Historical Marker and Silencing the Past

From the get-go, I knew that I wanted to conduct some research on a historical marker concerning Native Americans in the region. Beginning in elementary school and some years in middle school, we learned about the history of Virginia, and the Native Americans that occupied the land, pre-Columbus. Whenever I drive through the area, I reflect on the past lives that were uprooted and how this is Native American land that my house is on, that my school is on, that my entire life benefits from. And we learned briefly about the Powhatans, made longhouses in second grade, etc., however, there is a complex history and many more details that I haven’t studied yet. I decided to search through the Department of Historic Resources first. My first search of my zip code didn’t reveal any results. Then I tried searching Native Americans and filtered those results. I found one historical marker interesting which was the Doeg Indians marker. These were Native Americans that resided near the Potomac and Occoquan River that were forced out by colonists by the late 17th century. I want to explore this historical marker because I’m interested in learning about Native Americans who resided in the area that I do today.

Trouillot’s perspective on facing history in the book Silencing the Past was eye-opening and while conducting further research on the historical markers, I will be applying some of his methods. It was interesting to see him divide those in history into three categories which are agents, actors, and subjects. One method I’ll be considering is figuring out the silences that might have occurred when recounting events in history. Trouillot’s provides an analogy of a sports commentator and how if he were to describe every action and happenings of the game, it would be incomprehensible. In that way, Trouillot’s describes how, “silences are inherent in the creation of sources, the first moment of historical production.” I think it’s important to see whose narrative we’re hearing and those we aren’t hearing although they were present during that history. Another thing I will attempt to keep in mind is that history does not start on a specific date. Specific dates in history are an attempt to make history easier to consume, however history is continuous. The most important takeaways from Silencing the Past that I took away was to really focus on the differing perspectives that are available and to extend the mind to think about those that have not had the ability to shine, or that have been erased.

Sources:

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. (1995). Silencing the past : power and the production of history. Boston, Mass. :Beacon Press,

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