95 pages 3 hours read

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Jean Mendoza, Debbie Reese

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People

Nonfiction | Book | YA | Published in 2019

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Chapters 3-5

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 3 Summary: “Cult of the Covenant”

Despite European depictions of the Americas as pristine wilderness with primitive tribes, settlers needed the infrastructure and guidance of Indigenous nations to survive. The only skills they brought over were for “conquering other people” through the Doctrine of Discovery (50). They also saw land not as a shared resource but as a private commodity.

Even Christians of the time considered the Calvinist pilgrims and Puritans of the early English colonies to be cultists. The pilgrims landed at Cape Cod in 1620 and formed the Mayflower Compact. The Puritans founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 with the goal of trading goods and promoting Christianity even if they did not believe the Indigenous were capable of salvation. The Mayflower Compact represents a spiritual “covenant” that influenced American thought for centuries (48). The Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, Gettysburg Address, and Pledge of Allegiance all discuss either the formation of a perfect union or divine guidance, even though the country formally separates church and state. This, along with the belief that the US is a “nation of laws” and a “nation of immigrants” that places no interest group above others, fuels American exceptionalism (54). When immigrants complete the citizenship process, they swear to uphold this covenant.

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