When I was a wee lass in New England, we learned almost nothing about Native Americans. In fact, the historical trajectory our schools tended to portray looked like this: Pilgrims left the Old World (which meant England, just so you're clear on that) seeking religious freedom, they landed on Plymouth Rock, they founded the United States, there was a Revolution (and a shot heard round the world), we split from England, and then a bunch more stuff happened (you know, like the Civil War and so on). Part of this narrative was the idea that Indians brought the Pilgrims food for the first Thanksgiving, and then they apparently went away, because nothing was heard of them ever again.
So it was something of a surprise to find my former elementary school's web page (what, you never end up in some random location, google-surfing the web??), and to see that the school now describes itself in this manner:
The [Name] School is built upon ancient agricultural fields. The Algonquins, Native Americans who once populated what is now [my hometown], planted and harvested corn, beans and squash using a system called “the three sisters”.
Corn was planted in a circle, surrounded by a circle of beans. As the corn stalks grew tall and strong, the beans would climb the stalks, supported and raised from the ground so they would grow plentifully. Around the beans, they planted various types of squashes and pumpkins. These plants sent out massive leaves that covered the ground, helping to hold moisture in the earth and cool the roots of all three plants. The crops grew in harmony, helping each other to thrive and provide a plentiful harvest.
The [Name] community also works in harmony. By supporting each other and valuing our differences, we all strive to bring out the best in our community. These ancient fields continue to nurture our children today.
Wow. Something of a contrast to the peregrinocentric history with which I grew up.
If you roamed the historic cemeteries of my hometown (which is pretty interesting to do if your town was founded in 1635, like mine was), you could find headstones bearing the same names as people still living in the town (I remember particularly Hosmer, which was the name of my shop teacher). But I don't remember any Indian names. For that matter, I don't remember - in the cemetery or in our history classes - names that looked like the names of a lot the kids I went to school with: Kilty, Comeau, Kenneally, Connolly, Abruzzi, DiRosso, Zielinski, Finocchio, Granahan. My own last name, sprinkled with spiky, WASP-unfriendly consonants, was absent, too. Not that this places us in the same position as Native Americans, exactly. Just that the identity of the town and the identities of those who lived within it didn't always occupy the same space very comfortably.