[personal profile] dmaze
Hannah Duston

In G.A.R. Park in central Haverhill is a statue of Hannah Duston. According to the story inscribed at the base of the statue, in the spring of 1697, she was captured by natives, but after two weeks managed to escape, slay every single last one of her captors, and return back to the European settlement. Applying modern values, this is a horrible story to start with, but building a statue celebrating the killing of "the savages" seems even worse.

Would you advocate removing the statue?

I'm torn between wanting to say "this is a terrible event and we shouldn't commemorate it", and "a century ago, the 'good guys' believed we should celebrate this, and we should remember that". Values definitely change, and I like to believe that at least my corner of the world is more tolerant than our predecessors. We should remember that bad things were done in the name of our country, and try to avoid doing the same. Does that memory justify keeping a statue in a very public location of an event we'd rather not repeat?

I suspect many Americans today would still cheer Ms. Duston on in killing non-white people in retribution for a crime against her person. This scares me too. Could I bring someone to Haverhill and say, this monument is to people who gave their lives to keep our country together; this monument is to people who gave their lives for freedom from tyranny; but this monument shows that, in the absence of functioning government, people need to go on killing sprees in the name of survival? That seems like a hard sell.

The Wikipedia article on Hannah Duston has more; of possible significance as well, this is reportedly the first woman honored in the United States with a statue.

Date: 2014-09-08 11:55 pm (UTC)
ilai: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ilai
Whoa, that's intense. I am similarly torn. I should ask my Haverhill peeps what they learned growing up and how they feel about it.

Date: 2014-09-09 01:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yakshaver.livejournal.com
Would I advocate removing the statue? No: history is not served by erasure. Standing as and where it does, it can provide a tremendous opportunity to foster thinking about the nature of history and the nature of historical memory. My hope would be that the children of Haverhill will be shown the statue and learn not just the view of the events it celebrates inscribed on its base, but a far more nuanced and historically informed view of those events. And of the evolution of the story over the 178 years between those events and the erection of the statue. And the continuing evolution of our views in the 135 and counting years since the statue was erected.

Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Date: 2014-09-10 01:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] puffy-wuffy.livejournal.com
Personally, I think we should keep the statue, but change the inscription or add more information. Not to change the overall substance, but to add more context: it should be historical, not laudatory.
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