Native American history has been a victim of erasure for centuries. In a recent lecture on Oct. 14, as part of the Socialist and Marxist Studies Series, Professor Liam Riordan discussed how perception surrounding the history of colonialism in our country has been drastically changing due to pioneers in various artistic, scholarly and activist fields.
“The new insights of ethno history, a sort of approach to the past that combines anthropological and historical disciplinary traditions, and also the strong emergence of Native American studies as a field of knowledge has really transformed our understanding of what colonialism means,” said Riordan, a member of Bangor’s Historic Preservation Commission. He then went on to discuss some examples of how this understanding has been shaped recently in our own community, specifically with the removal of the Gomez Memorial originally located in Bangor.
The memorial was gifted to Bangor by a community of Portuguese Americans from New Bedford, Massachusetts, to commemorate the voyage that Portuguese explorer Esteban Gomez took to what is now modern day Penobscot Bay Area. On this trip, Gomez captured many Indigineous people and took them back to Spain, where they were eventually lost track of and presumably sold into slavery.
In 2020, after 21 years standing, ambassadors from the Penobscot people argued that the monument memorializing this trip was inappropriate. The monument was removed a few months later. Riordan emphasized that this removal was a step in the right direction, shifting history away from praising these early voyages for their discoveries and instead holding them accountable for the terrors they caused to the Indigenous people living there.
He later discussed the work of English professor, Lisa Brooks, where she takes maps and designates Indigenous people’s lands without the borders put into place by colonists.
Finally, Riordan talked at length about the history of English speakers taking over the lands where Indigenous people lived and the impact that had on how we view our history. He drew attention to different multimedia art pieces, created by different artists ranging from 1835 to 2020, to show how public reception of different events in history, like the attempted eradication of the Penobscot Nation in 1755 and the American Revolution, has changed throughout the years.
“The traditional academy is closer to this Indigenous perspective now than it has been but there’s still all sorts of room for gap and sort of fundamental different conceptualization that have really profound implications for how we understand the world,” Riordan said of the improvement ethno history has made in eradicating the erasure of Native American history and perspective.
For more information on Liam Riordan’s work and this lecture, including access to a recording, you can visit https://video.maine.edu/media/Fall+lecture+series+2021+1+/1_dzcjjmod and for more information on the Socialist and Marxist Studies Series and upcoming events you can visit https://umaine.edu/socialistandmarxiststudiesseries/.