of Arc sign just steps away from the 12 in Broadway Bart stop in beautiful downtown, Oakland, California.

Credits

Production

Producer Jack Rodolico spoke with Tom Spitaleri, Barbara Cutter, Cedric Dustin and Paul Pouliot.

Music

“Restbad” — Mondkuchen
“Choral” — Mountains
“Stereo Music For Farisa” — Keith Fullerton Whitman
“Kapsburger” — Clogs
“Rode Null” — Hauschka
“Thom’s Night Out” — Clogs
“5/4” — Clogs
“Northside” — Lineland
“The Leaves Eclipse The Light” — Eluvium
“Blue Bicycle” — Hauschka

Sponsor

Kickstarter sponsor: My Gift of Grace. Use the the coupon code “invisible” to save 10%.

Recommendation

99pi favorite, OK Ikumi has a new album called “Outside” that’s excellent. If you don’t have it, or his 2012 release “Alpine Sequences,” you should really rectify your error.

  1. Raffy

    @2.41: it’s already clear to me just browsing (not even reading) the text that this monument has to go. Take a picture put it in a book on human misunderstanding or racism ant pull it down. Nothing good will come out of letting it stay. It has to go.

  2. Raffy

    @8:48: might feel offensive? I mean I’m not even a US citizen and I can see how this is turning out to be a big problem. I’m waiting at this moment for at least a background piece on the original settlers vs natives problem to give some perspective. Still hopeful though…let’s continue shall we.

  3. Raffy

    @17.36. Bingo! Ok. My 5 cents is that the island should be rethought to a memorial about people. As dark as the American colonization story is, it has become part of American history and if not dealt with properly will only continue to cause tension and more misunderstanding.

  4. J

    I don’t get all the hand-wringing. Forget the politics of the situation. She was kidnapped. She managed to kill her kidnappers & escape. Yay for her. (Either way, terrific episode. Loving the more frequent episodes this season, with no drop in quality – maybe better if anything.)

    1. Not to mention, her infant child was killed by her kidnappers. You can be damned sure that regardless of race or ethnic background, if you did this to me and my family, you’d wind up without scalps, too.

  5. Michael

    While I found the subject extremely interesting, I must admit that I was very confused by the tenor of this episode. There are literally thousands of monuments, carved in the grandest style, maintained by our park services, and visited by countless tourists each year, to secessionist armies who fought a war to establish a nation that would preserve the institution of slavery. Despite their motivations, there would be public outcry at the notion of tearing down one of these monuments in response to the cause that it represents. While the intervening centuries have certainly clouded our understanding of Hannah Duston’s plight, it seems that even her detractors concede that she was taken against her will and, regardless of how it happened, an infant died as a result of this captivity. While the regrettable chapters in the European incursion into North America are myriad, Mrs. Duston was an unwilling participant in this conflict who suffered the loss of a child at the hands of her captor. Her decision to scalp her captors is certainly macabre, but it in no way exonerates her kidnappers.

    Furthermore, the notion offered at the end of the episode that the lives of those taken as slaves by Native Americans were generally pleasant left me with the uneasy echo of the “plantation fantasy” so often used to justify slavery in southern states. That seems to be the natural retreating point for those who wish to the defend the practice.

  6. kickstand

    I can understand the reluctance to call Hanna Duston heroic in this day and age, but it seems a bit hyperbolic to ask whether she is “a hero or villain”, as the piece does.

    She slew and escaped her captors. What is villainous about that? If the women kidnapped in Columbus recently had slain their captors, would anyone consider that villainous?

    1. K

      If she went into the kids rooms and killed them while they were sleeping, maybe

  7. weshley

    every human community and settlement in history displaced other humans. your ancestors and mine are trespassers. no one is innocent nor at fault.

  8. Mark Evans

    I suggest changing the lead photo to one of the actual monument in question, not the one in MA. Misleading, esp. for slackers who only glance at the article.

  9. Danny

    I am so glad this topic was approached the way it was. Both sides heard and recognized fairly in my opinion. Maybe 99pi should do some workshops with other shows to help them understand how to properly discuss controversial topics. Radiolab!

    Great job 99pi!

  10. Anina Salerno-Aita

    Hannah Dustin is one of my ancestors. When the Indians attacked their farm, she sent her husband and older children to the safety of the village, where she and her newborn baby could not go. She had just given birth. That is why she had a “nurse maid”, who may have been one of Hannah’s sisters. The Indians killed her baby by smashing its skull against a tree. She saw that happen, we have to assume. There was a teenaged boy in the group who had already been kidnapped.The three kidnap victims killed everyone in the camp except for two Indians who escaped. They took the scalps to prove what happened. I find it pretty easy to understand why they did what they did. If someone brutally murdered my baby, kidnapped me, and dragged me away for God knows what purpose, if I had the strength I would not hesitate to kill my captors to get free of them. My concern for the Indian children would be tempered by their lack of concern for my baby. She demonstrated to this group of Indians that even the women will fight you if you continue these attacks. And it worked. That was the last Indian attack on that village. Hannah Dustin did not start this problem. She was born in North America, She did not choose to come here instead of staying in Europe any more than anyone else born here chooses. She did not get on a horse and go off chasing Native Americans. She defended herself. None of it would have occurred if she had not been kidnapped and had her baby brutally murdered. It may be easy to sit here today and find fault with her, but who among us has ever had to endure what she did?

  11. I work for Cartography Associates in San Francisco, and last year I scanned pages from an old volume titled “A Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians in New England”. After listening to this fascinating episode, I looked at that volume to see if it mentioned Hannah Duston’s story, but it was published in 1677, 20 years before the incident. But Haveril [sic] was included prominently on the map. http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/53g34f

  12. Hannah Dustin did not need to kill six children. This is most often excused by the stories of her own infant being allegedly “smashed against a tree”. Many seem to think this was a false embellishment on the part of Cotton Mather in his retellings. Yet let us assume it happened this way. In modern America we would forgive the temporary insanity of a grieving mother if her response was immediate. If Hannah Dustin immediately grabbed a weapon upon seeing her child killed and swung it I could understand. But she waited. Then with forethought and premeditation she killed not only her kidnappers but their six children…all in their sleep. No court in the land today would allow such a woman to go free, even if her victims were non-whites. And no moral or objective person should think such crimes would best be left unpunished, let alone glorified in stone.

    I drive by this monument and its island nearly every day. It is disgusting. To read of what the plaque says and that she holds scalps in her hand makes it only that much more so. I do not care that it was the first statue of a woman, and anyone who does is using sexism to excuse racist barbarism. It should be smashed to dust. The dust should then be swallowed by a goat who’s excrement is burned, with the ashes ultimately being launched directly into the sun. This is how we should honor Hannah Dustin and those who would memorialize her savagery.

    I’ll get some hammers and meet you all there!

    1. Anina Salerno-Aita

      I am impressed by your ability to use technology at your advanced age. From your comments I have to assume you were an eye wtness to this kidnapping. Otherwise, how would you know what method was used to murder Hannah’s infant? And if they used some other method would that murder be okay? I want to point out several flaws in your argument. First, you assume that Hannah killed the children. All three captives took part in killing their captors. We do not know who killed which of the kidnappers. Second, one of the captives was himself a child. His captors taught him to use a tommahawk. He taught Hannah and her nurse. Third, if the Indians taught a kidnap victim to use a tommahawk, don’t you think they taught their own children? Fourth, historically it keeps occurring that when a group of people turns their children into combatants, their children get killed. This goes all the way back to the Crusades,.and I am.sure beyond.
      Hannah Dustin did not get kidnapped in 2014. To use our present day sensibilities to evaluate the choices these three people made in a life or death situation is really pretty cruel.in itself. Never having had my infant child ripped from my arms and killed, followed by witnessing the torture.and murder of.other kindnap victims, I cannot know what I would have done or been able to do. I do know that if the French and Indian raids on Haverhill,.had not occurred, no statue to Hannah would have been erected.

  13. The “smashed against a tree” thing is common lore. You’d know that if you had read anything more than this article on the subject, which I strongly suggest. And you clearly missed the point. The woman and her cohorts killed six children. It is practically inconceivable that this was necessary to her escape.

    You seem to be saying that it was okay because “sensibilities” of the time were different. In other words it’s okay because Hannah and all like her believed the Indians were savages to be cut down like animals. Nevermind what was done to the Abenaki to prompt the raid at Haverhill in the first place, huh?

    You can’t just use the racism of the time to excuse acts of unnecessary barbarism against children. In fact no matter what happened to Hannah and the others you cannot excuse the premeditated murder of half a dozen children in their sleep. To try to do so makes you no better than any of the child killers in this scenario.

    Anyway it sounds like you are the one who was there since you have turned these children into combatants. But the fact is that if you superimpose this into modern times, even under conditions of war, it becomes clear this woman was a monster and not a hero. Saying “it’s okay because everybody back then was monsters and didn’t know better yet” is downright stupid. That gives anybody license for any bad thing they want to do knowing history will excuse them as ignorant of the morality involved. I don’t care that it was the 1600’s. That is no excuse for treating people like animals.

    What you fail most of all to appreciate is the bigger picture. Why did the Abenaki raid Haverhill and kill 27 people? You would believe what the history books tell you, that they were blood-loving savages. Hannah Dustin and her family were invaders and occupiers. Abenakis and the other tribes of the Wabanaki confederacy fought wars long before white men came. But it was the white invaders who first introduced them to killing women, children and the elderly in the process. I recommend reading of the Naraganset and Mohegan’s response to Mason’s raid (aka “The Mystic Massacre”). I recommend reading of the peaceful Pennacook lead by Passaconaway and Wanolancet and what the whites did to them. Arguing from ignorance may be a very acceptable and even common thing to do in these times. Yet history may judge those levying such arguments as no better than those who routinely scalped savages, since the times we live in are never an excuse for promoting or defending immoral behaviors.

    Get educated, my friend. Learn to place events into context rather than looking at a calendar and saying “It’s okay…they didn’t know any better yet.” I mean really, do you use the same to defend southern American slave owners from the 1800’s?

  14. Anina Salerno-Aita

    Once again you assume far more than you have any way to know. This is hardly the first account of this event I have ever read. You chose to make a point of the method of infanticide used. My point was that it really doesn’t much matter what method was used. It was an unprovoked attack. And since I am familiar with the history of that time I also know that the French encouraged these attacks all along the border between what is now New England and New York and Canada. The Abenaki did not originally claim to control that land, The original English settlers purchased the land where Hannah Dustin lived from the Pennacook.
    This is not a treatise on the right of Europeans to colonize North America. Hannah’s family was born here, and so was she. It makes no more sense to blame colonization on her than it does to blame it on anyone else who lives here today and is not of Native American descent. I am well educated. Thanks for your advice. What I am not is willing to accept that it is ok for one group of people to attack a village, kill an infant and some women, and kidnap other children and women, and not ok for the surviving women and kids to do whatever they need to do to escape these murderers .
    Please do not respond with any more comments about “savages”. If the French colonists who incited these attacks had done their dirty work themselves, they would have deserved the same. I never called anyone a savage. You brought that up. I am well aware of the terrible things that Europeans did to Native Americans. I think Manifest Destiny was part of a racist agenda. I don’t think any of that would have changed if Hannah had meekly submitted to whatever fate her captors had planned for her.
    Clearly there is more than one point of view on this topic. You will not change my mind about this by citing how badly Europeans behaved when they arrived here. Hannah didn’t have the Mayflower waiting at a pier for her to jump into when the attack occurred. That ship, as they say, had long since sailed. When the raid occurred, over 75 years had passed since that sailing, in fact. Conservatively, that places these events about 3 generations later. I certainly would not want my choices in terms of self defense proscribed by something my great-grandparents may or may not have done. That is what you are suggesting.
    As a sort of footnote, I add that you neglected to mention that the Narragansett and Mohegans were part of the party that attacked the Pequot during the Mystic Massacre. While it was indeed an ugly battle, it was not just Europeans who killed the Pequot. And the leader of the Pequots was later captured and killed not by any European, but by the Mohegans. I amit that the history of all of this that I have read was written by Europeans, and therefore may reflect some of their bias.
    What I take away from all of this is that humans often behave very badly, and yet are surprised to discover that others humans are capable of behaving just as badly in the interest of self-preservation. I recommend Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a source for explaining why this is so. Moreover, I suggest reflecting on this notion: we routinely erect monuments to MEN who have caused the killing of countless men, women, and children during a war, but a WOMAN is unworthy of a monument, who has endured a far more harrowing experience than on a battlefield, and survived because she and two other people killed the people who abducted them. Racism=bad. Sexism= ok? Perhaps it depends on your color and your gender.

    1. Let me make this very simple for you: What if Hannah Dustin and company were kidnapped by whites? Do you think she would have scalped their kids in the middle of the night? Do you think she’d be praised for it?

      You are right about at least one thing: There is more than one point of view on this topic. This is of course true of everything from slavery to genocide to the pederasty. Yet there is also right and wrong. There is killing kids and there is leaving kids unharmed. All we know for sure is that Hannah and company did not choose to leave the kids unharmed, and yet she is glorified today as an American saint. Her statue is a monument to racism, excessive violence and premeditated infanticide in the name of an allegedly “superior race”. A race which by the way had no right to be here, and who conquered these lands with no more warrant than any other invading force: The warrant of a far off emperor.

      By the way: YES racism is bad and YES sexism is bad. No it does NOT matter what race or gender you are. Not caring about “first white people’s statue of a woman” has nothing to do with sexism when said statue shows a woman holding children’s scalps and refers to natives as “War Whoop Tomahawk F*gg*ts and Infanticides”.

      Maybe white people need to go back where they came from instead of trying to tell Mexicans, blacks and others to do the same.

  15. Anina Salerno-Aita

    Yep. “There is killing kids, and there is leaving kids unharmed.” The white children killed were somehow less people than the Native American children? Nobody in this incident left all the kids unharmed. It’s very ugly. No doubt about that. That two women and a child were able to survive this assault and free themselves is the reason for the statue. I know that the inscription does not read as you claim. In fact, the monument reads: “Hannah Dustin 1657-1737 Famous symbol of frontier heroism. A victim of an Indian raid in 1697, on Haverhill, Massachusetts, whence she had been taken to a camp site on the nearby island in the river. After killing and later scalping ten Indians, she and the two other captives, Mary Neff and Samuel Lennardson, escaped down river to safety.” If someone wrote offensive graffiti on the statue, the graffiti needs to be removed, not the statue.
    I have never told a single human being in my life to go back where they came from. I personally would have to be cut up in at least 6 pieces to accomplish that goal. My 100% Mexican aunt would find your suggestion particularly offensive. Which parts of her could stay here, and which parts have to go back to Spain? You have made it abundantly clear that in your version of history there is only one group of bad guys and one group of good guys. The world has never been that simple.
    Since you have devolved at this point into misrepresenting the facts and pretty low insults, I am done responding to you.

  16. Anina Salerno-Aita

    The inscription I quoted is on the monument in Haverhill. The NH monument uses a word that we now consider an insult, but in the 19th century referred to bundles of sticks used to start fires, which were used during the raid. Tomahawks were used to kill men women and children, and then the houses were set on fire using burning sticks thrown into the house and onto the roofs. I don’t know enough about the habits of the Abenaki during these raids to be certain whether there were any war whoops, but the rest of it is recorded in multiple versions of the event. This is exactly why I said earlier that it is hard to look at past events from today’s vantage and evaluate them accurately. Not even the words have the same meaning today.

  17. Sami

    Wow, just wow. Reading these comments from northern european POV just makes me think you ‘muricans really have some unsolved issues with history.

  18. Dave

    People are forgetting that she didn’t originally scalp them… the went back for the scalps to prove their story. The scalps also were provided as there was a war with Canada and this was proof of the atrocities done to her and proof that band of combatants were dealt with…. I suppose things are simpler with dog tags or video.

  19. John

    Thank you for this episode! I have used it for my US History course, and the students enjoyed it.

  20. J. Martin

    Hannah’s children were saved by her husband Thomas. It is unlikely that Hannah knew her family was safe. Her town was under attack and many others killed. She was a Christian woman put in a war. I think her bravery is to be commended. Afterwards she went back to a quiet life as a wife and Mother. Can you imagine being stripped naked and running a gantlet while being beaten by men. Did the women and children participate in the beatings? This is what Hannah faced as she fled her prosecutors. Hannah deserves to be honored as a soldier for her contribution to the fight against her and her town.

  21. Ron

    Some people are offended……………Really. We have terrorist beheading Americans (and others) now and some people are offended by something someone did over 300 years ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All Categories

Playlist