Statue of White Woman Holding Hatchet and Scalps Sparks Backlash in New EnglandBreaking News
tags: colonialism, genocide, Native American history, New England
The statue is the earliest publicly funded monument to a woman in the US.
It stands in the out-of-the-way town of Boscawen, New Hampshire. It shows a woman holding a hatchet in one hand and a fistful of scalps in the other. Her name is Hannah Duston.
As protests across the US topple statues of historical figures with connections to colonialism and slavery, Duston’s name has largely stayed out of the national conversation. But concerns about the New Hampshire statue, and another in Haverhill, Massachusetts, are now emerging.
This is because Duston is implicated in the deaths, and scalping, of 10 Native Americans.
“The statues were made to send a message to the indigenous community, that they are inferior, that their land would be seized, and they would be removed and put on reservations,” Judy Matthews, a Haverhill resident, told the Guardian.
Those who support keeping the Duston statues claim their removal alone won’t benefit indigenous people, and that Duston was acting in self-defense.
Duston was born and raised in Haverhill, then a small farming town, amid disputes among English colonists, the French in Canada, and various Native American nations. She was a homemaker with nine children, and her cousin and uncle were tried at the Salem witch trials.
She was captured by the Abenaki nation during a military engagement in 1697 with her nurse-maid and newborn and was forced to trek a great distance to an encampment in present-day Boscawen, where she claimed the Abenaki killed her baby by bashing her head against a tree.
Duston, probably with the help of other captive colonists, killed the Native Americans – six of whom were children – before escaping and being generously rewarded for the scalps.
The two statues were erected in the mid-19th century to vilify Native Americans following the civil war and to promote the idea of westward expansion. Several other markers and memorials that do not bear Duston’s image were put up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
For decades, Abenaki, residents, scholars and local municipalities have debated what should be done with the two statues, and those concerns have come to a boil.
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