Fact-Based Tale of 1700s Virginia Mirrors Contemporary Immigration Challenges PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 13:49
Debut Novelist Says History Remains the Greatest Teacher

Understanding America’s earliest immigration conflicts -- the collision of Native Americans and European explorers and settlers – is an excellent tool for examining some of the immigration challenges and perceptions facing us today.

The two groups, neither with the barest understanding of the other, traded, bartered, bargained and fought over land. By 1700, the settlers’ movement west was at a standstill. Their vulnerability to dangers of the wilderness and the unprotected western frontier made settlement west of the great river plantations too risky.

In researching Dangerous Differences (www.quailhigh.com), a fact-based novel of the time period, author Mac Laird of Williamsburg, VA., began to understand how the two groups both collaborated and sought to protect themselves. In some instances, their efforts were fruitful. In others, they failed miserably.

The cast of fictional characters in the book live through the dangerous differences:  the notion of profit, so dear to one and unknown to the other; and the concepts of private property, fences, and the accumulation of wealth, unknown and unneeded by the tribes, yet fundamental to the settlers. A strong work ethic, honored by the settlers, stood in puzzling contrast to the hunter and warrior fixation of the tribesmen. The English devotion to one all-powerful God faced a similar devotion by the tribes to their various deities.

There seemed to be no end to the differences defying peaceful coexistence. Raids, massacres and outright war inevitably became the solution for both sides until the overpowering numbers and relentless waves of new settlers forced most of the declining tribes and individuals into submission.

Laird illustrates the impact of these troublesome times on both settlers and tribesmen. In just a few years and like most of the Virginia tribes, the Saponi had lost half of their people. Unsure of how to meet these challenges, Laird’s fictional Chief Custoga sends his 13-year old son, Kadomico, to the grammar school at the new College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, the capital of Virginia, to learn the way of the English. The Virginia and North Carolina tribes are facing the loss of their hunting grounds, vicious raids and captivity by the mighty Iroquois and other strong northern tribes desperately trying to keep their own numbers strong.

“As always with history, understanding the perspectives of both the existing population and those seeking opportunity can be enlightening as Americans debate contemporary challenges,” Laird says.

About Mac Laird

After a career in telecommunications with the U.S. Navy, Mac Laird found his niche in America’s South Eastern Woodlands and began to build with the natural materials from the land in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. In time, he started writing about that land and the people. His first book, Quail High Above the Shenandoah (2007) gives a vivid account of building with logs. Dangerous Differences leads the reader through the wonders of the mountains, rivers, and forests of Virginia and North Carolina and introduces the troubling differences between the frontier Indians and settlers of the new world. The author and his wife, Johnnie, now live in Williamsburg, VA.

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