…how could the timing of two new Yale University Press books by local scholars examining King Philip’s War be better? Both books are scheduled for a Jan. 9 release. One, by Amherst College historian Lisa Brooks — who may be familiar to readers for her previously authored “The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast (2008)” — is titled “Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War.” The other, by Mount Holyoke College historian Christine M. Delucia, is titled “Memory Lands: King Philips War and the Place of Violence in the Northeast.”
Both authors write from the authority of their own Native American lens, as both share Wabanaki roots and understand what West Coast poet Gary Snyder calls “The Old Ways” — a belief system under which all animate and inanimate objects are beings with palpable spirits. That includes lakes and ponds and streams, mountains and swamps and high, lonesome glacial-erratic boulders, beavers and bears and deer, insects and worms and underworld serpents with ominous rattling tails. Viewing the world through such a holistic lens, buttressed by deep oral history recited in song, dance and ritual performance around warm winter fires, puts a different spin on life, one that conflicts in a major way with the Christian way Europeans transported with them to the New World. It is this world-view that backbones Brooks’ and Delucia’s refreshing narrative and challenges conventional, accepted conclusions about KPW.
Both of these fresh, New-Age female scholars refuse to buy the tired documentary evidence supplied by the likes of old-standby colonial clergymen William Hubbard and Increase Mather, entrepreneur John Pynchon, or Narragansett-country colonial land-grab military officer Benjamin Church. The recorded histories from these primary sources are, in Brooks’ and Delucia’s opinion, those of conquerors publishing second-hand accounts that are, at the very least, biased if not totally invalid. Of course, these two young scholars are not the first veritable historians to challenge the long-accepted, often-repeated norms of KPW history. They’re just taking similar positions to previous chroniclers like Francis Jennings, Howard Zinn, Jill Lapore and others pejoratively called “revisionary historians” by more conventional colleagues and critics.